Today, NaNoWriMo is hosting the #ToAFutureWriter campaign. While it’s a drive to help collect funds for the Young Writer’s Program (which played a huge role in my Creative Writing students’ novelling journey this school year), it’s also a way to spread words of encouragement to writers everywhere.
Dear Future Writer (and Future Roberts),
Remember the first time you picked up a pencil to write a story? For me, it was so long ago that I hardly remember, but I think it was in first grade. There was an annual competition at school, so I wrote my best short story. A fictional vacation with my parents and my friends. Did I write any stories before this? I don’t remember, but I do remember the thrill that came with winning 1st place in my grade.
It’s like the thrill of falling in love for the first time. During those early days, everything is utter bliss. Pencils dance with paper to create beautiful words that become a beautiful story, and you can’t imagine doing anything else. All you ever want to do is write, all you talk about is writing, and your friends and family eventually become a little sick of you obsessing over writing but they smile because they know you’re happy.
But eventually that thrill fades away. You notice wrinkles and flaws that you’d never seen during those first rapturous days. The words aren’t really that great. In fact, they’re a bit embarrassing. Your relationship isn’t taking you where you wanted. You expected to be admiring your work on a Barnes and Noble shelf by now. You notice the annoying habits your characters have taken up. That you’ve taken up. You spend more time watching tv shows you’re not even interested in because you’re tired of looking at the page. You don’t write for a week and hardly notice. You stare at that document on the computer screen, and while the cursor glares at you, you wonder why you even bother.
This is the point when some people give up. Throw in the towel. This isn’t working anymore so maybe we both should move on.
But that’s not what I want for you.
Anything that’s worth keeping takes effort.
So when this moment comes, here’s what I want you to do. (And, Future Roberts, you’ve done this before, so I don’t want to hear any complaining.) Remember those first days, when you first fell in love with writing. The days of twelve-hour writing stints. (Note to Future Writers, use an ergonomic keyboard and take breaks often. Seriously. Carpal tunnel damage hurts.) The nights when you stayed up late creating worlds of your own imaginings. The walks you took with your eyes wide open, seeing words and inspiration whirling around you and inviting you to join in the dance.
Reread things that you wrote and love. Don’t use that critical eye. You’ve spilled your heart on the page, and that’s what you need to do again. Even if you don’t like how it turned out (and I’m sure that’s the case), think of it as a learning experience. You will learn to do better, but don’t discount how important those words are. They’re a foundation for better things in the future. They show just how much you’ve grown.
Write. Find something that gives you butterflies and let the words fly. Find the joy in it again. Even if you don’t feel it at first, just smile and keep going. Feelings are fleeting, so set your mind to it and focus on the good instead of the bad. Fight for it.
It will take active effort on your part, but so does anything that’s worth having. And this is worth it.
(Past) S.B. Roberts