Here’s what nobody has told you and everything it is within my power to say.
You don’t need to read this if you have always known, accepted, and loved the fact that you are a writer.
If you felt unconditionally accepted and supported as an artist and creator in our society and by your family, this isn’t for you.
If your self-esteem has never wavered, if you never questioned yourself, this isn’t for you.
This letter is for the others: the would-be or beginning writers who have felt misunderstood, marginal, isolated, deviant. The ones who don’t fit in. The losers, loners, misfits, outsiders.
Does this word make you cringe? Loser. Have you ever used it to describe yourself or another? Has it torn a whole in your heart? I believe this word has so much power in it. If you’re a loser, you can finally claim all your mistakes, all your stories, all your failures. You now have nothing left to lose. You can be free.
Why? Why would I suggest such an absurd thing? Because . . .
All of your life you have might have heard certain things about writers, creating, and art in general. Perhaps the message was that art was less important than everything else.
Schools compelled you to study language, math, and history but not art, writing, or anything that made your soul sing back to you in a thousand ways.
Perhaps when you were in school, you watched the classes or programs you loved get cut first and never come back. Perhaps they didn’t even exist. And perhaps you didn’t even know what you loved because you had no way to find out.
Perhaps you were bullied, beaten, isolated, or drugged because people didn’t understand that you had no way to express who you were. (this happened to me).
And if you dared express yourself, you were told you were impossible or somehow faulty. Of course, no one really “told” you this verbally. And that’s why the message is so powerful. Truly powerful messages aren’t sent through words.
The message enters in other ways: through body language, willful discouragement, or messages such as we don’t do things like that or better make sure you have a plan b.
Society has a million ways of erasing you.
So I say: Fuck Plan B.
Not that being prudent is unimportant. It is. And you have a life to live, a living to make. A question to answer. Just like everyone else.
Perhaps you are careful to follow the ambient advice & you go into a safe career: nursing, teaching, computers. And you like this thing you chose & it’s easy to answer the inevitable question: so, what do you do for a living?
Perhaps you struggle & compare yourself to others who have something you don’t. Perhaps you try to “do” other things, “be” other people, “live” other lives. Because you have to admit: there’s no simple job description for what you really want. And you try to be happy in these efforts because they seem to make others happy.
Perhaps you settled down and had a family. This was a calling others would understand. And one you would love. There would always be something to do, someone calling your name, it would feel good to be needed, to be important.
Perhaps your yearning only surfaces a few times a year, perhaps weekly, monthly, what does it matter . . . your unfulfilled need to create nullifies time.
Perhaps it never surfaces because you forgot who you were. You once knew, as a child. You remember the books you loved to read, the paper you scribbled on, the stories you memorized.
If you excavated these “childish” things with serious intent, you would rediscover exactly who you are and what you should be doing.
Here is what every teacher, every parent, every school, every mentor should have told you. And because they didn’t, I will:
Congratulations! You’re an artist. You’re a writer. You’re a beauty-bringer. Most of the most influential people in history have been writers.
You share the couch with geniuses. You are the darling of history, the absolute favorite.
You came to this earth to feel and perceive many things that most people can’t — you’re here so that when you express what’s missing for them or the things they can’t express, you bring beauty.
You came to this earth to mirror something we need to see, but can’t.
It takes many hours to master any craft or skill. 2,000? 10,000? 20,000? Who cares. Plan accordingly.
Start with 5 minutes. Show up for 5 minutes. You can keep going after that but you don’t have to. Just do 5 minutes most days out of your week.
Once you become more of you you are, the word “NO” no longer exists.[Tweet “You must now exist in a state of infinite yes, where you act on what you are, without apology and without fear.”]
Study your craft.
Make sure you read about the people who have done what you want to do. Make sure you read their work and their life equally. Your book list should have non-fiction, biography, and auto-biography on it – as well as work in your genre.
Understand the “work” of your craft. What exactly do those in your craft do for the rest of us and how do they do it?
Remember that there will always be 3 of you in the room: you, your work, and your process. Pay heed to all three.
And as soon as you are able, you must destroy the forces in your life that do not support you. I know it’s not easy to hear that. But it must be done. Pray to understand why. This is the nature of sacrifice.
There are people out there who will discount, ignore, or underestimate your abilities, your yearning. Don’t stop. Nobody can determine who you are or what you do.
Love what you love. Love it no matter what, no matter how stupid, silly, insignificant, or maligned it is. Love it especially when it is hated, judged, criticized. Love it without apology.
Stand for something. Write these things on your walls, your body, your books. You’ll need those things when the road is dark. Then, don’t just stand for them. Be them.
I stand for love, beauty, and freedom. What do you stand for?
Writer, there is no advice perfect enough for you right now.
Now, I think you know exactly what to do. Begin.
Resistance of the heart against business as usual,