June 6, 2012

Writing Advice to My 24-year-old Self

I've been in a reflective mood lately. 

Maybe it's because Justin is home. Maybe it's because I'm turning 30 this year (eep!). Or maybe it's because I'm in North Carolina right now, visiting the town where Justin and I spent our first three years of marriage. 

Whatever it is, I'm thinking a lot about that 24-year-old girl I used to be. Five years ago, I got married. I quit my job and packed my bags and moved into an apartment that Justin had found for us. As cheesy as it sounds, it was a new beginning for me.

New marriage. New house. New career. 

Ah, yes! A new career. With Justin's urging, I finally embraced my childhood dream of becoming a writer. If I could only borrow Hermione Grange's timeturner, I wish I could give my old self some advice....

{Then: April 2007}
Butt in chair, woman! 

First things first, working at home is indeed awesome, especially since your last job involved a 75-minute commute and an itty bitty cubicle tucked to one side of the break room where you had to smell everyone's microwaved lunches. So it's okay to revel in your pajamas and slippers for a few days but after that...butt in chair! Time to write!

My advice? Buy a calendar and write down your goals for each day. Like, drafting a damn good query letter in the morning and locating 4-5 magazines to send it off to. That way, you can focus on specific tasks and you will feel much shame when you slack off in your duties.

Shame = The Ultimate Motivator.

Rejections, get used to them

A word of warning: you will get rejected A LOT. You will get rejected so often that you'll think about running away, joining the circus, and cleaning elephant poop for the rest of your life because---at the very least---you can hang out with the elephants.

You'd be like the Poopsmith on Homestar Runner!

Anyway, you probably want me to give you some sage advice about how to accept rejection with a happy face. Well, I'm very sorry little padawan, but I don't have much for you. I mean, I still tear up sometimes when I get a rejection, especially editor rejections because those things hurt REALLY BADLY. But it does get easier. You just have to grit your teeth and dig in your heels and keep on trucking. 'Cause if you want to write, then write. If you want to get published, then you have to deal with rejection. One day, you will get a yes.

And that day shall be filled not with shame but with awesomesauce!

Find other writers! Force them to be your friend!

Right now, you are a writer-hermit. You scour writing blogs each day and pour over writer's forums but you never comment. You're too scared. Too nervous. And you're scared of "coming out" as a writer because what if you fail and people laugh at you?

Oh, my poor dear.

You need to surround yourself with writer friends. You need people in your life who understand this crazy process of submission and rejection and publication. They're the people who truly get what you're going through and they're the ones who will buoy you when you feel down and kick you in the shins when you get too mopey.

Don't go through this alone. (Plus, writer friends are a lot of fun! You like fun!)

ANYWAY, I can probably talk for hours about all of the lessons I've learned writing-wise in the past five years. Man, I had so much to learn! And I have more to learn still.

But I'm curious. What would you tell your former self? What lessons have you learned since you started on this crazy-making process?


  1. OMG, I would definitely tell myself more Butt in Chair, especially while I was still job-hunting straight out of college. I had a lot of free time then, and I regret not taking advantage of it on the writing front. On the other hand, I did use that time to marathon 4 season of Bones and 4 seasons of Criminal Minds. So... :/

    As for Shame = Ultimate Motivator, OMG WE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE. Alz and I did a guest blog post once about how we shame ourselves into getting stuff done. Haha. So Asian of all of us! :D

  2. I've learned MANY things. My favorite thing is that, as you very well said, it all comes down to butt in chair. That is the only thing I can control. And, wouldn't you know it, that's the best part of the process for me! Writing and brainstorming. *happy sigh*


    That is all. <3

  3. I would tell my eighteen year old self to not give up so easily, that writing is HARD, and you're probably going to suck at first. Just keep working.

  4. I love this post! I would tell my younger self to not stress out too much about a timetable--always feeling like success has to happen NOW, or it means failure. That there will be more opportunities. That even though every project feels like the last and best one I'll work on, it's probably not true and it's fine to let go and move on.

    Also, that is such a cute picture!

  5. Hm, I would tell my 24 year old self to go travel more abroad before I had a kid and to put more effort into my girlfriends than my boyfriends. I would have volunteered less (I know, that sounds weird but it's true) and enjoyed life a little more, because you only have youth once and you should live it up and not be so serious all the time!