Thought Catalog
November 24, 2015

31 Women Writers On The Advice They Would Give Their Younger Selves

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I’ve been writing for a long, long time. My first memory of writing is asking my mom for a pen and a stack of paper at age four, because I had a book to write. Ever since then, I’ve been writing – poems, stories, listicles, essays, beauty blogs. Writing is My Thing.

I now make a living from my writing and I’ve learned the ins and outs of how it all works, but it wasn’t always easy. It’s a lot of work, and you have to be up for the challenge to be successful.

Every so often, a young female writer will email me or tweet me asking for advice. I always give her as much as I can, but now I’m doing one better. I asked a multitude of my talented lady writer friends for their best advice and what they wish they’d known when they started out. If you’re thinking about starting a career as a writer, here’s what you should know.

1.

“Not everyone needs to know everything about you. Confessional essays can be incredible well done, but when you’re young, the urge to spill ALL the beans is strong. I’m glad I’ve kept my most private moments to myself.” -Hannah

2.

“The work isn’t writing – the work is showing up to write.” -Chrissy

3.

“Don’t compare yourself to the success of others at your age.” -Sally

4.

“Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism from those you respect and trust. Listening and learning will only improve your writing.” -Molly

5.

“Write as much as possible. Even when it’s bad. Even when you have a block in your brain and can hardly make sense. Write it out and save it all. It’s surprising which words become the important ones.” -Maria

6.

“Set your fees high and early.” -Janelle

7.

“Read the greats, whoever they are to you. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible to make a living as a writer, because it isn’t yet!” -Katie

8.

“Be supportive and fair to other writers. There’s nothing worse than a writer tearing another down.” -Maggie

9.

“Stop comparing your writing to everyone else!” -Alexis

10.

“Don’t wait for permission to be a writer. Just put your writing out into the world and boom- you’re a writer.” -Becky

11.

“Treat writing as a job. Take it as seriously as any other job.” -Norah

12.

“If someone tells you that drawing from your own life isn’t real writing, they just don’t know how to live.” -Ella

13.

“Don’t say, ‘I want to be a writer.’ Instead say, ‘I am a writer.’” -Madge

14.

“Ask for 100% of what you need from 100% of the people you need it from.” –Laura S.

15.

“If you don’t feel you have access to the right space to cultivate the type of writing you want to do, create it yourself.” -Sally

16.

“Don’t compromise your voice by shrinking yourself to be “more acceptable.” You’re a writer. Your job is to make people think, and sometimes that means making them uncomfortable. And if you’re making people uncomfortable, it means you’re doing something right. So keep doing it.” -Sara

17.

“Don’t be afraid to pitch/submit to big name publications. The worst they can say is no and if they provide feedback on your writing, that’s only making you stronger.” -Brittany

18.

“Listen and learn from your critics, but don’t let them make you feel like your thoughts aren’t worthy of being published.” -Maggie

19.

“Read! Read all the damn time. Read everything you can. If you find an author you love, read everything they’ve written. Reading exposes you to new ideas and new voices. Reading always helps me get inspired when I feel blocked.” -Kara

20.

“Do the kind of writing you want to do. Pursue all your interests at once, even if they don’t make sense together. You’ll figure out how they’re supposed to fit.” -Chrissy

21.

“Don’t be precious about what you write. No matter what it is, it can be improved by careful editing and incorporating feedback.” -Lynne

22.

“Network. Get to know as many people as you can and get them to know your name. You can do this in person or on Twitter. Writing is a business where it’s helpful to know as many people in your field as you can.” -Kara

23.

“Take as few classes on writing as possible, except for spelling and grammar. I think it’s more organic.” -Britta

24.

“Read your shit out loud and if it doesn’t sound like you talking, rewrite it.” -Jane

25.

“Be brave. Don’t hold your words back for anyone.” -Laura

26.

“Write about your blocks. And when you’re blocked, and you will be, go and see something you’ve never seen before. Works every time.” -Kate

27.

“If you’re being paid to write, you probably aren’t being taxed. Set aside money for tax time and save your receipts! You’d be amazed at what you can write off – including books!” -Kara

28.

“Seek out other female writers and editors.” -Josephine

29.

“Don’t work for exposure. Ask for more money. Keep good records. Take nothing for granted. Meet your deadlines.” -Alle

30.

“Don’t be afraid to sell yourself and your work. Don’t waste time, either – the Internet offers so many great opportunities for writers, especially if you’re just starting out.” -Kelly

31.

“Even if you’re the cleverest observational essayist, a riveting storyteller, or the most heartbreakingly honest memoirist, your brilliant writing is undermined by grammatical negligence. If you’ve never paid much attention to the rules or you’ve let the digital age make you lazy, take some time to brush up on grammar basics and start looking at your writing like a copyeditor. You shouldn’t rely entirely on an editor to do all the tidying up; after all, an editor may not want to work with you if your otherwise awesome writing is a syntactical mess. Bad grammar is to great writing as a dirty window is to a beautiful view.” -Marci TC mark