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.]