Now it's time to talk to someone I haven't thought about in a long while, 16-year-old me. I don't like her because she was cocky, insufferable and over confident as a writer. She once told a Pulitzer Prize winning author that she never revised anything, "because I get it right the first time."
See what I mean?
Hello, Rodman (as you are known, back in the day).
This is Your Future Self speaking, and I have some bad news for you. You do not win the 1976 Pulitzer Prize as you predicted in the class prophecy. As bad as you are in math, I am sure you didn't realize that you would be a college senior in 1976. Saul Bellow wins. He gets interviewed by Johnny Carson instead of you.
Here's even worse news.
There is no Story Fairy. You know her, first cousin to the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus.
And you always win those contests. Local, regional, national, you win them all. You are editor of your school paper. You write a weekly school column for the local paper for four years, without breaking a sweat. Writing is easy. It's the one thing you know you can do. Even though it is not considered a real asset in your teen world (like cheerleading and looking like Christie Brinkley), Writer is a far better label than Nerd or Girl Without Boyfriend.
You eventually become an adult (even though you don't really want to) and something terrible happens. Story Fairy deserts you. You write as fluently as ever, sailing along on your little blue typewriter when bang! You hit a wall. You don't know what happens next. The main character just sits there, staring at you, refusing to move or talk. Hey, Fairy. Where are you? There must be something wrong with me. Maybe I'm not a real writer after all. And you quit writing.
But you can't stop. You keep journals. You go on writing and hitting walls. Sometimes a kind editor will scrawl a sentence on the form rejection letters you receive. You write very well, but this isn't really a story. No one ever explains why it's not a real story. And you keep writing. For many, many years. All alone.
Then one day, through a set of Magical Circumstances, you find yourself in an MFA Writing Program. You discover there are lots of other people just like you, who write all the time, never get published and don't know why. You go to lectures, work with real writers and talk to your new writer friends. Eventually you learn (you are a very slow learner) that there is no Writer Fairy.
Stories don't just happen. They come in dribs and drabs. A character chatters in a corner of your brain. You remember family stories. Music will paint a mental setting, like a stage without actors. You go back to the journals you've kept since third grade and discover story treasures there.
In other words, writing takes a long time. Right now, a long time means two days, only because you are a slow and terrible typist. You discover it takes months and years to turn those dribs and drabs into a story. You will stop and start, write and rewrite. A little voice in your head tells you when something is not quite right. You write some more. (This is different from that other voice that says Who do you think you're kidding? You're not a writer! You tell that voice to shut up and go away.)
There is no bibbety bobbety boo to writing. It takes the three P's--patience, persistence and perspiration. It means writing something--even a journal entry--every day you possibly can. (In years to come, you will read that Stephen King writes every day except Christmas. You learn that most people are not Stephen King.)
Still there, Rodman? Still awake? Here comes the good news. You never give up, you read and write and learn from others and when you are really old (like forty), you start writing real stories that other people (editors) like and publish. You will still get rejection letters (sometimes they come in something called an e-mail that hasn't been invented yet, so don't worry about it) but you keep on writing. Because it's a compulsion.
Because you are a real writer. You always were.
Love, Future You, Mary Ann Rodman, published author.
P.S. No, you don't marry Robert Redford or ever look like Christie Brinkley, but you do OK.
|Future you and your mom, at a signing for your first book, My Best Friend|