Originally published in The Harbinger
Dear Young Writer,
As a young writer myself, I know exactly what you’re going through: You have millions of ideas bouncing around your brain that never seem to make it out; sometimes one breaks free from your mind and takes root on page, only to be abandoned before it can blossom into something great; and you even have masterpieces that you keep stowed away from the world for fear of how it will react.
We tend to feel guilty about our writer’s block— we tell ourselves to finally put that thought into words, or to finish a draft from several months ago, or to send our masterpiece, our pride and joy, out into the world— but rarely do we ever make a change. It’s a defense mechanism. You can’t fail if you never try and you can’t be criticized if you never put yourself out there.
This desire to protect our work is completely normal. Just as a warrior wears a breastplate to protect his heart, writers use self-doubt to protect theirs. Writing is personal. Any harsh criticism can dismantle all the effort put into a piece.
A teacher of mine constantly recites the maxim, “You haven’t written until you’ve bled on your paper,” and I don’t think that I have ever heard anything more true. On any given day you may write a number of things— an essay for English, a report for History, a birthday card—but the only time you truly write is when you put your heart and soul on paper.
True writing makes you feel drained of energy. After you’ve put everything you had into your story, you experience the greatest feeling of relief and satisfaction in the world.
Still, that great feeling can be so hard to share with others. When it comes to my own work, I see myself as Smeagol and my piece as the One Ring. It is my “precious” and I don’t want anyone to touch, see, or even think about it but me.
It’s easier to relinquish your hold on your story to family and friends but there is still the anxiety that comes with inviting someone into the deepest part of you. After all, that’s what true writing is. It is a reflection of what you feel deep in your spirit, an integral part of your being that you feel the need to express in words.
Once you’ve expressed that feeling, you owe it to yourself and to your work to share it. Ignore the voice of doubt in your head, take a leap of faith, and just put your work out there. Not everyone will love your work and that’s okay. Don’t be discouraged over one bad review. Instead, take each criticism and use it to fuel your creative fire.
That is not to say that you should write to please people, but keep in mind that sometimes people will critique your work to help you. Their opinions can be helpful in taking your work to the next level.
I’ve said a lot, but I’ve saved the most important thing for last. The most crucial piece of advice that I as a young writer can share with you is to never give up on your potential.
A fellow young writer