NaNoWriMo have started a social media campaign called #ToAFutureWriter, asking people to write letters to their future selves. Given that I’m having a hard time at the moment with my own writing, I thought it might be a good way to motivate myself. Or even inspire other writers out there.. So here goes:
Dear Future Writer,
I’m writing this today because I need it. You might also need it one day, perhaps even today. But in this letter I want to tell you not to give up. This is the most important of all the lessons you will learn as a writer: you must finish things.
There will be days, like today, when you really don’t feel like writing. You will doubt yourself. You will shrug in defeat because you believe that no one will ever get to read your story anyway, so what does it matter if you don’t complete it on time, or even ever?
Well, none of that is true.
Trust me when I say you will feel infinitely better if you finish writing your story. If it helps, start small: commit to a sentence a day. Then perhaps you will find yourself writing a paragraph a day, a page a day…until you realise that you are churning out 5,000 words in one session. Sometimes this will happen on those days you did not feel inspired. Other days, that one sentence will be the most difficult experience you can imagine. But, keep going. When you get to ‘The End’, it’s worth it to know that the hard work paid off.
Of course, then you’ll read it back and have to acknowledge how contrite and tedious your words are. You might even cry. You will probably want to tear it to shreds and destroy any evidence that this manuscript pretending to be a novel might ever have existed.
While it might be true, that isn’t where the journey ends. So you have a chance to change it, to improve it, to nurture your words until they read better. That first attempt will haunt you if you don’t face it. It will remain proof that you were right to doubt yourself. That terrible first draft will be your only evidence that you ever attempted being a writer – but what you’re missing is that is only the first step.
Writing a novel is only one stage of being a writer.
The process then starts all over again, when you have to refocus your mind on the story you want to tell, tease out the necessary elements that need to stay and rewrite others that you now know were absent in that first draft. The doubts will return, they will plague you and settle in your stomach like lead. But don’t let them win.
You are a writer – you have written. Now you’re just refining your words.
Never leave stories unresolved. They deserve to be written and then to be polished up for the world to see. There are hundreds of hours that go into any story that the reader will not see – should not see. That’s the secret that no one tells you when you first begin. You can’t compare your novel with any of those books on the shelf. Not yet. You will never get to see the previous drafts of those works or glimpse those writers when they also doubt themselves.
Don’t feel ashamed for being doubtful; it’s a natural response. Fear is the what happens when we are afraid to lose something that we care about. If you experience this, then it means you’re on the path to be a writer. Everyone doubts, sometimes. But don’t let it stop you. Use it – take those doubts and work through them. Learn more about your craft and outsmart them. Even if you think you’re building up a whole new heap of elements that will only serve to prove those doubts right, keep on going. Because that’s the only way you can move through the fear.
Be your own best friend: support your dreams and allow yourself the encouragement you need to make them come true. To continue to try means never to fail. Even with all those doubts and fears and rotten words, you are a writer. Those feelings don’t make it not true.
Now take a deep breath, put aside your doubts and go and write.
I promise you wont regret it. Not in ‘The End’.