by Rebecca Cantrell
OK, I’ve decided to name my high schooler. Her name in Mina, because that’s the main character in my YA novel and so she’s the high schooler I hang out with the most. Thanks, Mina, for wanting to carry on the tradition of the written word. It takes a special high schooler to recognize that and make it a goal.
Writers read. Writers have to love to read. And they have to do lots of it. One of the things that I hate the most about being a published writer is that I don’t have as much time to read books as I used to. When I was a kid and a teenager I was constantly holed up someplace with my nose in a book (I still am whenever I get a chance). Turns out, it’s all research and practice, not daydreams and time wasting. It's my JOB.
Writers write. Lots of people talk about being writers or what they are writing. But a real writer writes, and a lot of the time. Words on the page stack up into books. Words in the air don’t. It’s fun to talk about writing, and there are a ton of things you will do that aren’t writing that still contribute to the book. But it all comes back to words on a page.
I hate to tell you this, Mina, but it’s tough to make money as a writer. In most careers you can learn your craft and work very hard and you will be financially rewarded. Writing, like most art, isn’t always like that. Money is important for food, shelter, and peace of mind. You can either figure out how to earn more or how to make do with less. But don’t get in the writing for the money as it’s statistically unlikely to follow. Still, I know you're tough enough to persevere in that face of that. You've thrown down with vampires. The publishing industry, while sometimes perceived as similar, is not that bad.
Have fun. That whole tortured writer myth? Way overworked. I know a lot of happy and well adjusted writers. You don’t need to drink, do drugs, engage in complicated sexual dramas or perform other high risk acts to become a writer. You can simply enjoy doing it. You don’t have to act like every edit is a cut that wounds your soul. You can view them as ways to help your work read better, clearer, and more true. I love to write. I love to edit. I love to cut and add and re-vision. It’s not always easy, but I have a really great time.
Good luck, Mina! And know that many other writers will be there to help you along the way. Including me.