"What would you tell a high school kid who wants to write?"
I was that high school kid! Always jotting ideas down in notebooks, dreaming up new worlds and new characters, new adventures to take me away from reality….
What do I wish someone had told me back then?
That writing was nothing to be ashamed of. That I didn't need to hide the fact that I heard voices in my head when I read or write (don't you???)
And, oh yeah, have fun!!!
(Yes, despite having three male partners, two of them sons of doctors, little old me was the only one brave enough to make that first incision. Hmmm…not sure if that says more about me or them!)
I wish I'd known before that the joys of talking writing and reading and more writing with others. I'd never taken a formal writing class and didn't major in English. My fellow medical students found me odd because in addition to all the textbooks we were weighted down with, I always carried a "fun" reading book with me. I'll bet—no, I know—I was the only medical student who not only knew where the public library was, I got my library card before I got my student ID!
So, that'd be my second piece of advice: never stop reading. Writers write, but they also read—voraciously.
If you don't love words and their power, if you don't enjoy falling into a novel and being transported, then maybe you are writing for other reasons than to have your work read by others.
And that's okay. I've used my writing as a crutch to deal with the outside world—when I was a kid, when I faced big decisions, when things went right and when they went wrong. My first crime fiction novel was written after my best friend was murdered.
There's no shame in writing—and there's no shame in not sharing your writing with the world. Just because you write doesn't mean you want to be a published author—or need to be one. Too often grownups (I don't count myself among them!) think that if someone likes doing something and is good at it, they need to immediately start looking for how to get paid to do it.
If you want to write for a living, then great, approach it like any job and expect to put long, hard hours in paying your dues before you start making a living at it. Learn the business, do your research, know what you're getting into.
But if it ever becomes all about the next paycheck, if it ever just becomes just another job, something you dread hauling yourself out of bed in the morning….then go flip burgers somewhere.
Don't let anyone steal your joy!
And if anyone tries, just send them my way—the girl not afraid to slice and dice a cadaver her first day of med school!
On a similar note, there's discussion on one of my loops about people who "hear" the words while they read—something I thought everyone did until others spoke up and said they didn't hear anything when they read.
So now I'm curious—do you "hear" what you read? Or write? Or not?
Thanks for reading,
CJ, kinda hoping she's not the only one with these voices in her head!
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels and has been called a "master of the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine). Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, and URGENT CARE) is available in stores now with the fourth book, CRITICAL CONDITION due out December, 2010. CJ's newest project is as co-author of the first in a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to http://www.cjlyons.net