I sat down on my couch this evening, unmotivated and procrastinating on my writing. Instead of being hard on myself, though, I decided to just have a little chat with my younger writer, to show her how far I have come and how much I have learned. Thirty-nine lessons for my younger self about writing:
Yes, you need to keep your day job.
No, your day job does not have to define your life. And it shouldn’t take all of your energy; preserve some for your writing–this is vitally important.
Yes, it’s time to start writing your book, now.
No, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
Yes, it’s going to be hard.
No, it’s not ALL going to be hard. Have you heard of the Story Spine yet? Aristotle’s Incline? Don’t worry, there are really helpful tools out there that will help you find your story.
Yes, you are going to learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. Whoowhie! Hang tight!
No, you’re not going to die. At least not from writing this book.
Yes, keeping to a writing schedule does help. And so do the coaches at The Narrative Project. The combination keeps your internal critical voices at bay.
No, you don’t need a Masters degree to start writing your book. You just need to have grit, willingness to be radically honest, and a few tools for how to construct a good story. Of the three, honesty is the most important.
Yes, trust your gut instinct—that scene probably actually does fit in, you just don’t know how yet.
No, your Dad was wrong. You’re not wasting your time. And good news, he won’t believe that forever, I promise. He’ll eventually tell you he’s proud of you. He’s just scared and wants the you to have retirement funds and healthcare–also very important things. But guess what? You DO have the capacity to write AND take care of yourself, both; he’ll come around, give him a few years.
Yes, you will find peace. Try writing about what’s hard—the process of writing will change your perspective, which will change your life.
No, you won’t be lonely writing a book. It’s actually going to be the new foundation for your community and the people who “get” you the most. You’re about to make a lot of new friends.
Yes, your voice matters! Really, it does. Because everyone has their own perspective on the truth, and you GET to have yours.
No, your story is not going to fix every problem in the world. I know, it sucks.
Yes, it will, however, influence people to make different choices. People will GET you, and your story will help them to understand their FEELINGS, so they can make new choices.
No, you can’t predict or control who those people are or what choices they make. You have to trust something Bigger on this one.
Yes, writing is, actually, a spiritual process.
No, you don’t have to apologize for when it becomes cathartic writing. Get it down!! Get it out!! There will be a time later to cut parts out and shore things up, but that comes later. And an editor can help you. So for now, go all the way. Be messy. Be real. Know you have permission to completely change your mind tomorrow if, in fact, that is more honest.
Yes, you have to finish. You really do.
No, no excuses. Come on, it’s your dream.
Yes, you CAN do it. Stop fighting me on this one.
No, you most likely aren’t going to get accepted the first time you submit something.
Yes, it’s always smart to apply for a writer’s retreat!
No, sorry Honey. You’ll try traveling and writing, but it won’t work out very well. Sorry to break the news to you. Some people can, but you aren’t built that way. You’ll find that routine is important for you…as is a very boring life. Please forgive me for saying that. But it’s true, the more boring your routines, the more stable your life; the more stable your life, the more energy you have to put into your writing.
Yes, it is wise to find a massage practitioner to work out those knots in your shoulders from so many hours at the computer.
No, sorry, no one else can tell you what to say. That comes from YOU.
Yes, it is important to surround yourself with other writers and creative people who, like Ethan Hawke, actually encourage you and give you permission to express yourself.
No, don’t line edit during your first draft; that’s for later, in drafts numbers five, six, and maybe seven. Let the crafting go for a while.
Yes, it’s true. YOU write six times as much as you need! Consistently!! You can count on it. So for a 70,000 word book you’ll be writing 420,000 words…better get cracking.
No, not everyone has this long-winded process. You’re special. And therefore, Special-Smarty-Pants, it’s time to get cracking. Sit down and write.
Yes, everyone has a hard time sitting down to write. It’s the hardest part. Why? Because engaging in the creative process means you are listening to yourself in a different way. Extreme intimacy. It feels like you’re walking on the edge of…Something; who-knows-what. It’s scary, exhilarating, vulnerable, and powerful all at once. You will find your greatest sense of personal power here, at the edge.
No, the process never feels easy. Never does.
Yes, your capacity for discomfort will expand. Every time you sit down to write, you will practicing being uncomfortable–and more empowered. Such a worthy practice!
No, you’re not crazy.
Yes, a bigger, older, wiser part of you DOES know what it wants to say. Be courageous, my love.
No. The BEST part about being a writer isn’t healing others–though that’s cool. The BEST part is that you’ll discover people LOVE talking about books! Small-talk with strangers never has to be awkward again! Just mention that you’re writing a book, and ask them what their favorite book is, and you’re off and running in a very delightful connection.
Yes, you will finish. You WILL hold your book in your hands one day, I promise.
Anneliese Kamola is an author, developmental editor, and writing coach living in Bellingham, Washington. She has been published in True Stories Volumes I, II, and III, and has written/produced/performed three one-woman storytelling shows. For her day job she works as a coach for The Narrative Project and as a developmental editor. Her upcoming coming-of-age memoir explores intergenerational trauma and the power of gentleness.