For the kid who wants to write

A student reads her adventure story at the 2015 MASC Young Authors & Illustrators Conference in Ottawa, Ontario.

A student reads her adventure story at the 2015 MASC Young Authors & Illustrators Conference in Ottawa, Ontario.

Do you love the stories of others? Do you feel better after you write? Do you crack yourself up? Do you make up your own words? Or monsters? Or monster-words? Or heroes? Or hero-monsters? CONGRATULATIONS! You have in your palm seeds of authorhood that wait to be sprinkled. May I recommend:

  1. Write.
  2. Write some more.
  3. Don't stop.
  4. Keep writing.
  5. Write even when you think you have nothing to say.
  6. Write even when you're uncomfortable with what you are trying to say. Write especially, then.
  7. Write even when someone tells you that writers are all anti-social nut jobs.
  8. Build a secret cabin.
  9. With a moat.
  10. Listen to the voices in your head. They're ideas. Cheer for them—even the half-baked ones—as well as those of all the people clever enough to get across your awesome moat.

Voices in my head? That sounds... weird.

I'm talking about the voices that make you a medium of stories, like those psychics on television who solve mysteries by talking to the dead. Except authors don't talk to the dead. Authors talkand more importantly, listento spirits who haven't yet been invented.

If you quit thinking so much, get the heck out of the way and quieten your head, you'll notice that strange and wonderful beings from parallel worlds will ask you to tell their story. They'll lead you where you need to go. They'll tell you what they look like, sound like, and eat. But only if you're a good listener. And only if you're not a bull about it.

Um. Okay, I think I get it. So all I need to do is write?

Kind of. Surround yourself with other people who like to write, and to read. Talk about stories. Seek out the perspectives of others. Be open to making your world bigger by doing new things, as long as those things won't make your teeth yellow and your breath smello. Find mentorspeople whose writing you admirewho will encourage you and read your stuff. Start a book club. Start a writing club! Bring cookies to sweeten the pot.

But I don't know if I've got any stories to tell...

I thought this once, too. And so I practiced. So that by the time those strange and wonderful beings popped up in my mind, I was ready for them. Don't keep yourself from writing just because you haven't found the shape of a story yet. Just play with words. Play and have fun and someday, when you're running through a sprinkler or eating a hot dog or drifting off to sleep, you'll feel a tap on your shoulder, and a voice in your ear like it's being whispered through a tin can telephone. Be ready.