If I told my younger self many things, I wouldn’t have believed me.
You know that feeling, no? And how often have you seen interviews where the question is always asked: “What would you tell your younger self?” I think I’ve seen a hundred of those posed recently.
Or, as Toby Keith sang, “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.”
Have you ever felt that way? We all have, at some juncture, when a dream of whatever sort didn’t work out, and we wished we could go back to that ignorance-is-bliss state.
But in this case I’m talking more about a reality that you’ve come to know, to understand, and no way in heck would you have believed it when younger.
I set out fairly early in life to chase my writing dreams. It’s a truly bizarre life, as any artist can tell you. But one I wouldn’t change for anything and everything. At the ripe old age of 30 I quit my corporate job, moved to the farm (which is still in the middle of nowhere), gave up financial security, and cleared my mind to write.
Best move I ever made. It required a ton of courage. I’m not sure I could make that same decision and carry it out today! LOL. But during that sojourn of 7 wonderful years, I honed my voice and craft into something meaningful. At least for me! But I sold a novel and 2 works of nonfiction to Traditional publishers while there.
Of course, I thought that was my ticket to bestseller-dom.
I was pretty full of my little self then. It’s so incredibly difficult to sell a manuscript to a real publisher, the odds at the time one in a million (literally—those were the calculated odds at the time). So doing so spells incredible success. The odds after the e-book revolution are much worse these days—one in ten million.
Naturally, authors go in all starry-eyed and think that the sales will just drop in our laps. We grasped the brass ring, no? We got in the club (and that’s how authors really do feel about it!).
It takes a while for reality to kick in! The statistic at the time was that 3% of all published authors (and all we had then was the Traditional route) made their living writing. Gulp. And their names ended in Rice and King and, well, you get the picture. All other published authors kept day jobs.
It’s the same today. Or perhaps the odds are worse. I’m not sure there’s a way to calculate them with the preponderance of self-published writers.
But if I’da told my starry-eyed younger self this, she would have laughed at me.
Writing books is a tricky business, all the way around (pursuing any sort of artistic career is, but writing is what I know J To even attempt it, you have to have a bravado, an arrogance if you will, a sense that you not only have something important to say, but have learned how to say it well. You just have to. If you don’t, the business itself will crush you (as it does to 99% of the folks who begin it). You have to believe in yourself and the work and have this insane idea that you’re going to be doing nothing but penning beautifully crafted stories and characters for the rest of your life.
Otherwise the mountain is too daunting.
So perhaps it’s truly a good thing that in youth, we don’t have the wisdom of age. Oh, we bemoan that as we learn through our lives. “If only I knew then . . .” And we have this idea that we would have sailed through more easily.
But I suspect Toby Keith’s lyric is more on the money! In our heart of hearts, we really wish that what we believed in youth was the truth.
A funny thing happens on that journey though, if one persists. If you don’t fall into the abyss of the River Styx and drown, in whatever way that presents itself, and you actually get to the other side, the sun truly is shining. The vast landscape before you will be quite different from the one you envisioned.
But in many good ways, and with so much more to learn, to add to the skills and lessons you’ve mastered along the way.
And the most paradoxical thing about that? It fits well into fiction J
I am so blessed to live in this world of words!
What would you tell your younger self?
This Post Has 2 Comments
Donna Verret19 Aug 2015
I would tell myself not to follow the “expected.” Not to get married at eighteen and have kids young so that you can “grow up with them.” I would have allowed myself to ripen, experience more, get the crazy out of my system 🙂 Unfortunately, it is all of the experiences we have had that give us the vision of the experiences we missed as well as those we grabbed. I think that makes me an oxymoron. Sometimes just a moron. But in either case, I’ll just keep working with it.
Susan Malone24 Aug 2015
What a fabulous thing to say to your young self, Donna! I love that. Reminds me of that Joseph Campbell quote: “If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” So true, no?
And no wonder you’re so fearless now!