During all the years of my childhood I wrote and wrote, lots of poems and endless beginning of stories, of which I never finished a single one. Sometimes this inability to see a narrative through to completion worried me, but most of the time I did not trouble about it; the act was too simply pleasurable to cause much anxiety.
Later, in college, when I began to fancy myself a serious aspiring writer, a friend made a comment that at first devastated and ultimately inspired me. We were both nineteen at the time, as old as we’d ever been, and I, at least, felt nineteen was quite something. I also felt my writing might be becoming ‘quite something,’ and so it came as a kind of blow to my ego when he remarked, with his customary bluntness, “You know, we’re too young now to write anything good.” I immediately began to summon words of protest, but he cut me off. “What I mean is, all we can do, all we really should be doing now, is practice, so that later, when we have something to say, we’ll be able to write it.”
I love that he said this (and marvel that he had the perspicacity to see it then). His statement comprised, first, a call for discipline, for good hard work without the expectation of immediate reward; second, a release from thoughts of success or failure, from worries about production or proving oneself; and finally, the thread of a promise: that someday we would have stories of value to craft and share, and that this was a goal worth cherishing.