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IWSG: Dear Future Self

June 4, 2014

InsecureWritersSupportGroupGot insecurity? We’re here to help!

Welcome to this month’s meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you’re not yet familiar with this fantastic group, we’re a bunch of writers, three hundred and counting, who are brave enough to air our insecurities on the worldwide web the first Wednesday of every month. Want to join? Click on this linky, hop on board  Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog, and put yourself on the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.

This month I did something a little crazy. Whatever was I thinking? But I’ll let my post, (which was inspired by the How I Found the Write Path Blog Hop courtesy of Carrie Butler), explain …


Dear Future Self,Ink Blot 2

Hi, it’s me, your Past Self. Remember me? The one who thought it might be fun to enter a writing contest? The one who thought there was a remote possibility you’d impress anybody with those miserable three chapters you sent out?

So by now I’m pretty sure you’re really distraught about the results. When you look at your scores and think it was a stupendously stupid idea to try to write a novel, much less to try to make it publication worthy, I want to make sure that you aren’t entertaining even the slightest notion of ever quitting this crazy gig.

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchngIn fact, I want you to remember how much you love writing. So many thrills on this storytelling road have nothing whatsoever to do with what a professional editor thought about the ponderous beginning of your novel.

Remember that sunny May morning, when for the first time you banged out a thousand word scene in one sitting—a scene that had a beginning, a middle, an end, and best of all, a point?

Remember the first time you ‘saw’ your protagonist leaning against your car with his hands in his pockets, smiling shyly at you from underneath his dark locks?

Notebook PageRemember hand writing scene after scene in your sketch pad because that’s all that you had to write on during a plane ride from Chicago to Seattle?

And those low scores?

Wear them like the badge of honor that they are. You took a chance and let your words shake out on the screen of someone who knows what they are doing. Not only did you finish this novel, but you revised it, and revised it again, and then dared to give it to someone who can point you in the direction of a better story. You took this clumsy misshapen early effort and allowed someone wiser to have a look and poke at it with a red pen.Image Courtesy of 'MPMthe1' @ stock.xchng

I know. Sometimes those pokes will draw blood. That can hurt and weaken your resolve.

But I want you to see how blood can be beautiful, given in sacrifice to a new and better version of yourself. Those red marks show your dedication to your craft, your willingness to take a bit of pain in order to grow stronger. As you learn to fix mistakes, you will cover them with bandages while your bruised ego heals. Wear those bandages proudly. It means you’ve taken steps to become a more proficient writer.

Does your feedback tell you that you started the story in the wrong place? Great! Next time you’ll start it somewhere else.

Does the protagonist have murky stakes? It’s time to bring them into sharper focus.

But whatever you do, Future Self, don’t despair. There are many who have taken this road before you and emerged a stronger writer. You will too.

And one more thing … check the fourth drawer from the top of your bookshelf, where the colored pens are. I stashed some chocolate there for you. If all else fails, ingesting large quantities of that will get you through.Image Courtesy of Antonio Jiminez Alonso @ stock.xchng

With highest regard,

Your Past Self

Images courtesy of marija jure @ stock.xchng



How about you, insecure writers? What would you tell your future self about the steps you’re taking now to improve your writing? Have you ever entered a writing contest?

And, where do you hide your chocolate?

Ink blots images courtesy of marija jure, blood image Courtesy of ‘MPMthe1’ , pen image courtesy of Antonio Jiminez Alonso all @ stock.xchng

  1. June 4, 2014 6:23 am

    Brava, Kirsten. There’s no reason not to feel some pain, when you care as much as a writer should about her work. I’m probably the most defensive person I’ll ever meet (and what do I MEAN by that!). I advise writers that you have to fight, especially in this age, for recognition, and that the armor against these wounds is custom-crafted by each warrior to fit their own needs. You are forging yours. FIght on!

    • June 4, 2014 9:45 pm

      Thank you so much for your encouragement, Will. 🙂 Me, and more importantly I think, my Muse, love the idea of forging armor to fight the good fight of getting my words out there. 🙂

  2. melissamaygrove permalink
    June 4, 2014 7:15 am

    It’s a painful but necessary process, isn’t it?
    I’m glad you didn’t give up. 🙂

    IWSG #215 until Alex culls the list again.

    • June 4, 2014 9:46 pm

      I didn’t but, I’m not so sure about my future self! (Although, I think I can count on my blogging buddies to keep me pointed in the right direction. 🙂 )

  3. June 4, 2014 9:59 am

    Now that was great! Hope your future self listens.

    • June 4, 2014 9:48 pm

      🙂 Thanks, Alex.
      I hope my blog buddies are there for me when the inevitable criticism strikes!

  4. June 4, 2014 10:24 am

    Oh Kirsten – i never tire of reading what you give me. Your talent, imagination and perseverence truly set you apart. I learn and am enriched every time I visit.

    • June 4, 2014 9:50 pm

      Thank you, Sammy D!
      And likewise. I’m still hoping to set aside an evening or two to start my Zentangle study.
      Soon. 🙂

  5. June 4, 2014 11:01 am

    I enjoyed that. Sometimes it is hard to remember why, but for me, this is what I am, I don’t think I could stop (I’ve tried). I guess I go on. Maybe I’d say something nice to myself, or maybe I’d tell myself to buck up and get on with it. Some days I need the one some days, the other. But I like how you focused on the joy.

    • June 4, 2014 9:53 pm

      I’ve come to the conclusion that I write mainly to amuse myself, so the joy is a large component of that. And I get really cranky if I try to stop.
      I just worry sometimes: What if they hate me? 😉

  6. June 4, 2014 4:49 pm

    As always, Kirsten, you’ve comforted me with another compassionate and beautiful post. To my future self I’d say:

    “Remember this month as one of the toughest writing adventures you endured – filled with fuzzy brained and muddled sentences. And, guess what? You kept writing, and now look at this lyrical, humorous ass-kicking prose you’ve created. You kept writing, and you wrote the awesome novel you knew you could.”

    • June 4, 2014 9:56 pm

      Yay, Nancy! This is so encouraging to hear, because I feel fuzzy brained more often than I care to admit.
      But I’m learning how to edit that stuff out. 🙂
      Congrats on that awesome novel!!

  7. June 4, 2014 6:46 pm

    I love your voice. You are a very clever writer. I thought so from the first time I read your blog to that peak you allowed at other stuff. You will succeed. I believe in you, and I am cheering for you.

    I would remind myself to just try, one step at a time, because when I do finally look back its wow, look how far I’ve traveled. I would remind myself you cannot reach the end, if you do not begin. I remind myself I am in this for the long haul, so the next one will be better, because I will know so much more. Sometimes the learning is rocky, but once you have traveled it things begin to make sense. For each step completed, you are one step closer to the goal. It is an ongoing process forever evolving and changing, make like the living of life through the years. It is bound to get better with time.

    Wonderful post Kirsten.
    Juneta at Writer’s Gambit

    • June 4, 2014 10:00 pm

      Thank you so much, Juneta 🙂 I’m terribly insecure, so you have no idea how much it means to me to read such kind words.
      Great idea to remind ourselves of the small steps that make big progress. Sometimes just for fun I go back and read old writing, just to make sure I’m actually making headway, and what a difference! It’s hard to notice the little things but as they pile up they make quite the mountain of progress. 🙂

  8. June 4, 2014 8:34 pm

    I entered 3 writing contests during the first year I started seriously writing. After that, I figured I should stop spending the money for them if I wasn’t ever going to make anything doing this writing thing, lol. With 2 books out, I’m finally making some money, but I still need to consume massive amounts of chocolate to get through!

    • June 4, 2014 10:03 pm

      This contest wasn’t particularly expensive, and there is guaranteed feedback (a score sheet) so I think it will be worth it. But sending stuff out into a void for a pricey entry fee isn’t my thing either. The price for potential validation seems just too high.
      Just think of all the chocolate (and books …) I could buy instead!

  9. June 4, 2014 8:39 pm

    It’s painfully funny to look back on our fledgling days as optimistic writers. That was when the writing was the most fun and exciting, really, though I do have days and moments when my current WIP makes me feel like a haven’t-been-rejected-yet writer again. This gave me chills: “Remember the first time you ‘saw’ your protagonist leaning against your car with his hands in his pockets, smiling shyly at you from underneath his dark locks?” Yes. I do remember that–loved him 🙂 Great post.

    P.S. Not only does chocolate keep the dementors away, but the rejection blues, too!

    • June 4, 2014 10:06 pm

      Thanks, Shell!
      I hope I never lose those chills and excitement! So far so good though. Still having fun. 🙂

  10. June 5, 2014 12:31 am

    I love this take on the prompt! Great attitude. 🙂

    • June 5, 2014 9:36 pm

      Hi Carrie,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      Thanks for coming up with such a great prompt. After reading everyone’s posts, it seems I couldn’t help but add something of my own. 🙂

  11. June 5, 2014 8:01 am

    Beautiful post – I love this twist on Carrie’s idea! Our past selves DO have so much to teach our cynical, more experienced future selves, and it’s so good to remember our passion, drive, and excitement. They can all too easily get lost.

    • June 5, 2014 9:39 pm

      Absolutely, Liz 🙂
      I’ve promised myself that if I ever become cynical about my writing, I will set it aside until the magic returns. Writing should always be the chocolate frosting on the vanilla cake of life–or something like that …

  12. Loni Townsend permalink
    June 5, 2014 2:30 pm

    Well written letter. I haven’t entered any contests, but I related to a lot in your letter (seeing your protagonist).

    I hide my chocolate in the wine bottle. Mmmmm. Chocolate wine is delicious…

    • June 5, 2014 9:41 pm

      I now understand why people sometimes think writers are nuts! We ‘see’ things others don’t.
      Chocolate in wine? Do tell me more!

  13. June 10, 2014 4:35 pm

    Great pep talk! I soothe my insecurities with chocolate, fast enough that there is no reason to hide it.

    • June 11, 2014 9:00 pm

      Thanks Gail!
      I have to hide some of my chocolate, or I will eat it all at once. 😉

  14. June 15, 2014 2:39 pm

    Chocolate can get us through anything. I started novel-writing by handwriting into books and sometimes I miss it.

    • June 15, 2014 4:13 pm

      Hi Stephie
      Welcome to A Scenic Route 🙂
      I hand wrote a lot at first as well and I found it so liberating! No matter where I was or what I was doing, I could jot down a story if I felt like it.
      And maybe I should do a blog post just about chocolate sometime. Mmmm … 😉

  15. June 16, 2014 10:54 pm

    Good for you, taking the leap! I know exactly how gut-wrenching that is :/ Since I have no children, and am not overly fond of it, I have no reason to hide my chocolate. I want to tell my future self that it’s a good thing she got off her ass and started writing things again. Assuming she did, of course.

    • June 17, 2014 8:38 pm

      I hope you do write something for your future self to admire!
      So far I’ve heard nothing back and I’m trying to tell myself that’s a good sign. Then I try not to think about it anymore, while foraging on any chocolate that might be lying around the house. 😉

  16. April 10, 2015 11:38 am

    This is very good . . . and I want to add, don’t give up because some damn editor tells you this or that. Before 9-11 I wrote a memoir on grieving the death of my (then) husband. I was told it was fabulous but “Death Doesn’t Sell.” Tell that to the people left behind from this whole period in our history.

    • April 14, 2015 8:39 pm

      Hi Dkatiepowell,
      Thank you– and ironically it turned out I did pretty well in that writing contest too. 🙂
      Timing can make all the difference, can’t it?
      (I love your blog btw. I’m so glad I found it through Sammy D’s blog award post.)


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