I wish I’d known that

“I wish I knew when I left high school that I could actually work as a full-time writer for a living. Then I mightn’t have spent years at university getting a BA and a Dip Ed and then a few more years doing other jobs while writing part-time on the side. I could have just got on with the job of becoming a full-time writer.”  Barry Divola, freelance writer, quoted in Newsbite, the e-mail newsletter of the NSW Writers’ Centre*

While I don’t regret my university years, I do wish I hadn’t listened to the people who steered me towards unimaginative choices and encouraged me to stifle my passions. It’s not a good thing to reach middle age and regret what you didn’t do more than you regret the things you did.

If I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice, I’d tell that young person to write, write, write, rewrite and write some more, in between reading widely and with discernment. I’d tell the young J.D. about treating writing as both a craft and a business. I’d tell that young person not to relegate writing and drawing to a cramped corner of life. I’d tell that teen that you don’t become a vastly different person in adulthood (what a foolish notion that was), so you must figure out who you really are and how to make a living being that person. That includes understanding and appreciating your temperament (if only Susan Cain’s Quiet had been out then).

Have you seen Midnight in Paris? One character dreams of moving to a little attic in Paris to write novels. A couple of smug acquaintances say dismissively all that’s missing from this picture is tuberculosis. It’s all very La Vie de Bohème, they mock. Being able to eat’s essential, but it’s also important to feel that you’ve truly lived, isn’t it?

Such a notion is a luxury most of the world’s population can’t afford, I realise, but if you’re not literally facing starvation, it might be a good idea to live.

So get writing or doing whatever it is before it’s too late.

© JD Ellevsen

*I hope the NSW Writers’ Centre and Barry Divola will forgive me for quoting without permission if I mention that Barry is teaching a course, Going Freelance, at the Writers’ Centre on 2 March 2013.

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