A Letter to New Writers

So, today I’m a bit nostalgic about writing.  I’m on the verge of releasing my first novel, I’m learning how to market it, and I’m planning out the next three, and it’s just making me think.  About how I got here.  About how I started out.

I actually started writing stories in kindergarten.  I have the proof, too, in a one page story written in wandering, blocky pencil on torn notebook paper full of misspellings.  I found it a couple years ago when I was packing to move to North Carolina, unearthed it out of a box of old school reports, assignments, and sticker covered Lisa Frank folders.  The story was about a gas station clerk who loved surprises.

Before I found it I thought I’d only started writing in third grade, with a story that wove its way into the games of make believe my brother and I played.  But no, I was writing about gas station clerks, and I have no memory of penning that piece.  I did visit the local gas stations a lot when my parents went in for cigarettes and cokes, but I don’t remember a clerk who fit the bill for the one I wrote about.

In the story, the gas station clerk was beloved by all the townsfolk except for his boss.  One night the gas station was robbed and the boss blamed the clerk for it, and then fired him.  When the townsfolk rallied around the clerk in anger, the boss tried to offer the job back to him.  The clerk refused with a sarcastic, “Surprise!” and walked away.

My comedic timing and sense of irony were all kinds of off kilter, for sure, but every writer starts somewhere, and for me it was with snarky gas station clerks.

And now, 21 years later, my first book is gonna be for sale on Amazon.

That little kindergartener never envisioned anything like that.  It wasn’t until third grade I even learned that books were written by people and I could be one of them.  I started writing those little pieces because I loved stories, because they were in my head and finally had a tenuous grasp on English to spill them out.

That’s the kind of place every writer starts from, whether you’re six years old or seventy.  I happened to get a jump on things early, but there’s no right age to start writing.  You start writing when the stories are ready to come out and you go from there.

Your first stories aren’t going to be good.  Your punctuation is going to be terrible.  Your spelling will be off.  Your characters will be so one dimensional that a strong wind could swallow them up.  And that’s okay.  You learned the alphabet a letter at a time, right?  Each story you write is like that, a single piece of the writing whole you’re trying to learn.  You gotta keep writing to learn them all, even the ones you don’t use all the time.

So, what I’m trying to say is to enjoy every stage of writing you reach.  No matter how quick or slow you are, you’re doing a great job.  You’ll get where you’re going if you keep at it.

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