Sometime in the past
Dear Soon-To-Be-DH Hanni,
Why is this letter addressed to someone named DH Hanni? That most certainly is not your name. Soon, though, it will be a pseudonym you come up with to publish under. Publish you say? Publish what? What’s one of the few things you’ve always felt came naturally to you?
I hope the answer was writing. Remember how easy the words usually came when you wrote all those papers and essays? Pity you never got assigned creative writing. Perhaps you would have discovered earlier your writing skills extend beyond the purely academic. Sure, you’ve messed around here and there starting a story or written down ideas. My point is, in a short amount of time, in about a couple of years, you’ll pick out the name DH Hanni to write under. Spoiler: You’ll even get published under it!
Future me apparently harbors some delusion we can time travel. We can’t; it’s still not a thing. Never mind the details. If time travel were possible, here’s what I would have told myself years ago.
- Go ahead and write. Write it all down. Some stuff will be good, some will be damn good, some stuff will be meh, and some of it should be set on fire. Just write.
- Hold onto the joy you feel when you write.
- Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of any idea, of any character, any genre, or any emotion that scares us in real life. Don’t be afraid to express anything. Even if someone or a group of people don’t like it, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.
- Because of your personality, you’ll start researching everything you can about writing including the publishing industry. Don’t do this! There’s such a thing as too much information. Just focus on writing. The more information you learn, the more it will stick in your mind and follow each word you write. You’ll begin to overanalyze every idea and dismiss many before you even write.
- If you read this is 2010 that idea you’ve got right now? You’ll work on it on and off for years, investing hundred of hours in research, writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, before concluding the project has run its course. It’ll be a “file this in the bottom drawer” type of book. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
- You’ll continue to be an outliner, but it’ll be different from how you did it in school. No strict way to do it, thank goodness. You’ll also discover whatever you’ve outlined will pretty much be thrown out the window. You can be quite changeable. It’s super frustrating.
- Be careful about who you listen to and what advice they give. Especially when you gather the courage to allow others to read your work and give you feedback. A lot of what you hear will honestly make little sense. A lot of people, including yourself for a while, will regurgitate advice from famous and not-so-famous authors who are themselves regurgitating advice they were given. I’m not saying completely disregard everything, quite a bit is valid, but really question it. Not all of it applies to everyone.
- It’s okay to have your own approach to writing. This ties in some with #6 as over and over you’ll hear that a “real” writer writes every day and writes no matter what. Don’t buy into this. Damn real life, you bitch. Find whatever works best. Each writer has their own process and that’s okay. In fact, don’t read anything about the best process; it doesn’t exist.
- Don’t worry about learning anything about the publishing until you’ve got something you believe strongly in. The sooner you learn about the industry, the more discouraged you’ll feel. Just concentrate on the writing itself.
- Don’t spend any time brushing up on it. Go ahead and get a couple of grammar books to look up things. There are people who can help as well. You’ve always been solid in this area, though there are rules we’ve forgotten, you don’t have to spend time trying to learn it all over again.
- You’re a better writer than you think you are. You’ve got solid fundamentals. It’s your mind more than anything which interferes with your creativity. Cut out the noise before it even begins.
There’s definitely more, but I want you to know that you’ll finally conclude writing is something you’ve always wanted to do and explore. It’s such a great fit. Pity we didn’t think about it sooner. For you, future self, writing is how you express yourself best. You’ve always known this. Now is the time to go for it. It’ll be a long, unpredictable road (and you hate unpredictability, I know), often with nothing concrete to show for it. Just stay focused on the writing and don’t beat yourself up so much as you are prone to do.
Be kind to yourself.