I’m not sure at what point in your life you’re reading this, but I can be sure of one thing. You want to be a writer. Usually, you want to be a writer and something else—if I remember correctly, when you were twelve you wanted to be a Japanese Teacher and a Writer, and then later on you wanted to be a Tae Kwon Do Instructor and a Writer, and then a bit later still, you wanted to be a Chiropractor and a Writer. There will be a moment coming soon for you, during a Year 10 Health class, when you’ve been asked to talk about what you want to be when you ‘grow up’ that you’re going to passionately try and convince a friend of yours that publishing is the perfect career for her because she loves books so much. You won’t realise it at the time, but you’re not actually trying to convince her. You’re trying to convince yourself.
Really, books have always been the natural choice for you. The next decade and a half of your life are going to revolve around them. At one of the University Open Days you go to, you’re going to win a creative writing competition and see your story performed by the Drama students there, and that’s going to be it. You’re going to drop the other part of your career goals and lean in to being a writer. So what if you have to make coffee to pay the bills? It’s the thing you love. And guess what… you’re not half bad at it.
At university, you’re going to meet other people who love books and writing as much as you do. You’re going to have teachers who encourage you and don’t think your ideas are terrible. You’re going to discover that you’re really passionate about Australian Literature, so much so that you’re going to do an Honours thesis all about how WA Writers fit into that. The most exciting part is, you’re going to get a job in a bookshop and it’s going to be the making of you.
But the journey doesn’t stop there. At a certain point, you’re going to start feeling like working in retail to pay the bills isn’t satisfying you. Sure, you’re writing heaps and you’ve even won a few awards. You get to go to KSP Writers Centre and stay in a possibly haunted cabin, where you are going to revise about 40 000 words of a project you’re really passionate about, but then it’s going to be rejected by half a dozen publishers, get really close to finding an agent and then fall short. The bookshop is going to close. Then you’ll do a graduate diploma in professional writing and publishing, only to find that there just aren’t that many jobs around after you graduate, unless you move. Your mid-twenties will be a time of ups and downs and all the while I want you to write about it because that is what is going to keep you sane.
Also, I want you to write about it because one day, a publisher is going to ask you if you have a collection of short stories that you’ve been working on, I want you to say yes.
You think the first book you get published is going to be the historical novel, but spoiler alert, it’s not.
Those short stories that you’ll start writing during uni because you think it is a good way to ‘practice’ for writing longer forms—you’re going to fall in love with those. You’re going to find that they’re harder to write, but that they’re sometimes like channelling a voice from beyond yourself. Those stories are your first book.
You’re going to be really proud of them. I promise.
You’re going to be really proud of yourself.
You should be. I know even now, wherever in time you are, that you try really hard. (One piece of advice—go easy on yourself. You mean well.)
I won’t say much more, because I don’t want to spoil the rest of it for you, but I hope that you’re doing okay, Past-me. Because sitting here, now, in November 2019, I’m doing just fine—but I know what it took to get me here.
I’m sending you a big hug.
Lots of love,