I didn’t start telling people I wanted to be a writer, for real, until I was 15.
That was the year I took my very first creative writing class. The year I met and began studying under the mentor that would convince (rather, force) me to submit my very first essay to a magazine.
Up until then, I wasn’t sure I could, or should, take writing seriously as a possible career path. I wanted to study music. And I wanted to teach English literature. Or something.
In the three years I studied creative writing as a teenager, we wrote 6 letters to our future selves. Each one was sealed and kept in a drawer for five years, at which point they would be mailed out to us, wherever we might be.
I received my last letter in 2015, not quite two years after my teacher passed away. (I’m not sure who took on the task of still making sure those letters got to us, but thank you, whoever you are.)
Somewhere in a box still in storage after a move, that first letter, the one I wrote 10 years ago, sits eager for me to read it again. But I don’t have to study it in detail to remember its closing remarks.
Something like, “I hope by the time you read this, you’ll have published a book for real.”
I suppose me of 10 years ago would be a little disappointed to learn that she still had not found an agent, or even started looking for one. That she had yet to revise and polish a draft to the point of query-readiness. That she still wasn’t sure she’d ever succeed.
But in true reflection, I also know there are many things my 15-year-old self wouldn’t be able to help but grin at. The fact that she’d started a blog and kept it going for almost a decade. How she never quit writing even when life got stupid and people left and it felt like no one believed in her. How she wakes up every morning and goes to work, and someone actually pays her to write for a living.
It’s not anything like she imagined it would be. It’s probably so much better than that.
If you ever think about giving up, about changing direction, about starting over or walking away — ask yourself just one thing.
Would the you of 10 years ago be proud?
Would they stand amazed that you’d worked so hard, stumbled so many times, yet persevered so stubbornly, until you achieved something worth it all?
Or would they wonder why you quit before success, of any volume, had the chance to find you?
Would they be glad you tried — or disappointed you never did?
Sometimes, even though we don’t want to admit it, we try really hard to impress other people. We want them to be proud of us. To believe in us. To say to us: “You did good.”
There will be points in your life when the person, or people, you thought would always be there, for whatever reason, can no longer be there.
When you reach those points, think of the you of before. The one who hoped and dreamed and believed it could be done.
Make them proud. Do it for you.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.