A Letter to Younger John

Before we begin today, let me make an announcement. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve accepted a position as a Consulting Editor for Parvus Press, a digital publisher specializing (for now) in science fiction and fantasy manuscripts. For more details on how you can submit your manuscript to them, check out their website here.

Additionally, I’d like to put a trigger warning on this post today that I’m going to mention suicide and depression. I don’t get into it very deeply, but I do want to tell you that it’s in here as we discuss the idea of being good enough and/or being rejected.

Dear Younger Me Who’s Thinking About Being Writer While Dealing With Suicidal Depression,

Good news! This letter is written by a time-traveling 37-year-old version of yourself.

So, this is you from twenty years in the future. By the time you’re me, you have accrued quite a list of names I can’t put on a business card. By the time you’re me, you have said some honestly horrendous things on the Internet. You do that, and you don’t run from that. Yeah, these things are your opinion, and you’re about five-ish months from learning that opinions aren’t concrete facts, they’re just expressions from other people.  You haven’t really had what you call “joy” stomped out of you yet. It’s coming, sorry dude. But you’re going to get through it. You’ll get through it professionally. You’ll get through it personally. People don’t have to agree with you in order for you to be liked or loved or good at what you do.

You work freelance because of health concerns and a massive dislike of corporate desk jobs and dehumanized bureaucracy. Don’t freak out, you’re going to go that job interview thing and you’re going to think you lost your mind, but no, you didn’t. You still don’t believe profits should come ahead of people, and  that writers should jump through hoops to sate the caprices of entrenched ivory towers. Oh, and the ivory towers still exist.You never do get a chance to knock them over like Jenga towers. But, don’t forget to loot the office supplies before you get fired. Seriously, we still love the mason jar for pens.

You’re living a pretty sheltered life right now. But you’re going to go on many excellent adventures, and you’ll reach the conclusion that people’s race, age, gender, or orientation shouldn’t be the reason they aren’t get published. You’re going to meet people who think being a white heterosexual man should render that previous sentence null and void, and you’re going to tell what you think in response. In those moments, I urge you to remember Obadiah Holmes. Hooray genealogy. And remember that scene from Back to School. Do not go softly, John. And keep questioning the hell out of everything.

You’re going to have no patience for professional victims. You’ll have dated some. You’ll have put up with too many in your life. You’re going to think it was a terrible decision to move on, but seriously, it’s a great idea. Just trust me.

You’ll have no patience for bigots or trolls. You’ll be a pest at some point. You’ll be a jackass on the internet for awhile, but bigotry and intolerance will always hit deeply placed buttons in you. Just remember that tolerance doesn’t mean condoning idiocy or accepting raw deals. Treat people well, help them where possible if possible, and do the right thing. Yeah, you’re not going to always know what the right thing is in advance, we don’t even have that technology now, but you’ll get a pretty good handle on it in your thirties.

Some people will look at your resume once you get fired a few times and see few things they’d say “count.” They don’t think freelance editing is a viable thing writers need. They think coaching is overpriced and unnecessary. You’re going to have to get used to that feeling of being a second-class citizen and creative commodity. Yeah, you’re going to make friends with amazing people who will have astronomical success that’s maybe in some ways because of what you said or did, and that’s going to sound like it’ll offset that bullshit about being good enough, but you and I both know you haven’t felt good enough since you were about twelve. I hate to tell you this, but we’re still working on that as we near 40. On the plus side, you’re going to develop this awesome ability to help people, and you’ll feel very good enough when people accomplish stuff after talking to you.

Twitter is going to be huge for you. It’ll totally help you communicate, and you’ll misunderstand what it does for a few years, but you’ll figure it out. And you’re going to spend a lot of time just throwing ideas out into the world, and sometimes you’re going to see them get a huge reception, other times, not so much. But keep doing it. Not everyone has to like what you’re doing 100000000% for you to be happy doing it. This isn’t Sunday dinner with the old man. This isn’t even 1st-period English class. You get to be an adult, and it’s seriously fucking awesome most times. You won’t always think so, but dude, it’s got some really great parts. Again, people are gonna jaw at you, you’re going to want to recant and crumble, but don’t. Your time-traveling older self is telling you that it’s okay, and the world’s gonna keep turning.

You’re not running for student council president, you’re a guy helping people write better and get their stuff published or created. You’ll live if a tweet gets only 3 retweets. You’ll get over the sting that a blog post only got seen by 20 people.

This is probably a good time to point out that you’re going make a lot of mistakes. You’re going create some stuff, and it’s going to crash and burn. Books won’t get published. TV shows won’t get out of development talks. Theater productions will collapse. You’re going to get hosed on some writing credits. You’ll get the money, but it’ll be an uphill climb some days. Some of that’s gonna be your fault because of health issues, bad habits, poor choices, and listening to idiots. Some of that won’t be your fault. Don’t give up. Don’t mistake the failures for universal demands to stop living. Mistakes happen. It’s what you do post-mistake that matters.

I’m tell you/me all this because it’s important that you don’t marry yourself to the idea that everyone has to like you in order for you to be successful. You don’t. There are going to be people who don’t like you or what you’ve done, and that’s okay. They might seem like the majority, but that’s their volume distracting you. One guy yelling doesn’t count more than ten people nodding. Unless you let them. And you’re in charge of what sticks in your head.

You have to remember you define your own sense of who you are and how you identify. You’re not just your work. You’re not just the guy who sits behind a desk. You’re a whole you, wrinkles, scars, bruises, and everything. And you’re good enough. Rejection will be an element in your life, and it’s going to feel like someone Mortal Kombat-ripped your spine out, but they didn’t, and you’re going to be okay. Wiser, but okay.

Don’t let it stop you. Don’t let the irrational fear that some legion of clawed hydra and wailing poltergeists will shout you down forever keep you from trying to succeed. You’re going to learn that you need to define success on your own terms, and while you have a tendency to set really unrealistic bars to jump over, you’ll rein it in somewhat and really appreciate the pleasures of emails answering questions and the moments of quiet when you get out of your own way.

In short Adamus, you’re gonna kick a lot of ass, deal with many doubts and doubters, have a lot of tough experiences, and find a lot of positives. Like Red Squadron, stay on target.

You’re gonna be okay.

*

See you guys next week. Have a great weekend. Enjoy yourselves.

Happy writing

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