Yesterday morning I drove through the rainy streets of Copenhagen to give a career/education talk for Mentor International. I shared the story of how my education has absolutely nothing to do with my career, trying to reassure the kids in front of me that whatever educational choices they make right now do not tie them down for life. Apparently this is the year when they do their work experience and are first assessed regarding their suitability for further education.
I can see how that could be stressful when you’re a fourteen-year-old kid with the rest of your life stretching out in front of you and even thirty-year-olds seem ancient.
After the inspiration talk part was over, the kids were free to ask us questions. I had expected them to ask me about my job – after all, tell a bunch of 8th graders that you work in beauty and you expect them to ask you for make-up insider info. But no.
All the ones who came to talk to me said the exact same thing, ‘I want to be a writer, too. How do you do it?’
I think it’s truly amazing how many of us share that dream. Even one of the other mentor’s told me he dreams of a Nobel prize for literature.
The best advice I could give them if they want to be writers is to get on with it. Write. Carry notebooks. Jot things down. Read books. Many many many books. Keep at it, never give up. Because you can’t just, as one of them suggested, quit the day job and do nothing but write. Not when there are bills to pay.
I wanted to be a writer in 8th grade. I still want to be one.
If they remember one thing about what I said, I hope it’s the part about how much work you need to put in if you want to be a writer. Basically what I wish someone had told me in 8th grade instead of, ‘You can’t make a living as a writer.’
Awesome that you want to be a writer. Go for it. But find something you can enjoy working with while you write your books. And don’t think that just dreaming about getting published will be enough to get you there. Being a writer is more work than you can imagine. But if that’s what you want, then that’s what you need to be.
I wish I could go back to 8th grade.