Recently I was chatting with a young woman about writing. She hoped to pursue it as a major in college and wondered what it was about and what advice I might give. In doing so, I reminded myself of some points regarding both writing and life I’d rather not forget – and too often do. So I thought I share them with you. They may help you – and writing them down will certainly help me.
- What would you tell your young writing self? This was one of her first questions. “Just chill” popped out of my mouth immediately. I think we can get so caught up in the chaos surrounding writing and life – and where we think we are supposed to be headed – we forget the joy of the process. Wild success or a long struggle for publication or in reaching for any goal in life can derail you on either side of the spectrum. I encouraged her to enjoy the story she was living and relish the process of writing and of work. I also added that all stories can’t be told at once – just as we necessarily can’t “have it all” at one time or in one season… While I always wanted to be a writer, it brought me only frustration in my twenties and early thirties. Moves, kids, work, other important priorities had to take precedence. I couldn’t get a handle on the stories I wanted to tell, nor could I eek out the time to tell them. But things shifted in my late thirties and the opportunity came – and I suspect I needed those years. So again, I encouraged her to enjoy the journey and trust that no experience is wasted.
- What would you give up to become a better writer? It was an interesting question and made me think about the details that fill my days. I noted at the end of last year, a lot of goofing off had entered my writing time. Whenever the phone beeped, I was there! So one go
al for this year has been more focus and a more concerted effort to minimize distractions. So far, I have made small improvements and chatting about it helped reinforce those efforts. I think it’s a good idea to take look at what fills our time and what we could amend, to either become better writers or better people – ideally become better at both. And I can’t do that just once in a year, in January. I need to revisit time and time again…
- What is your number one recommendation? Of course, this was advice to a young writer. But I might give this advice to all of us. We here at Austen Authors love stories – good stories – and stories have power. Studies show that novels actually make us more empathetic as we appropriate a character’s journey and absorb more about frailty and glory of our shared human natures. So I say – Read, Read, Read. Both for writing and for life.
I hope your 2018 has started well and that there is much to hope for in this new year.
See you next month…