An Open Letter to a Would-Be Creative Writing Student

In the spirit of “An Open Letter to a Would-Be Editor” by M. Lincoln Schuster, which was published in Gerald Gross’s collection Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, the students in levels 3 and 4 of the Creative Writing magnet at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School offer one of our own.

I

Even if the stars don’t align, if the sun doesn’t shine, if your goldfish forgot your birthday, if your pet rock ran away, if you lost a game of chess (or ten), if your brother ate the last lemon wedge, if the birds partied in your ‘hood ’til four in the morning, or if you just grew an eleventh toe— write, regardless. Learn the art of writing no matter what life throws at you.

II

Don’t be afraid to step away. Take time to think and relax. There is no need to stress about your work. Putting it down and coming back to it is not a crime.

III

The worst thing you can ever do is temporize then rush with something you have had more than enough time to revise. It will hinder what could actually be good work.

IV

Writing is more than just an expression of feeling. It is how you convey that feeling to others in the hopes of invoking a feeling in them.

V

Write in whatever way helps your ideas flow most freely. Do not type on a computer or phone for convenience if your ideas are better organized, written, or expressed on paper, and vice-versa.

VI

You’re not the worst writer ever, but then again you’re not the best writer ever. Don’t get intimated, and don’t get a big head. Keep in mind that someone is always better than you, and someone  is always worse than you. It’s up to you to be the best that you know how to be.

VII

Somewhere in this pubescent slobber of creative writing, I have learned several things about the creative process, one of them being that the most important concept of being a writer is being original. A writer’s job is all in her presentation. Therefore, if a writer can maintain originality and spunk, she will gain longevity.

VIII

Be confident in your work. There will be people that will not like it, or not even read the first sentence, and give bad results. Some may not even comment on your work. Be confident in your abilities as a writer and maintain your ability to accept constructive criticism.

IX

Stick with your work. Don’t give up when it gets a little hard. Don’t leave a good story half-written because you decide it’s no good. You have no way of knowing if a story is good or bad until it’s finished. An ending can change everything. If you need to take a break, take a break, but always go back to it.

X

If you enjoy sitting still at a computer for hours a day, desperately stressing about a topic to write about, barely reaching deadlines, taking harsh criticism at workshops, then writing is for you.

XI

Weigh your skills with your interests when deciding whether or not to be a writer. If you like to write and to do other things, consider which one you are willing to spend extended time working on.

XII

The only advice I have to give you, if you’re entering a creative writing class, is to accept constructive criticism. Your work may be fantastic to one person and abysmal to the next. It might be award-winning in one contest and receive complete rejection from another. Regardless of the quality of your work, you’re going to take something from the feedback, given that you receive any. You have to be confident enough in your work to say, “I think I’m going to leave that as I wrote it,” or “I don’t really want to change that because it’ll change my vision,” but you have to be humble enough as a writer to say, “I might need to revise that sentence ore that paragraph.” or “Yeah, I messed up.” Fellow writers are there to guide you when you need it most. Absolutely denying that helps absolutely no one. So take constructive criticism—don’t just throw it away because it’s not what you want to hear. Man up and accept that no one is perfect, but we can become close with the help of others. Your work will never be the best in the world, but it can be the best in your world if you accept and correct your mistakes, together.

XIII

Think. Nothing can start without thinking. Then write. Nothing can be seen without writing.

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