Last month I won an Australian Writers’ Centre newsletter competition. The prize: a copy of Sophie Kinsella’s first YA book Finding Audrey. To enter: tell them one thing you’d love to go back and tell your teenage self. My winning answer:
“One day, about 15 years from now, you’re going to decide you want to be a writer. Start now.”
Once I came down from my winning high the question kept me thinking. If I ever did stumble upon a time machine, what words of wisdom would I impart upon my teenage self? I decided to write a letter on the off chance a Back to the Future moment ever did arise…
Right now your obsession for being a fashion designer is blinding you to other creative pursuits and possibilities, like writing. “Writing?” I hear you scream with shock confusion. That’s right. One day, about 15 years from now, you’re going to decide you want to be a writer.
“Why a writer?” you ask. Firstly, let me tell you why you’re going to fail as a fashion designer. You give up way too easily. When you’re not accepted into the design course you throw in the towel, settle for marketing and that’s the end of that dream.
Writing will become your true passion and outlet for creative expression. You will write to articulate the feelings you struggle to say out loud. You will write to create imaginative characters to speak unspoken truths. You will write to escape a world of struggle and emotional pain.
My advice to you is start penning your first novel now. The ideas are already there. They fill your thoughts throughout the day and turn into vivid dreams at night causing you to wake in confusion. They are stories ideas screaming to be heard and written down.
Seek council from your English teacher Mrs Gacitua. She’ll provide constructive criticism on your first draft and the moral support you need to find a suitable editor and pursue a publishing deal.
Choose to complete work experience at a publishing house, women’s magazine, writers’ festival, writers’ centre or writing residency. Work or volunteer at all of them if you can. Immerse yourself in the industry and learn from the experts. Offer to write articles on a freelance basis, even if they are unpaid. Get your name in print and build a portfolio.
Research all of your educational options. It doesn’t have to be a university course in literature or communication. Pursue scholarships and writing in residency programs. Consider entering the workforce straight out of high school rather than additional years of study. Find an internship that offers on the job training with part time education.
Look at all of your options both here and overseas. Don’t be afraid of travel and pushing past your comfort zone. Go out and explore the world. Experience different cities and countries, meet loads of fascinating people and jump into new romances with an open heart and mind. Your writing will benefit greatly from the experience as will your soul.
The most important piece of advice I can give you though is to be brave, take risks, don’t let anyone hold you back, and never settle for second best.
So there it is; a letter to my teenage self. The real question now is, what’s stopping me from following my own advice now?