I’m addressing the kids today, and if you’re not one, but know someone who is, won’t you please pass this along? (If you find it worthy, I mean.) I’m hoping to help your young peers understand what to expect as they walk the writer’s road.
I was a pack rat of words long before computers came along. I filled journal after journal with tiny, tense, Bic-penned attempts to master the mere act of putting words on the page. What I wrote was so stupid! So self-absorbed and questiony. Why am I here? What is my purpose? What do I have to do to get laid? I hated almost everything I wrote almost as soon as I wrote it. I didn’t know the first thing about story, and that’s what galled me most of all. My writing went nowhere, and I knew it. But I didn’t stop for the same reason you don’t stop; for the same reason junkies don’t stop. We’ve chosen our art, or it’s chosen us, and now we have to deal.
So I kept filling the pages of the horrible journals (filling, primarily, unlined black hardbound books that, because I am a pack rat of words, rest in the eaves of my very garage even as we speak). I discovered my first rule of writing: Write what you can write, or, more broadly, make the art you can make. And don’t lament the art that lies presently beyond your grasp. Presently that will change.
I had to write the horrible journals to write myself out of the horrible journals.
I had to start somewhere.