“I Started at Age 5…”: Head Starts and Late Beginnings

You know how you hear about those people who are professional athletes, and you find out they started when they were, like, 3 years old? For instance, you hear about olympians who had been doing gymnastics since 18 months old. It always makes me feel like I am way behind and have no chance to catch up. Of course, this is untrue and you can be wildly successful at something with enough work at any age, at any time. (Although learning to surf at age 4 certainly helps you feel better on a board at age 20). I recently started going faster and faster in my runs and know I’ll only get better with time, training, and discipline, even at age 23.

That being said, I am writing this blog post because I found MY early bird thing.

Very exciting! I realized tonight…

I have been training to be a teen fiction novelist for ten years, and have helped myself in huge ways that most people don’t think to (just like those baby swimmers helping themselves one day go to Nationals).

So this is sort of a word of advice to anyone who is a teenager now, and might want to write one day.

1. I’ve been writing books since I was in second grade, but I’ve been writing in the vein of young adult literature since I was 13. I have just published my first book, but I have literally twenty other unfinished, early attempts at books that will never see the light of day. So just keep writing, even if it’s only to teach yourself about how you write.

2. I’ve been journalling since I was 15, and have over 30 filled spiral notebooks from my high school years, as well as saved word documents. Any time I want to remember the true angst and drama of being a teenager (since being 23 is pretty low key in comparison), I have documented almost six years of my life. Write everything down. Write journal entries on a private tumblr. Believe me, even if you think it’s useless now, you may be so grateful for it one day.

3. (This is the best one) I saved surveys, lists, and letters in word documents on my external hard drive. Any time that I need inspiration to write, to hear a character’s voice better, I revisit my own old surveys, favorites lists, and IM chats with friends when I was in high school. These surveys or lists encapsulate everything about being a teenager perfectly, and puts me right back in that mindset. I feel like the ability to revisit what made you laugh hysterically with friends over Facebook messages or thinly veiled surveys I filled out about crushes and friends I had drama with helps me write authentic dialogue in teen fiction. Even better than journals, which can be too caught up in what happens, a survey posted on Facebook or MySpace was really how I felt after a long day of high school when trying to impress a boy or my new friends.

So I don’t know if people even fill out surveys anymore, but I’d find them on old MySpace on a bulletin, delete their answers, and fill out my own. For instance, it would ask me to list 10 friends randomly off the top of my head, and then answer questions about them. And then I would SAVE this in a Word document. It seems crazy, but I am so glad I will always have this to reference.

An example of another one:

Do you like the last person you made out with?

Have you ever had a best friend?

 Are you currently looking forward to anything?

Are you wearing something that belongs to someone else?

Do you think someone is thinking about you right now?

Did you have a good day yesterday?

And 20 more like that. I think those are questions only a teenage girl would have the patience to sit down and fill out seriously, and knowing that is IMPORTANT TO WRITING FOR TEENAGE GIRLS! (“Have you ever had a best friend?” I can just picture my 30 year old partner looking at this and rolling his eyes. But it’s a good question!)

Thanks for saving your lists of favorite things, iChat transcripts, and About Me profiles, 16 year old Taylor.

Keep writing!!

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