One writing exercise that came out of my trip to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School last year was to write to my 20-year-old self with advice based on knowing now what I didn’t know back then. This was fun, really made me think and I thought at the time this could make a good CFT post because I can throw it open for you to join in. What would you tell your 20-year-old self? I am only talking in general terms for this but my list is below.
So to a 20-year-old Allison I would say:-
1. Lighten up!
This was the first thought that immediately occurred to me! I don’t know if all 20 year olds go through the stage of taking themselves far too seriously. All I know is I did. What a complete waste of time and energy… life is far too short for this sort of thing.
2. Start writing!
I have had a life-long interest in reading and stories. My big regret is not starting writing sooner than I did because nobody can tell you how long it will take you to get published (assuming you want to achieve that). Also the sooner you start, the sooner you can learn from your mistakes and improve on what you do and the sooner hopefully publication will happen. I can’t emphasize this enough to my younger self. I would also tell her to come on, let’s get on with this now, shall we? You’ve nothing to lose. You will end up being published for non-fiction AND fiction but it will take you a long time so start sooner!
3. Never underestimate how long something worthwhile (like writing well) will take to achieve.
I console myself with the thought that we all do this at some point. I think it is a question we all serve an apprenticeship of some sort (in my case in learning how to create work that people will publish (sometimes anyway!).
4. You will develop a love of classical music, honestly. Start now. There’s more to it than you realise.
Life is too short not to appreciate music. As with books, funnily enough, I think a wide range of tastes here is good for your own development. By 20, I was already heavily into rock, pop and soul music (and still am) but classical was the great unknown. Knowing what I do now, I should’ve explored this whole area of music a lot sooner than I did. Oh and you will develop a love for operatic pieces (Nessun Dorma for one) and choral pieces (Miserere). (You will also love Danse Macabre which will be the theme for the book trailer for your first book but that’s another story!).
5. Don’t put off reading. Read whenever you can.
Life will get busier as you take on more responsibilities and while you will still read, and always will, you will have less time so make the most of now. This is the time to read those classics you always wanted to read. Also read widely to help you develop your non-fiction writing for later on.
6. Make the most of now generally anyway
You can’t start doing this too soon. Think about what you would like to do with your life. Be open to new ideas. Your writing journey, yes you will have one, will take you in different directions and you will love it all. Don’t restrict yourself unnecessarily.
7. Look forward to technological changes.
Look forward to being able to use an electronic reader for your own personal library, as well as still enjoying the joys of the paperback. Look forward to the internet and Facebook and being able to do all manner of things on a computer that, aged 20, you are simply not able to do as the technology is not with you yet. Embrace it. Use it to help your writing.
8. Writing Conferences – go to them!
Do this as soon as you can and don’t put it off, thinking you’ll be out of place. All novice writers feel like that. See the conferences as a chance to practice networking as well as learning from the courses themselves.
9. Talking of networking…
The way to overcome nerves here is to see it as a chance to discuss what you write and find out about the writing of the person you’re talking to. See it as a chance to break down the ice, maybe make some long distance writing friends you keep in touch with thanks to the developments like Facebook I outlined, and your opportunity to spread the word.
You will develop a real love for this but start sooner! Fitness is a wonderful thing to have and by starting at 20, rather than much later (as I actually did), you will get the health and other benefits far sooner. You will also develop a real wariness when driving around Fleming Park car park given people don’t always follow the system properly. You hope that the new pool will have a car park where the system is marked out more clearly and that it will be one way in and out for the whole thing, rather than just part of it.
11. Dog Ownership
This won’t happen until much later but it would do no harm to look into this now so that you are ready for both the responsibilities and challenges of dog ownership. Word to the wise, when this happens, never be afraid to be seen talking to your dog. In the dog owning world, you are considered odd if you don’t talk to your dog. (See Facebook for more on this!).
12. Classical Concerts
Get along to some! (This is something I still have to do but I do hope to correct this failing by the end of this year!).
13. Support your Local Theatre Group/National Theatre Live
You will develop a love for local theatre and National Theatre Live, which will introduce you to Shakespeare. Would do no harm if you find out more about the Bard now. Get along to as many of the plays as you can. You will find them educational, entertaining and realise just why Will is our greatest writer and always will be.
You will learn to drive later than most but will come to love it. You will hate parking (especially in hospitals and Fleming Park) but will discover every local driver feels like that. You will also be stunned at just how busy the Asda roundabout can get. Best be prepared for all this now.
Okay, over to you. Just what would you tell your younger self and why?
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.