Pep Talk from Holly McGhee
Of everything I have ever learned as a literary agent and as a writer, there is one lesson that I think is more important than any other: you must write for your life.
And so this is for those of you who have always known that you wanted to be a writer, and for those of you who write every day. It’s for those of you who have yet to put a single word on paper, too. It’s for those of you who are lonely, hopeless, and depressed, and to those of you who have never suffered a day in your life.
This is what I know:
Sometimes if you haven’t touched your laptop in a while, you begin to fear it. You’re afraid to start typing and you’re afraid not to start typing. Writing becomes a stranger—and without realizing it, you’ve closed the door on your closest friend, your imagination.
You’ve got to honor your imagination, for it is your ally.
The good news is that the simple act of getting words down again instantly un-sticks you! Writing moves your thoughts and feelings through you and out into the world, and the doors of possibility and wonder open before you again. Just like magic, you are free.
I learned this the hard way.
There was a time in my life, not too long ago, of utter darkness. We had moved from New York City to the suburbs so that our children could have a backyard to play in. It was a catastrophic move for me. I craved the anonymity and solitude of the city, but found myself surrounded by neighbors—I didn’t know how to be in this new world. I did not fit in. I felt trapped. After some time, I didn’t see the world in color anymore either, only grey, and after more time, I didn’t want to get up in the morning.
And then a character, Dessert Schneider, came charging into my life. I didn’t know that my white knight, the one who would save my life, would appear to me in the form of a conniving, confident, bossy third grader who demanded I write her story. I opened the door a crack—and then eventually I opened the door all the way, and I wrote her novel, in her voice—my fingers were on fire. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing for my life—I was writing my way out of the darkness and into the light—into believing in myself again, reacquainting myself with my imagination.
The world is at your fingertips, literally. Just as you need to breathe, just as you need sunlight, just as you need water—if you’re a word person, you need to write. Sometimes you may know where you are going, and other times you may be embarking on the long road to possibly nowhere—it doesn’t matter—you’re getting the words out.
Writing fuels your imagination, which makes you want to write more. And your imagination is always loyal, and it will save your life if necessary, as it did for me. Your imagination is there in the loneliest of times, and in the joyful times, too.
Write for your life.