On Writing · Poetry

Notes to a Young Writer #1

She’s in her twenties

Wanting to write well and right

Earnest, scared, smiling


Earlier this week, I participated in the monthly Author Toolbox Blog Hop organized by Raimey Gallant. This was my fourth time participating and, as always, it was a great deal of fun, in the writing, sharing, and reading the work of other writers.

One of my favorite bloggers lamented her youth, agonized over advice to write what you know. She moaned: But I don’t know anything! I’ve just started writing and I’m only twenty-five years old and I haven’t experienced anything good, interesting, worthy yet.

As so many of the other readers/responders to her piece, I urged her to keep on going, to write what she wants to know, explore what she doesn’t know, to imagine forward. My own day plummeted sideways after I sent my answer. I wound up investing excruciating hours of slow, miserable slog into my work in progress.

If you think that I’d plummet into dark, dreamless sleep and wake refreshed in the morning, we can share that happy delusion. What really happened is that I woke up around 4:00 a.m. with my dog pacing the room, panting his night terrors — and that was the end of sleep for me that night (the dog settled into his kitchen dog bed and sighed into peaceful slumber).

I couldn’t stop thinking about that young writer. While I’ve never met her in person and likely never will, my heart swells toward a young artist longing to create, to develop her talent, to publish her work and share it with the world. There are not many writers, never mind women writers, in the part of the world where she lives, so she does the best that she can on her own, taking every opportunity to meet other artists, to talk with other writers and readers, to read far, deep and wide, and to write and submit her writing to contests and for publication.

Her aching yearn and resolute determination to write are universal, lifelong, and pure. Talented, enthusiastic, open, and honest, she searches unceasingly for what she most needs to continue on her road.

Here is the first piece of advice I would give her: embrace that aching yearn and accept it as fully and compassionately as you can do. Your creative gifts and your developing talents are lifelong joys and challenges alike — cherish them and nourish them with all that you have, just as you are doing now.

As to her doubts about knowing anything worth sharing, I argue that she is rich with knowing and expression. She already knows love, regret, desire, and choice. At her age, she is but a vigorous heartbeat away from her childhood and her coming of age than the rest of us older, more experienced, tired writers with withered memories (especially those of us with aging, anxious dogs who pace the house in the middle of the night, seeking solace that cannot be found).

Subjects and themes swarm: first time stories (first day of school, first close friend, first day of work, first love), finding your way when you don’t know where you are going (such as right now in entering writer world or back when she recognized herself as writer), imagining the stories that she’d most like to read and to write (romance, thriller, fantasy, all the genres), flash fiction based on moments she’s lived or her responses to prompts that grab her attention and won’t let go (kind of like my waking up thinking about her desperate longing).

As I said, I don’t know her, don’t have any genius advice. What I would tell her is to love your writer self, nourish yourself with great writing, seek out guides and practice the advice that feels right to you and makes you a better writer. Mainly though, I’d tell her to keep on writing, keep on blogging, and celebrate her incredible gift of storytelling.


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