It’s been a bit surreal recently. After 5 years of dedicated writing, resulting in hundreds of thousands of words, I simultaneously got published and interviewed last week.
One interview question asked about advice for new writers. I chuckled at this since I still feel new. It’s strange how, after writing several novel drafts and many short stories and poems, I often feel like I don’t know what I’m doing (and it’s not about being a discovery writer). Ernest Hemingway did say of writing that “we are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
But there’s that one thing that always feels right that I never used to do: write consistently. When I was a little kid playing Super Mario RPG on Super Nintendo, I would both draw and write fiction related to that universe. In high school, I wrote a short story about a thriving civilization hidden in a massive glacier. In college, I wrote terrible, angsty poetry and an equally terrible first novel. Still, it wasn’t consistent.
I loved to immerse myself in writing and reading, but I didn’t do it enough. It was easier for me to dream about an idyllic writing lifestyle than live it. I would say I didn’t have enough time or that I was terrible at it, but I was afraid of failing at it. I felt ever more anxious, frustrated, and uncertain the longer I didn’t do it. It felt like something was missing.
I quoted Pam Allyn in my advice to new writers. She said, “Reading is like breathing in, and writing is like breathing out.” What I didn’t include in my interview is that writing and reading feel as vital as breathing to me. If I don’t do them, I don’t feel complete. The only way I can fail writing (and myself) is by not doing it. Lawrence block said, “One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
If you tend to live a bit inside your head or feel anxious about never writing (or reading), what do you have to lose by doing it? If you can find a sense of profound fulfillment doing it like I did, you’ll keep coming back again and again for it until writing becomes a fabric of your being.
I don’t write to be published (and you don’t have to either), but if we are published, maybe someone who needs a breath of fresh air will see it, and they can start breathing their own words onto their own page.