Monday, January 24, 2011

A Message to Young Writers

pie1 Click on image for source.

Recently, I read a truly inspirational blog post by Ashelynn, a young writer-blogger, encouraging other young writers to ignore all the naysayers and just.keep.writing. Which may not seem like a big deal--we all say this, right? We get discouraged with rejections and all the stupid shite that floats in whenever you're trying to break into a new business, especially one that can feel as fickle and SLOW as publishing, so we often say: just keep writing, dude. Because we want to encourage other writers who've been struggling possibly years.

But imagine being a writer at twenty. No, sixteen. Or eleven. Whatever.

Well, a lot of us older peoples WROTE back then. But how many of you wrote wrote? As in, with serious dedication. As in sacrificing time with your friends and parties and money for books and workshops and conferences? As in having to listen to your mom and dad bitch because you're wasting your time away in front of that computer, dear, and then doing it anyway. Hell, a lot of adult writers don't even write with that kind of drive. Yet, there are some young writers out there who do just that. And they often do it with virtually no support. Because pshaw! What does a kid know about writing??? Let alone publishing? They have no experience. No expertise. No wisdom, yo.

Uh. Maybe that's true. I don't know. But does it matter? Is there some magic age or level of experience that you have to reach before you can proclaim yourself a writer? I mean, while we're at it, why don't we just start saying that anyone who's not published isn't a real writer either.

Seriously, people. There are NO RULES. None. That's the beauty of writing. If you can find a way to do it without words, then good for you. If you want to write upside down hanging from a monkey's tail, you can. At any age.

So, I won't be telling a sixteen-nine-five-any year old to stop wasting her life away with her silly little stories just because she's not got any hair on her upper lip. Or whatever. I wish someone had encouraged me to plant my arse in a chair and crank out story after story, no matter how ridiculous and copycat and make-you-want-to-puke awful they might be (because mine probably were) and then FLAUNT IT. And scream out: I AM WRITER! Who knows where I'd be today if I'd felt more confident about my writing back then. You only get better, you know. And if you totally rock as a new writer? Holy crap, just imagine what kind of writer you'll be five years from now.

If you keep writing.

But I will say this (try not to throw sharp things at me as you listen to my old-person babbling): don't forget to breathe sometimes. Take it from me--the most obsessive writer I know. I have to make a concerted effort to stop being a f#$%ing hermit with my writing all the time. But for good reason. I have a family. I'd lose them if I didn't (and have to pay for their therapy later). But for a young writer? Well.

Listen, writing is an endless thing. It goes on and on, but time? It withers, and then it's gone. Write write write until your fingers bleed and your eyes go blurry. But take time away sometimes. Feel the sun on your face, go to parties, get into fights, feel hurt and vulnerable and broken, screw around, screw up--whatever. All of these experiences make for a richer life and a better writer. Don't avoid the world--it hurts you all the freaking time, but it also makes your stories kickass. I PROMISE. You never know where the next idea, the next character, the next setting will come from. Finding inspiration is as much a part of writing as the writing itself. But you'll never find it if you never leave your room. So don't be a f#$%ing hermit like me all the time. Seriously, I'm all pasty and s#!%.

But do keep writing. Because you gotta let the demons out.

And you're effing brilliant. Like Ashelynn says, you are the exception.


Be sure to check out Ashelynn's blog, A Gypsy Writer, and her blog post You Are the Exception. She's awesome.


  1. I wrote wrote at age 20 and posted what I wrote on deviantART. Few people saw, and fewer commented. That's a pity, because I believe that you can get better by practicing, but the lessons you learn from honest critiques are tenfolds better.

  2. Awww lovely post!! I say write, learn, take classes, write, read, learn, take more classes, write, read... start now, start yesterday, start tomorrow! Just start sometime!! And good luck!! :-)

    Take care

  3. Your voice - that is to say - your internal voice that is best seen on the page, is your best asset. Find that voice and you are half way home. And find a story tell, no matter what it is, it IS worth telling. Sure, do the classes, the conventions and the writers groups but covet your story and treasure it so that you can tell it. Thre is an audience out there that wants to read it.

  4. When I discovered there really were no rules to this writing game but for me to keep writing and my work will eventually pay off, that's when I started really writing. Before, I was too stressed out about not progressing quickly enough, or not pleasing this one or that one. I write for me, from what I enjoy, and it's working.

    Great post.

  5. You're the most obsessive writer I know too! :P

    I think that your post is a needed reminder to us that we need to keep going, but it did make me lament the past a little.

    Here's the thing though: if you weren't a pasty hermit, I'd be an even pastier hermit with no friends.

    I glow in the dark.

  6. I love this. My daughter is a young writer, or wants to be. I never kick her off the computer ... until dinner is ready. Plus, you said "shite."

    I'm off to check out her blog.

  7. You are right, no rules, and you really never know what's going to happen with it!
    I love to write, I write a lot, but I make sure I keep a good balance. Actually my kids make sure I have a good life balance. :)

  8. So true. There is a time to hole up and write and there is a time to get out and see our friends and live life!

  9. Wonderful post. And what makes brilliance in the future is dedication in the here and now. The more you do now, the better you will be in the future. Why not get a jump on that 10,000 hours to mastery?

  10. Thank you for this. I've been hermit-izing a bit lately and have been aware of it. I needed more than my own kick in the pants to do something about it though...and I will, as soon as the thermometer rises above 0. Okay?

  11. Cool post!! I know a couple of serious young writers (like age 13) and I gently encourage them to follow their dreams!!

  12. This was a great post. I wrote when I was younger and wish it was taken way more seriously by teachers. I think after hearing that it's impossible too many times I stopped. And left a ton of half-done manuscripts. I'm not sure why we would ever discourage kids from following their dreams.

  13. I love you. No, really, I do.


  14. stephen king said (i think) that one million words is a good number to aim for in order to be a "writer". Or somthing. As you can see my clever anecdote is full of plot holes and junk. But you get the idea.

  15. Love. This. Post. I really, really, really do. (See, i'm even using your advise and writing in italics! Haha.)
    Being a young writer myself, i agree with everything you say up there. to not give a crap about elders who laugh at us youngsters writing. i mean, its not like there's a dearth of young agented and published authors out there to prove that we rock. hannah moskowitz, kody keplinger, and so many other ones!
    it is also important to not forget your life outside of writing. that's exactly what im doing right now! it's kind of necessary, actally...
    once again, i love this post. and you too, if that doesn't sound too creepy. or maybe it does, but oh well.

  16. It's amazing how much negativity there is out there. But the truth is, if you don't write, write, write at a young age, you'll never get the experience necessary to "hone your craft", so to speak.

  17. Thank you so much for writing this post! I remember being nineteen, having a blog, querying, writing about it...

    ...and then reading on a published author's blog that I should stop writing with the goal of being published until I'm out of college, because teenagers are too young, aren't experienced enough, will miss too much of life, etc. etc. etc. It was depressing, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't offended. Then to see all these people (some of whom were published at young ages) agreeing just made me sad.

    I think if said author had just given the advice you gave (which is to breathe, to actually go out and do stuff, along with writing) it would've gone over a lot better.

  18. Great post. I'm one of the luckier teens; I don't face a major amount of negativity. I have supporters of my writing. But this is a really awesome post.

  19. I posted about a young writer today, too! Great minds :) I'll have to go read her post.

  20. I wish I hadn't taken that 15 year break from writing. Seriously. Now I feel as though I have all this lost time to make up for, and there never seems enough time in the day to accomplish everything I hope for, home, family *and* writing-wise.

    So...yeah. You want to write? Write, at whatever age the passion takes you. It's what *I'd* do if I had it all over again.

    Write on, Ashelynne. Rock on, Carol.

  21. Such a lovely post yourself. I agree 100 percent. Well said. Now checking out Ashelynne.

  22. Wow. Amazing post. What more could I add to such sage advice and powerful words of wisdom? You rock Carol, and Ashelynne, you keep on writing!!

  23. I absolutely agree that children need to be encouraged to write and follow their dream of writing no matter what. It's such an important message.


  24. Well, I'm old, so I guess I'll just say...yeah, there are no rules. And even if there were...break 'em.

    Another wonderful post, love. You're on a roll. Carol's Motivational Manifesto.


  25. What a wonderful post! I often wonder if I'd really tried my hand at writing earlier, would I be much better at it now.

  26. Great post. I started writing when I was a kid. I always knew I wanted to be a writer but was afraid I couldn't do it. Finally in my mid-twenties I went for it. It still took a long time, but now I have a career. The key is to follow your dreams no matter what, no matter how young or old you are. And get outside and breath every once in a while. Don't allow yourself to become a writing hermit.

  27. Great message. I love the inspiration that I am feeling now. Great post. Thanks.


    (sorry about the all-caps, but you said there were no rules and i really want to impart how much i appreciate your post.)

    I, too, wish someone had told me to plant my arse in a chair and write when I was young. Instead, people wanted to know what I was going to do for a "real" job, so I became an English teacher. For sixteen years. Didn't start really writing until I hit 40 and had a midlife crisis and no one wants to hear about that, so.

    Thank you. Wish I'd known you when I was 16. But you are a lot younger than I am so I would have written you off (no pun intended) as crazy.

    But we're not crazy. We're writers.
    Well...huh. Maybe we are crazy.

    Carry on.

    (Oh. and I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!)

  29. I can be obsessive too but staying social and getting outside is pretty important to our writing life too!

  30. Thanks for the inspiration! I needed it. As a "young" writer, I need all the encouragement. I read so many rejection stories and sarcasm about the state of publishing that sometimes I get deflated. Thanks for the pat on the back and the finger that points ahead!


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