I just hung a calendar up on the wall, a brand new one for a brand new year. What’s it like over there in 2015? Got an agent? How about another book deal? Have you given up on life and are living in an actual cave now? Probably not. I bet WiFi would be a bitch to get in a cave.
It’s probably not been even a year since you sat down to type this letter to you out with that calendar next to you so full of potential. Man, pronouns are weird when you’re writing to yourself, aren’t they? But anyway, even though it’s only been a year or less since we’ve done this, memories fade. The scars don’t, and, man, did we get some scars this year, but the act of getting them becomes fuzzier, even in a short amount of time. So I wanna remind you of some things, okay? Things we learned about writing this year. Just a girl here in the past, whispering some stories to you in the future. In list form. I think we’ll always be a girl who loves her lists.
1. Not everyone is going to love what you do.
We wrote that once before. Remember that? But it’s still just as relevant and important as it was when we first typed those words. This is a subjective game we’re in. What works for one reader will not work for another. There are gonna be people who absolutely, positively hate what you do. There will be some, hopefully not many, who want to rip your books into shreds then burn them. They’ll want to dance in the ashes and tear down your kingdom. And that will hurt. It’ll sting. It probably always will, because you’re made of flesh and not metal. But there’s bumps in the road and there’s cliffs, and that’ll always be the former unless you decide to make it the latter.
Don’t you ever make it the latter.
2. Likewise, there’s gonna be people who love what you do.
It’s the other side of the coin. The shiniest one. The one you should focus on. That’s not to say you should completely ignore the ones who hated it. Because they may have some good points and you should consider them going forward. But in the now, your now, not my now (this must be what the Doctor feels like explaining time travel), you tattoo the words of the ones who loved on your heart and ribs.
3. You get to define success for you.
That doesn’t mean it’s gonna be readily accepted by everyone else. In fact, chances are, everyone you come across is gonna have an idea about what success is. But you get to define it for you. You should define it for you. And then you should celebrate it, every single time, you experience it.
4. Speaking of celebrating, do it often.
Being published can be a tiring, disheartening, dark place to live. Celebrate everything. Every little thing, celebrate it. Give damns. Give so many damns. Give every damn you have, then borrow a few and give them as well. It’s your candle in the darkness.
5. Listen. Nod your head. And do whatever your gut tells you is right.
This is your career. Your worlds. Your words. That’s not to say you know best about everything. You don’t. And believing you do is foolish and damaging. But in the end, you are the one who will have to live with your decisions, not anyone else. Make sure that you can. Always make sure that you can.
6. You are going to meet lovely, wonderful people.
You already have, and my wish for you, the you here in 2014 crossing her fingers for the girl in 2015, is that you’ll meet even more. I’m sure you’re gonna meet some not so lovely, unwonderful people, because that’s just life. But the playground will always be big enough for everyone. Party with those you want to party with. Be civil with those you don’t. Keep expanding your tribe. You’re a better person for it, because they make you a better person.
7. No matter if one person is reading your book or 5,000, continue to be thankful.
It’s okay to be upset when you’re not selling well. It’s okay to feel like you’re shouting into a void and no one will ever hear you. But treat every freaking reader like they’re golden. Because they are. They chose you. There’s magic in that. Don’t you ever forget it.
8. Strive to make the acknowledgements.
Not just because it’s a flattering thing, to see your name associated with someone else’s book, but because making the acknowledgements means you helped. In some way, shape, or form, you helped someone with their dream. Be a helper. Make that part of your legacy.
9. Stop living in a vacuum.
You stopped that didn’t you? Scrolling through Twitter and Facebook and quietly judging yourself based on everyone else? You’ve stopped believing those things are The Things, right? That this is the entire world? Because it’s not. It’s absolutely not. This is just your city. Outside of it, there’s a whole vast wide world. Cities upon cities. Cities made of smoke and of song. Step out of the vacuum and explore it. Don’t get caught up in the politics of your city and forget there’s a world beyond.
10. Keep making mistakes.
This is my greatest wish for you, 2015 Me. Keep making glorious, magical, awful and heartbreaking mistakes. Learn from them. Grow from them. Grin at the scars they give you. Stumble and fall and stand up and brush yourself off. Keep moving forward and know that the journey is wrought with getting it wrong. And you’ll get it right. Maybe not this year. Your year. Maybe you’ll be writing this same thing to 2016 you. Reminding you, me, to not let your fear of getting it wrong cripple you from eventually getting it right.
On a personal note, we lost some people in 2014 and came damn close to losing some others. You won’t forget that. There’s no way you could. Because you’re gonna carry that loss forever. It’s gonna leave holes in you. We learned to live around them here in the now, of course. But it was hard going at times. The pain of them made you wheeze. You clutched your chest more than once, sure your heart was actually breaking. But you straightened. Remember that? You always straightened back up. That’s important to remember. You’re a girl who straightens and I hope the you in 2015 still does. I hope the future you always does. And I hope, more than anything do I hope, that you remember to cherish every single person in your life. Good or bad. Cherish the hell out of them. And always remember that this year could be your year. The year you’re lost or almost lost. Keep striving to leave a mark. Keep touching things and trying to make them a little better than you found them.
Be lovely, kid. Be as lovely as you possibly can. We’re doing things. Keep doing them.
See you. Be you.
You. This you. The past you. Or maybe the Now You. Whatever. This is still weird.