Dear John: Finding Fulfillment in Our Ideas

Sometimes I write letters to John Green because it’s his fault I do all this writing stuff and have yet to give up on any of it.


At some point, we all have that moment. That moment when we finally look at our list of goals or dreams or things we want to do before we die and say, “Now. I’m going to make this happen right now.” No more waiting. No more procrastinating.

I was a junior in high school when I took my writing “career” into my own hands. Near the end of 2008 I somehow discovered YouTube, which has not much to do with writing unless you factor in the minor detail of simultaneously discovering the Vlogbrothers.

The first video I ever saw, I’m pretty sure, was this writer I’d never heard of before named John Green sitting in front of a camera, talking to someone named Hank about NaNoWriMo (which I also was not aware existed in the universe).

Naturally, as a sixteen-year-old convinced I was going to be a writer no matter what it took (stubbornness or passion, I’m not really sure which), I decided I needed to read all of this stranger’s books because he seemed successful and down-to-earth. I also signed up for my very first NaNo that October (because why not?).

Well John, I spent all Christmas (sorry – “winter”) break that year reading the then three books you’d published (Katherines, Alaska and Paper Towns). And that January, I started my first blog, what would six years later morph into what is now known as Novelty Revisions.

I’m not sure if this is your fault, but I’m giving you credit anyway.

I published my first essay that year too. I wrote my first book. I finally figured out that if my ideas were worth anything at all, I needed to find that out for myself.

This, I have since come to find out, is a lesson we are reminded of on more than a single occasion.

I learned it again in college, when I realized I wasn’t doing any writing outside of school and felt as though I was falling behind.

And again, when I got my first full-time job, applied to graduate school, basically stopped blogging for two months and almost convinced myself I could afford to put “writing for fun” on hold for awhile. You know. Until I had my life figured out.

Then I forgot why I ever wanted to be a writer in the first place, and my heart was sad, and to fill the void I watched every single Vlogbrothers video ever made, in chronological order, on my way to and from work, in the evenings, long after the rest of the world slept.

Again, there you were, unknowingly screaming at me, “YOUR IDEAS MATTER. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WRITE THEM.”

Novelty Revisions happened. And then I started writing. I started writing a lot.

Why? Because my ideas, sharing those ideas, allowing myself to be proud of those ideas, gave me a sense of fulfillment I never knew I’d been missing.

You told Adam Grant recently: “You have to find pleasure and fulfillment in [your] work […] find fulfillment inside the work itself.” I first stumbled upon the original video where this quote came from at the beginning of this week, which also happens to be the week I published my first work of fiction.

How do you always somehow manage to reappear in my social media feeds when I’m in need of reassurance the most?

Everyone has their senpai these days (sorry not sorry) and I know every other fan, follower and/or nerdfighter hopes and prays you will acknowledge their existence someday. I don’t need that (not that I would deliberately avoid you in a crowded elevator if we ever happened to both be on one at the same time or anything). I have enough fulfillment knowing that what I am doing with my life – writing, because it makes me happy, not because I want to be famous or financially privileged or anything like that – is what I’ve always been supposed to do.

It has taken me so long to figure this out. Why?

I don’t know. But I wanted to thank you. For somehow always showing up to remind me I can use my words for good and that they matter and that if I’m not happy, my stories will never reach their full potential.

I am happy. It’s been far too long since I could say that and actually mean it.


Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of HuffPost Arts & Culture.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

New Ideas Are Your Motivators, Not Your Enemies


Yesterday afternoon, I got a new idea for a book.

Like most ideas, it came to me in the middle of doing something else, something that just so happened to be rather important. I suppose it didn’t come from nowhere; it’s more of a loosely woven thread of feelings and experiences that all of a sudden became worthy of a story.

Like most ideas, it wants my attention. Desperately.

But as you may or may not know, I’m already writing a book, one now over three years in the making.

If there is ever a time to follow my own advice, friends, it is now.

Remember: ideas have a life cycle

Sort of. They begin as microscopic fragments of names and dialogue and events. They slowly, very slowly, mature into storylines suited enough to write (or at least attempt to). They need time to grow before they’re ready to work with you. It is a partnership, your relation to your ideas. Neither of you can function all too well without the other. I might even dare to say it’s dangerous to start developing them too early.

So why am I so tempted to?

July 1 is approaching

This is the main source of my conflict and worry. After all, what better time to leap into a new story than a WriMo? Camp NaNoWriMo is supposed to motivate us to take our ideas and put them to paper (word processor?). Why not this one?

I’m not a huge supporter of abandoning current projects to start new ones on a whim. I never have been. After years of practice, I’ve become one of those people that finishes what she starts (I wasn’t born with the instinct, trust me). My biggest fear is that, if I put my current project aside, even for 10,000 words, I won’t want to go back to it once this new, shiny story starts unfolding.

I know it’s too early to run with it

 The idea, the kind you can hold in your hand and begin shaping into a plot with characters and climaxes and mysteries and words, only became so clear in my mind yesterday. Not even 24 hours ago. I’ve told all of you plenty of times not to jump into something new without giving it time to solidify in the depths of your mind.

It might not even be a book idea; it might be a short story idea or a poem or a haiku, for all I know. The thing is, this early on in the process, you don’t know. You can’t know right away. So closing out my current Word document and starting a new file, starting a new book, would be foolish. Reckless. I’d pretty much be going against everything I have ever taught you about idea management.

Yet it’s keeping me awake at night

Okay, only one night. But if you’ve been there, you know how awfully long those nights can be. It isn’t that I’m itching to write down my thoughts as much as I’m dying to know if the idea will ever become something more than this.

I’m still so committed to my initial project; that motivation has not left. Yet I have toyed with the idea of working on both at once, in smaller pieces each, to see if I could handle it. I don’t think I could. Our brains are powerful, but I’m not sure mine can keep track of two stories at once. I don’t want to diminish the quality of both because I’m trying too hard to make them both come to life.

I didn’t ask for this, you know. We never do. Ideas appear when we least expect them to. Sometimes they are unwanted. Yet they stay.

I am grieving a loss, and I really think giving this idea a chance could really help me—help me get the closure I need and at the same time honor the life of someone I really cared about.

I think it’s this—knowing it could change me, knowing it could give him a voice even now—that has given me the answers I needed today.

It’s a good idea. Good ideas never leave you. I think I have an obligation to my current project. And I think, if I keep pushing forward and finish it to the best of my ability, this newer idea will still be there waiting.

At least, I sincerely hope it will be.

Have you been here before? Have you survived this? Have your ideas stuck with you even after putting them to the side?

I’d love to know I’m not alone.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.