The age that defines whether you become a writer or not
When did you decide to be a writer? For many of us, the idea first came to us in our childhood, after reading a particularly good book, learning about a famous writer, or watching a movie that we wanted to see more of, and knowing that we didn’t have the resources to actually make a movie. (For me, these were, respectively: The Hobbit, J.K. Rowling, and The Little Vampire.)
Being a writer occurs to many people at many different moments in their life, but it’s particularly prevalent in childhood, when we’re first cultivating our imaginations. But during the teenage years, things change. Your writing might morph and take a different form – shift away from sci fi and delve into poetry, instead; or fizzle out altogether when you suddenly become self-aware and realize how much work really goes into being an author, and how far you’ll have to go to actually become good.
Most people who dreamed of becoming writers have given up by the time they reach adulthood, or become those people who tell you “I’ve always wanted to write a book… maybe I will someday,” at parties (spoiler alert: if they aren’t actively trying to hone their craft, they’re probably never going to write that book.) And no judgement: it’s certainly not for everyone.
In my case, my dreams of becoming a worldwide famous author changed dramatically in my teenage years. Now, in the age of doxxing, I just dream of having enough money to survive and a small but loyal readership – one that doesn’t attract too much 4chan attention, thank you very much. I have a day job and I’m working towards an engineering degree, which tooka lot of the pressure off, and allowed me to discovered a love for writing articles, technical pieces, and weird non-fiction stories… and just writing for myself, once in a while, with no audience in mind. It’s freeing, but also stimulating: I continue to challenge myself through my work, and I can actually say that my profession is “Writer,” now, which is kind of amazing!
But what’s the turning point where some people change their dream and give up on writing? I started to think about all the junior youth (11-13) who have told me they want to be writers over the years, and all of the parents who have approached me hoping I’ll encourage their kids. And I’ve always kind of struggled to give that kind of support. It’s hard to encourage kids to write, really, without some serious commitment to reading their stuff, and following up on them.
But the truth is, people did that with me when I was growing up. From my friends at the Lord of the Rings Fanatic Plaza (rest in peace, dear forum) who read my poetry and actually took the time to leave long comments (!!), to my parents, who read my long-winded first novels and encouraged me to work towards publication, and NaNoWriMo writers, who taught me how to finish my novel! And finally, of course, the fanfiction community I eventually came into contact with, who taught me you can write inexplicable fandom trash but write it well and it can change readers’ life.
That support hasn’t really stopped: even today, I have writing communities I can easily draw support from on Twitter, on AO3, on Fanfiction.net and in Discord (most beloved of all, the Narnia Fic Exchange writers). Not to mention the wonderful writers at Hypable.com and BahaiTeachings.org, who have made both spaces into safe creative havens I’m so thankful for.
This isn’t supposed to read like an Acknowledgements section, but it’s to explain why I’m doing what I’m doing this July. For the past few years, I’ve felt increasing guilt at not dedicating enough time to reading my friends’ work – especially my young friends’ work, who I know could probably benefit from the encouragement more than more established writers. And in the process of recruiting Baha’i writers for BahaiTeachings.org, I’ve noticed that I don’t really know that many writers my age, or younger than me.
Of all my writing communities growing up, none of them were really Baha’i spaces, except for the Media Project in Ecuador when I was 14, which was a taste of what my life has come to be now—a very strong bond between writing and the Faith. It’s beautiful, but it takes a lot of work to establish a strong connection between the two, and I’m still learning. It’s painful, but in a good way).
How good of a writer could I have been now if, in my formative years, when I was getting really into writing, frustrated with never finishing a project and feeling isolated as the only writer my age that I knew, I could have had a community of young Baha’i writers to learn and draw encouragement from?
So that’s why next month, along with my longtime childhood friend Hope Krummell, I’m facilitating the Young Writer’s Endeavor – a Baha’i inspired workshop for youth ages 13 to 18, all free and all online, so anyone, anywhere, can participate! It’s a first try at what we hope can become a yearly event, bringing together youth to learn about writing and spirituality, and support each other on our writing projects.
In this workshop, we’re going to cover three main, intriguing genres of writing: articles, poetry and short stories. We’ll read Baha’i writings about them, find examples both in the history of the Baha’i Faith and from the wider world, and hopefully even meet some Baha’i writing professionals, who can impart wisdom and inspiration to our young community.
We’re still learning what it means to combine the arts and sciences with religion, and how it can be done in a way that truly contributes to the betterment of the world. This project is a first attempt at learning how to create online spaces that create community and foster learning, especially for youth.
As my writing journey continues, it’s so encouraging to know that the ranks of young writers only continue to expand—and that there are many things we can do to support each other.