Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dear Aspiring Young Writer Me: You Don't Suck (Nancy Ohlin)

Dear Aspiring Young Writer Me,

Take this advice, for whatever it’s worth:

1.  You shouldn’t care so much about what other people think of you.  Get rid of the running self-commentary of “I suck.”  You don’t suck.

2. Don’t buzzkill your own writing.  Keep filling those notebooks (and hard drives) with all the poems, short stories, beginnings of novels, literary and not-so-literary essays, and random ramblings that come to you.  Some of them will stick.  Some of them will not.  But under no circumstances should you re-read them in the spirit of:  “This is awful, I will never be a writer, what was I thinking?”

3. There is a difference between writing and being a writer.  Later, you will develop many fancy notions about what it is to Be A Writer:  publication, glowing reviews, bestseller lists, movie deals, fame and fortune, admiration, respect.  These things are shiny distractions.  What matters is the writing.  Sit down, tell your story, laugh and cry with your characters, revel in the process.  Repeat.

4.  Befriend other writers.  There is nothing like talking about writing (and life and love and chocolate addictions and yoga classes and bad childhoods and insomnia) with other writers.  Someday, you will attend your first big literary conference, and you will be crazy-intimidated by the prospect of meeting a bunch of scary Famous Authors when you are a mere Lowly Newbie.  You will be disavowed of all uncertainty and fear when these scary Famous Authors turn out to be the most wonderful, awesome, not-scary people in the world as well as your life-long friends.

5.  Many years from now, you will have a son and a daughter.  They will be so, so excited that you are an author.  Inspired by you, they will create books of their own out of construction paper and magic markers, books with titles like Mosquitoes in Tuxedos and Superheroes in the Jungle.  All this will bring you more joy and happiness than any publishing deal.  All this will make you remember why you write.  



  1. I love this post, Nancy! Especially numbers 4 and 5. Thank you for sharing!

  2. For me it's #3 that totally resonates. I needed this reminder!

    1. Ellen, #3 is insanely hard. But on the rare days when I'm in that pure writing zone, it's so great and also creatively liberating.