A Letter to the Past

Dear younger me –

Hello from 2021! No, I’m not joking. This is a letter written forty years after your first serious attempt to dabble in fiction. Still have doubts it’s you/me? Let me regale you with a tale about a young lad and his “love” for his music teacher. Now that I proved I am who I say am, here’s some news to drop on you, and as you equate truth to respect, I’m going to respect your brains out.

You are not a successful writer forty-something years in the future. You’re not even breaking even. Remember how your middle school teacher used a modem to connect to the university computer in first period Math? What you could not possibly know then is remote computing would revolutionize civilization. Everybody in the United States and much of the world can interconnect their computers (at home!), and everyone will be a force for information.

Two industries transformed are writing and publication. Hundreds of thousands of authors will write their Great American Novel and electronically self-publish it for pennies per page. Their final work may or may not be good, but the literary landscape will be overwhelmed with books. You’ll do the same, of course, because you love shortcuts. Your books will appear with some noise, mostly among your very small band of family and friends, then be absorbed into the blob with nary a bubble to show for your weeks of work. You will spend hundreds of dollars in return for enough money to buy five Happy Meals.

Painful, huh? It gets worse. I’ve reread some of your/my earlier attempts at writing. It sucks. Seriously. Okay, don’t believe me. But your writing sucks. I see between the lines that you have a decent story in there…somewhere…but it’s lost in the noise. You’re wandering all over the map because you can’t pick your genre. Military, science fiction, romance, or what? Pick something! And that’s not even your worst offense. Your writing technique is sloppy. You’re using adverbs like they’re your best friends, and you’re ignoring basic sentence structure. Stephen King and Nora Roberts can get away with it. When you’re at their level, we’ll talk.

Until that day comes, keep writing. Write every damn day. Don’t listen to the critics or your so-called friends. Looking back, I can see they were more interested in suppressing your ego than giving you wings. You have a talent: you don’t see things like others. You’re genuinely and fabulously weird, and as my doctor recently told me, normal people don’t change the world.

It’s not all bad news. Some people believe in you as an author, then and now, and they will continue to inspire you. My advice is you jettison your ego and listen to them! You won’t because you’re me, and you think you/I have all the answers. Forty years later and I promise you: the only reason you keep your sanity at my age is understanding you don’t have all the answers, and that there’s no shame in asking for help.

Way past the 500-word mark here, and I bet I’ve lost your attention, so I’m going to start my flying car and pick up my dates for the night (Sophia Loren’s younger clones). Before I do, do me a favor and hold onto those LPs under your bed , especially Led Zeppelin IV. Man, kids today have no real sense of good music, I tell you. Ciao!

One thought on “A Letter to the Past

  1. I just did this too! While I thought that letters to the future would be more useful, I actually felt the cathartic release from writing a letter to my younger self. Great to know that you’ve pursued your craft for four decades now. Thanks for sharing!

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