Advice from Your Future Self 3 comments


Wouldn’t it be amazing to get a message with writing advice from your future self?

There are two ways to play the “Advice from Your Future Self” game and today we’re going to play them both.

Advice from Your Future Self Part One

“What advice would my future self give me?”

If you could contact your future self right now and ask for advice about your writing, what would you want to know? What would you ask? (What would you be afraid to ask?)

Advice from Your Future Self Part Two

What advice would I give my younger self?

The flip side of the “Advice from Your Future Self” game is that right now you ARE the future self to your younger self. What advice do you wish you could go back in time and tell that younger you? What have you learned in the interim? What could you have learned earlier that might make a difference in your writing now?

The Trick to the “Advice from Your Future Self” Game

Some of you will have already worked this out for yourselves, but just in case you haven’t, I’ll spell it out for you: in many cases, your current advice to your younger self is the same as what your present self hopes to hear from your future self. Okay, maybe not answers to specific questions about writing trends or specific career opportunities, but the more general advice travels well across time.

Pretending to position yourself at a different point in time from the present this way helps you step outside yourself, let go of your ego, and be objective about things. (Pretty cool, huh?)

(Okay, there’s one more trick: the “Advice from Your Future Self” game applies equally well to other creative pursuits beyond writing and to life in general. But I’m confident you figured that one out on your own.)

One More Way to Transmit Writing Advice Across Time

Alas, while we can trick ourselves into consciously recognizing what we know, we can’t really travel through time. But, we can do the next best thing: we can support other writers.

Before I ever got to learn from my own experience, I had the good fortune to learn from older, wiser people who were generous enough to share with me what they learned the hard way themselves. In other words, their “future self” shared advice with my “younger self.” If you think about it, it’s the closest to bridging time that we get.

In our inaugural writing check in of 2015, I touched on the topic of “literary citizenship” and the importance of writers supporting each other. A great way to support your fellow writers is to share what you know. If you know writers who are starting out, whether they’re younger than you or they’re just new to the craft, please jump start their writing expertise by sharing your advice with them. (In an appropriate, non-patronizing way, etc..)

And if you’d care to share your writing lessons from your future self or to your past self with us in the comments, that we can all learn from each other. You don’t need to write a manifesto, but maybe think about two or three important lessons you’ve learned or questions you’d like answered. I have a feeling if we pool all our wisdom together on this one there’s a lot of great writing advice in our time streams.

[Many thanks to Alix Joyce for inspiring this post.]



3 thoughts on “Advice from Your Future Self

  • Mark Walker

    If I could give my younger self some advice it would be to not listen to the negative influences in your life. If you want to do something, do it. The only person that knows what is right for you….is you (apart from the obvious parental guidance you get as a kid and providing we are not doing anything illegal). I think I would have pursued writing earlier (along with some other interests) if I had been more confident in my abilities and not listened to some of the negativity of my far from adventurous family – they were not always the most supportive when l showed an interest in anything outside of “the norm”….not that I have a complex about it – this is therapy 101 isn’t it? I hope that I am more supportive of my kids in the future. And not to be pushy, just supportive.

    But, yeah, if you are interested in something, give it a shot, just because you don’t know HOW to do something when you start out, doesn’t mean you CAN’T do it!

    But what would I ask my future-self? Tricky that…. the first first questions I thought of are probably the obvious ones and wouldn’t really help. In fact, asking yourself if you “made it” would probably make it harder as it could make you complacent. (Or it may have been harder anyway as you would just be closing that timey-wimey loop thingy – time travel gets complicated). It would also ruin the fun of writing to hear that you didn’t.

    So I am not sure.

    Would asking for a copy of the screenplay that made you “big” be cheating?

    Perhaps asking about the genre you settled into to help focus your writing?

    That’s an interesting one that I may have to think about a little more, but will look forward to hearing what other people have to say about this exercise!

  • Sabina

    Advice to my younger self
    Take the time to play. There’s no point in killing yourself. Really. It’s never helped anyone. Least of all the people you are so desperate to impress.
    It’s okay to make loads and loads of mistakes.
    But don’t make the same mistake twice. Especially when it comes to people.
    Don’t be afraid of what sets your heart on fire. The whole world might think you’re weird, but I don’t. And since I am you, I have to say, mine is the only important opinion.
    And besides, the whole world doesn’t think you’re weird. You’re normal to a whole lot of people. You just have to find them.

    What would I ask my future self?
    Will writing really destroy my relationships?

    (The above is probably my deepest fear. It’s the first time I’ve articulated it out loud even to myself. Radical. Thanks, Shaula!!)

  • Angel Mirou

    This is a fantastic entry, Shaula, one that is gonna make me think for a long time. My first gut reaction though would be something like this:

    -There’s millions of things I’d like to ask my future self (lottery numbers anyone), but first on the line would be this: How many stories do I have left before time’s up? This is something that’s been increasingly worrying me of late because I’m a very slow writer, and this that didn’t make me fret at all when I was younger all of a sudden begins to command more and more weight… A rough number would help me a lot.

    – To my younger self I would just say this: “Don’t be so afraid, man”. And you’re so right that that is exactly what I’d love to hear from future Angel as well…

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