To a young person who wants to write.
Letter # 1
If you want to write, then just write.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have good ideas, or you think your writing is awful, or you can’t think of something to write about. If you have the urge to express yourself in words, go with it. Just get something out onto the page. This is just the rough stuff – no one else has to see it. You can always fix it up later, or not. No one else ever has to read your rough work if you don’t want them to. You can trash it, you can delete it as soon as you’re done (although I would advise against that – you never know when you might want to have another look at something you’ve written).
People sometimes get two very different things mixed up: being a writer and getting published. You don’t have to be published to be a writer. You just have to write. It sounds corny, I know, but writing really is its own reward. Ask just about any creative person and they’ll tell you that real joy and fulfillment comes from the creative act itself and not whatever recognition or fame one might earn from it. A lot of people say that it’s going to get harder in these changing times for writers to earn money from their work. Do you think that’s going to stop anyone who wants to write from writing? I don’t.
So that’s my first bit of advice to you: just write. Just start, then keep going. Don’t stop to edit yourself or criticize yourself. Just write. Just start, then keep going. Time yourself and see if you can write non-stop for five minutes. Then the next day try seven minutes. Then ten minutes. Do it every day.
You don’t need a plan. You don’t need an outline.
You don’t even need a subject to write about. If you can’t think of anything to write about then just start writing about that: “I can’t think of anything to write about today because I'm sitting here in my room going stir-crazy and have no idea what to write but I just noticed that little dent on the wall of my room which I can’t remember seeing before but I bet it came from when my brother borrowed my hockey stick and then tossed it back into my room when he was done with it he never looks after my stuff or his own stuff for that matter -- like the time he …”
You might be surprised how quickly the brain will get on to something, how it will find a story to tell if you just keep the pen moving or the keys on the keyboard tapping.