The other day, I spoke to my oldest friend in the world for the first time in six years.
Our initial split could be described as ugly, if one were feeling charitable.
I can't explain how important this woman is to my development as a writer and a person. Hearing her on the phone, so different and yet so the same brought back so much I had forgotten.
The way I think this relates to writing is this. So often hopeful authors find themselves crawling through the slimy bowels of the internet, hoping for reassurance that their efforts will not go in vain. We all want to hear, of course, that we are writing something of worth. More than that, many people--maybe beginners especially--want to hear that they will one day be published. Publishing is so seductive because it is so validating. Someone chose your words, paid money for them, because they thought a goodly section of the populace at large would want them bad enough to turn over some hard won wages just to know what goes on between those shiny covers.
Frequently, though, what these dewy eyed writers find are grim pronouncements about how they must write six, seven, eight books in order to turn out something of even passing quality. The years all this will take stretches out before them like a path in the desert, featureless, the end--if there is one--obscured by a desolate heat shimmer.
This friend is the first person I remember creating whole worlds with. We had a series of self insert fantasies that were shamefully bad in that way only confused hormonal teenagers can achieve. Did we think about publishing it? I don't think so. That wasn't the point.
The point is, everything that has gone before, every childish tale about how she and I were really sword fighters, or motorcycle gang members on an abandoned planet, or exiled princesses with classic telepathic horse companions served as the foundation for the tales that followed, maturing as I matured.
If you, my fellow soldier, are struggling with the bleak death sentence set down by posts that inform you about how much you must do, remember that every experience you swallow, everything you suffer, all your joys, every terrible story and flight of fancy and roleplay game and fan fiction are not a waste of time. This is not a race but a journey, and when you do sit down to write the novel that haunts you in your sleep and dogs your trail in the waking hours, even the hard moments will feel in some secret way as though they are right, and easy, even if that ease is all relative.
I was once described as being made of words. My whole life I have created these bright bubble worlds to hide in, or to encompass myself and a few others under their ever changing domes. When my friend and I were thirteen we had rich tales but the skills weren't there. Now as I write the project that has consumed me utterly, those tales come out again, breathing life in to my work because I have spent over ten years dreaming, creating, narrating every day actions, imagining people and what makes them special, acting out characters with other people insane enough to dress up and pretend to be a different person.
Don't fear the work, new author. It isn't like levels in a video game. You never win. Writers are like sharks. Keep moving, and remake yourself in words.