7 things I’d tell my teenage self about life, work, and writing

A recent visit to her old high school got this corporate communications professional thinking about what she knows now that she wishes she knew then.

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It made me a little nostalgic. Apparently, I was a book snob: My English teacher recounted how I rebelled against reading Mrs. Doubtfire: “Why do we have to read this teen fiction crap?” I demanded to know.

What would I tell that fiery book snob about life, work, and writing? Here are seven possibilities. (I’m sure my advice about boys would be more useful at the time, but less relevant to this blog).

1. You’ll need to forget everything they teach you about writing. Big words don’t make you sound smart; they make you sound like a wanker most of the time. A few well-placed words are fine, but go easy on the Thesaurus function in your Word Perfect program.

2. You are right to reject teen fiction. Spend your time wisely, because there are so many good books to read, and you’ll still be trying to get through them 20 years later. (Hold off on Heart of Darkness though, you won’t “get it” for a few years yet).

3. Being a “good writer” at school doesn’t mean much. It just means you are more literate than most of your peers. Being a “good writer” actually requires lots of practice, patience, and red pen marks from your mentors and editors.

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