Things About Writing I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger
Many writers and creatives are obsessed with time travel. The potential of going back and making different choices naturally appeals to our imaginations and our very way of working. In a sense, we write in time machines — we can always scroll up in a document or flip back a few pages in our notebooks and completely change how a scene plays out. As creators of worlds, we possess limitless choices, and we get to experiment with the consequences without any real consequences. It’s all play. Nothing is set in stone until we’re happy with it. We reign supreme.
While all of that might be true for the worlds on the page, it’s not true for the world in which we actually live. There are plenty of things I wish I would’ve known and plenty of things I wish I would’ve done differently, especially in my creative life. In this reality, the past is the past. There’s no going back. All the same, I’ve found it helpful to take stock of the lessons I’ve picked up along the way. They’ve helped me as I’ve moved forward, and maybe they’ll help you too.
1. There are no timelines: As humans, we like time. Time gives us a sense of security and a useful way of measuring the seasons of our lives. However, as the saying goes, we plan, god laughs. My younger self was obsessed with hitting certain milestones before a certain age. But as I got older, I realized how little this mattered. I realized that when it comes to your writing career, there are no timelines aside from the ones you’ve made up. Some people find success as children while others find it in their frail final years. The vast majority of us find it somewhere in between — anywhere in between, really. So give yourself permission to ignore those annoying ’40 under 40 lists’ and be sure to cheer on your friends who make it before you do. Trust that your time is coming and that one day, they’ll be cheering for you.
2. You must become your own licensing body: Other professions have set paths from which it’s fairly difficult to deviate. If you want to practice as a doctor, you earn a bachelor’s degree, complete medical school, embark on a residency. If you want to be a lawyer, you take the LSAT, go to law school, pass the bar. But despite what MFA programs…