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I was the weird thirteen-year-old sitting at her desk during free period, huddled over a piece of paper with a pencil and a story rolling through her fingers.
I was the fourteen-year-old smiling shyly as her mother proudly announced to anyone who would listen that her teenager had written a book and was going to be published one day.
I was the fifteen-year-old who secretly enjoyed those English writing assignments and whipped out that four page essay so that she could get back to writing her next book.
I was the sixteen-year-old pretending to take notes in math class while actually writing a passage for her novel.
I was the seventeen-year-old disappointed with “I like this” non-critiques from Creative Writing class and anxiously dreaming all day about those query letters she sent out the night before.
I was the eighteen-year-old starting to realize that she might not be a published teenage writer after all, that she might not even get an agent as a teenager, that maybe her writing wasn’t as good as she thought it was.
I was the nineteen-year-old coming to terms with the fact that she may very well leave her teenage years with nothing to show for it except for many trunked manuscripts and a pile of rejection letters.
Here’s what I wasn’t as a teenager:
I wasn’t published.
I wasn’t agented.
I wasn’t a prodigy.
I wasn’t the next Christopher Paolini.
But now, looking back on those years, I’m glad I wasn’t any of those things. Because yes, I was a decently good writer for my age, and yes, I learned a lot from writing all of those books, and yes, it hurt to come to realize that I was going to have to give up my dream of being a published teenage writer. But at the end of it all, I was focused. I knew how to handle rejection (for the most part), I knew the value of patience (even if I struggled to maintain it), and I knew that time was on my side after all—that getting published wasn’t a race and I didn’t regret a second that I spent focused on my dream as a teenager.
Because it may have taken me a long time to come to terms with everything, but in the end, I know I’m a better writer for it.
I guess I just want to say this: to all you teenage writers out there, I know it’s tough. I know it sucks to give up so much to make your writing dream happen, and realize it might not happen in the time frame you were hoping for, even despite the sacrifices. I know it sucks to start writing young and have all your loved ones tell you how you’re going to be so successful because look how young you are and you wrote a book (or many books!), and meanwhile the clock is ticking and nothing seems to be happening and you start to wonder if maybe everyone’s just humoring you and you’re not that good after all.
I want to say that for those of you who are eighteen or nineteen or reaching that point of I may not be a published teenage writer after all, it’s ok. It’s more than ok. You’re not a failure for not getting published or agented as a teenager. You are amazing and talented and so very wonderful and I salute you. I salute you for hunkering down and chasing your dream while the rest of your friends goof off in class. I salute you for quietly taking rejection after rejection and continuing to write despite the pain. I salute you for not rushing to self-publish and taking your time to get your writing right, to really hone your craft.
What you’re doing isn’t easy. And if I’m being honest, it doesn’t really get easier. But it does get better. You’ll get better. Your writing will get better and you’ll be so glad for those manuscripts you had to put away and those rejections that branded your soul.
I guess I just want to say don’t give up if you don’t make your dream come true before you turn twenty. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you and as a bonus, you started on that path nice and early, which is pretty darn cool if you ask me.
Hang in there, pal. Everything is going to be ok.
Writer @Ava_Jae shares an open letter to all current and former teenage writers. (Click to tweet)
"What you're doing isn't easy...but it does get better." #writinglife (Click to tweet)