As part of the GRNW 2014 conference keynote on Sept. 20, 2014, we asked five writers to share the messages they would send to their past or future selves. We are happy to share these messages with you.
Below is a message from author E.E. Ottoman.
Not for you, my future self, and not for anyone else.
I suspect that at this point you are a very different writer from me, who writes very different things. Just as I am a very different writer from the writer I was five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago. That’s what happens when we get older, we change into different people, with different stories to tell. I hope that you write things that I cannot hope to write and that you look back with fondness at the stories I wrote ten years ago, five years ago — the stories I am writing now.
No, I’m not going to give you advice but I do have some things to say.
First off I hope you write what you love, what makes you happy, what come alive. Not because that’s what writers always say, that phrase that can sound so patronizing so naïve when you’re trying to get by on two hundred dollars every quarter.
But because your life is too short not to be proud of yourself, not to come alive, and be in love with something that you have created. Not because anyone wanted you to but because you wanted to, and you were enough.
Sometimes you just need to say fuck it.
And do it anyway.
I hope you still do that.
Mostly I hope you are still in love with writing, with telling stores, with the process, the craft. With the long days measured in sentences and cups of coffee. The editing while trying to balance your laptop on your knees on a moving train. Those moments when you could be walking done a street, sitting in a coffee shop, standing at the front porch in the very early morning watching the fog roll in and you know, completely and profoundly that you have done something amazing.
Know that you do make things that are beautiful, and powerful and hold that knowledge in a secret place, the hollow of your chest where no one can take that away from you.
This is something that you did.
No one else made these stories.
Only you could.
I hope you are still loud without apology and you speak your mind. I know sometimes it can feel like everyone’s sick of hearing the sound of your voice and wouldn’t you just be quiet already?
And there are the days when you’re sick of your voice too and every word feels like hypocrisy and tastes like poison and self doubt.
But this is who you are and what you believe in. I know for a fact every time you speak there are people who listen and people who care. And every time you speak you learn to be a little stronger, a little kinder and a little more sure that you have something to say worth saying.
And while we are on that I hope you are learning to take up space, not just for you but for your words and the stories you create. You who were taught to be small, to be quiet. That your stories and the stories of people like you did not matter, were meaningless, worthless. That there was no room for them on bookshelves, in libraries and in bookstores. That characters who were like you would never live interesting and remarkable lives, never do heroic and unusual things, never fall in love, never be happy, never not be alone.
This was the story you were taught from birth, to be small, to be quiet and to not bother looking for things that would not be there.
But this story it is a lie. You know that.
And you made a promise a long time ago to the child you once were that you will not be small, that you will not be quiet and if someone goes look? There WILL be stories there to find.
So if there isn’t room for you or those stories you are going to make room. On those bookshelves, and libraries and bookstores. You are going to demand it, as loudly as you have learned to be.
And you are going to write.
Because this is who you are and what you love and how you are powerful.
I hope you are proud
Of your books, especially the smutty ones, and the ones that scared you more than a little bit to write. The books that came easy and the one were writing felt like crawling through a tunnel filled with wet sand. The books that got good reviews and the ones that didn’t.
I hope that you are proud of the person and the artist that you have become.
I know I am proud of you and I haven’t even met you yet.
Read more of the 2014 GRNW Keynote, “Write with Pride.”
About the Author
E.E. Ottoman is a geek and a gentleman. Zie spends zier time mostly in libraries doing research, and sometimes, when there is no one else there, dancing in the aisles. E. has always adored speculative fiction, especially paperback fantasy and science fiction. Zie loves a good ghost story and thinks every story becomes automatically better if you add tentacles. Overall, though, zie just loves a story that is fun to read. E. is especially fond of writing and reading stories with geeky, queer people doing awesome and sexy things.
When not writing, E. loves cooking, knitting, cats, coffee, and looking dapper in menswear. Zie is actively trying to change the world (and maybe the past) one novel and work of history at a time. Visit E’s website.