Lately I keep hearing about all these young writers who are still in college or recently graduated and already working on like their fourth manuscript. Or they're already published. I'm just so blown away by that. The fact that someone could have that kind of drive so early, and devote so much of their life to such an enormous project, is really damn astounding.
I'm thirty-four right now. I didn't start writing seriously until two years ago. I always loved writing but was convinced I had nothing to say, not enough ideas or creativity to fill up an entire book. When I was a kid, I used to write like crazy: stories, plays that kids in my class would put on, even an extremely ill-thought-out, thirty-ish-page book in fifth grade about a Holocaust survivor (don't even ask). In high school, I was tied up with a busy honors/AP schedule and a million extracurricular activities so I could get into my Dream College. Those years were mostly devoted to writing horrible poetry and short pieces because A) bad poems take very little time to write, and B) ALL THE TERRIBLE HEARTACHE AND ANGST.
By the time I finished college, I had pretty firmly decided that I wasn't creative enough to write a whole novel. I majored in French and decided to take a translation workshop, with the hope that I could turn that into a career. I still had an intense love for writing, but I figured working with somebody else's story was the best I'd ever manage. I hoped I could use my love of words to turn already beautiful French text into beautiful English. Looking back, this makes me sad. Not because I think translating isn't an amazing thing to do, but because I sold myself short.
Translation led to an editorial assistant job in a small publishing company, which then led to a corporate editing job. And don't get me wrong, I like my job a lot. I love that feeling of knowing exactly how to tweak something until it pops. I like being able to help people. The anal side of me feels great about fixing every tiny thing until the writing is perfect. Heck, I even enjoy grammar arguments. But job or no job, I wasted like ten years of my life that I could have spent honing my writing. Whether it ended up getting published or not doesn't matter. The fact that I let it sit for so long does.
So if you're one of those crazy kids writing books, all I can say this: You're amazing.