Advice to Aspiring Writers (or why it doesn’t matter that my parents weren’t Rilke)

When I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer, they didn’t really know what to do with that. They said, “Nice. That’s nice. Just get a back-up career. Like law. Or medicine.”

(I think that’s why I, like most teenagers, fell in love with Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.)

If I could identify the three most appropriate responses now, I think I’d say:

Write, eh?

Well to be a writer, you need to have a voice.

So find a way to be okay with being you so you can own the sound of your own story.

You need to have something to say.

So learn how to listen,

and how to wrestle ideas into submission.

and how to stand with grace at the foot of Awe.

And you’ll need other ways to earn money.

Like law or medicine or hairdressing or ski instructing,

so you can always be true to your voice

and what you have to say,

and so you have a way to get down in the muck with the rest of us,

and you can tell our stories

and sing our songs back to us

to help us go to sleep.

So looking back, I guess my folks weren’t that far off when they said, “That’s nice. Now finish law school, and when your head is about to explode, go skiing.”

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