As writers, there are times when we don’t know how to keep up the momentum. We’ve been writing for years, but still no acceptance letter. Or maybe we haven’t even gotten up the courage to submit anything yet. We feel compelled to write, but sometimes we wonder if all this writing is going to pay off (and I don’t just mean financially.)
If you are looking for a little inspiration, try this: Write a letter from your future self (you know, the you who is a best-selling novelist, or the you who writes for The New Yorker or The Boston Globe.)
- What would this future self tell you?
- What would she want you to pay attention to?
- What would she tell you to let go of?
This future self has already been through all the tough stuff. She (or he) is on the other side. She knows it’s all worth it. Let her tell you about it.
Get out a piece of paper and a nice pen or open a new Word document. Think about all of your writing goals and imagine yourself having achieved them. Picture 2022, or 2032, or whatever feels right. Ground yourself in the future by thinking about how old you will be, how old your children or siblings will be at that time. Imagine the trees around your home bigger than they are now. Or imagine you in your dream retirement home.
Take a deep breath. Let it out.
Write “Dear Writer Self,” or whatever feels good to you.
Take another deep breath. Let it out.
Write. Just free-write. Let it go. Just get it out on the page. Don’t stop, don’t edit. Just keep the pen or your fingers moving.
When you’re done, sign it “With Love,” or whatever feels best to you, then add your signature. If you are typing on your computer, print out your letter and sign it.
Fold your letter, without re-reading it. Put it in an envelope, address it to yourself, put a stamp on it, and mail it. (Or, if you are super-organized, put it in your planner and mail it to yourself in a month.)
That last step may seem superfluous, but trust me; it’s not. Put the letter in the mailbox, put the flag up, and forget about it. You will be amazed at what happens next. I’d tell you, but I want you to experience it for yourself.
This is a really powerful exercise, one I’ve done more than once over the years, for myself and with groups of writers. There are lots of other ways to do this exercise. You could write a letter to yourself from:
- A writer, celebrity or historical figure (living or dead) you have always admired
- The child you once were
- A teacher who inspired you
- Your highest, best self
- A favorite character from a novel
Try this exercise the next time you are feeling isolated and unsure of yourself as a writer.
Let me know what happens.