Being a teen writer comes with a lot of challenges that people may not be aware of, here are 5 of those issues and 1 reason why it is all worth it.
Writing is something essential, a given skill that most humans should know how to do. But to write beautifully, to create worlds and feelings by simply stringing together letters… that is a magical thing. Holding the key to universes only you have the power to unlock. This is what the art of writing provides, whether that be through short stories, fanfictions, or poetry. Each and every work touches the heart of somebody out there. The only thing required for this great endeavour is simply one’s imagination.
Who out of everyone in the world has the largest abundance of this? The answer is none other than children. However, writing also needs a certain kind of maturity and skill to weave together the intricate messages that many wish to convey through their words. And thus, we have teenage writers, the ones who see the world through fresh eyes and open minds, spreading messages through their works in ways that inspire and touch the hearts of people in this society… either that, or we just write fun little drabbles that randomly come to mind.
Being a teen writer is both exhausting and exhilarating. Every day is stressful and beautiful, but everything is worth it in the end. In this article, I’m here – as a Teen Writer myself – to describe the 5 issues with being a teen writer, and the one thing that makes everything worth it in the end. Maybe by the end of this, it’ll inspire you to give writing a try too.
1. Lack of Time
The first (and by far largest) issue with being a teen writer is the utter lack of time. You’d think, ideally, that by being a teenager instead of an adult, it would be much easier to figure out and set aside times to make progress with your personal works, right? Well, I’m not actually an adult, so I can’t give a definitive answer to that question. What I can tell you, is that being a teenager halfway through high school is hard.
Adults often undermine the sheer amount of work and stress that students go through, what with trying to balance their social lives, their extra-curricular, and their academics. It’s a delicate balance to stay afloat, and a couple of wrong moves can send you plummeting under the surface. You need to figure out how to manage your time in such a way that you are getting your schoolwork done, taking time for yourself to relax, and setting out some hour of the day to focus on solely your writing.
My father always tells me, “If you love something enough, you’ll make time for it. So that’s exactly what I did. For me personally, I know that if I just tell myself “Alright Devanshi, make sure you just work on this whenever you have time and see how much you get done,” I’m going to end up not doing anything at all, or completely stressing myself out and feeling guilty anytime I sit down to just… relax. Of course, it’s different for everyone. Each and every writer (and teenager) has a specific way of productivity that is selective to them, but what I find works for me is setting goals for myself.
I write it down in my homework planner to accomplish ‘x’ amount of words or chapters by Friday. If I get it done, it’s awesome. If not, there’s no stress. I also set aside 45 minutes on Saturday and Sunday, each to sit in one place with a nice cup of tea or coffee and simply devote myself to my writing. This way, I’m able to work at my own pace while still getting enough work done that I feel satisfied.
However, if you’re a writer like me who has way too many mini-projects they just have to write, I also do one additional thing to ensure that I don’t accidentally kick any of my projects to the curb (I made that mistake a couple years ago and it did not end up well).
Every night, I set aside an hour or so to just sit and write. Homework I didn’t get done? Pass. Long term project I really should be making some headway on? Never heard of it. This hour before bed is just my time to write whatever the hell I want. I work on my blog posts or other articles for 15 minutes a night, just to make sure I do end up making some progress on those (because god knows if I didn’t do that they’d just sit there collecting dust like my other 40 mini-projects).
Then, I dedicate a full half-hour to fanfiction. Yup, you heard me right. Fanfiction. Fiction by the fans for different fandoms. Archive of our own, Fanfiction.net, Wattpad, you name it. Because really? It doesn’t matter what you write or where you write it – writing is writing.
Besides, fanfiction actually really helps improve your writing skills, but that’s an article for another time. Fanfiction is something I write because it makes me happy, not because I want to gain some sort of profit or recognition for it.
What writers need to understand is that that’s okay too. Dedicate your time to writing whatever you want to write. Your imagination is yours, and don’t let anybody tell you what’s worth writing and what’s not. Just like you can’t let the diabolical force that is “life” dictate when you do what you love. If you truly love it, make time. Seize what you have. You’ll make something great out of it.
2. Lack of Inspiration
This is a problem everyone has come across at some point in their lives, whether it be for a high school essay, a new project proposal at work, or even just a (really important) text to a friend – writer’s block.
This is any author’s worst enemy, especially if you’re a teenager. For those of you who don’t know what the term means (although everybody should), writer’s block is a natural phenomenon that occurs when your brain is simply empty, completely and utterly drained dry of any ideas you may have had at any time.
When I say it is a natural phenomenon, I mean just that – natural. As in it happens to everybody, and is completely normal. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. I’m certain every writer can attest to the fact that you can come up with the plot holes you’ve been missing, verbalize an entire scene that you were stuck on, come up with a billion other super in-depth ideas, all while you’re in the shower, or cooking dinner, or driving to the grocery store – and then as soon as you sit down at your laptop to write, it’s like what even is words.
It’s that bad, no joke. And it can be frustrating, I know. Another problem I always seem to have (still can’t figure out if it’s a writer-wide problem, or just me thing) is that I can fantasize about an unwritten scene in my head as I try to go to bed, or even just close my eyes (sometimes I can even do it with my eyes open) and in my mind, the entire scene with dialogue and movements included just plays out in my head. Like a movie, or something. Then of course, when I go to type it out, everything flies out of my mind like a fever-dream.
It’s especially infuriating when you have that feeling inside you that is practically screaming for you to write something. But the problem is what to write? This bugging feeling is like an itch you just can’t rid of, and it makes it hard to focus on other things in your life. Trust me, I know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat there staring at a homework assignment because all I wanted to do was go to another document and just create something.
You feel like you should be able to produce something amazing whenever you want…because you’re a writer, right? This is supposed to be in your blood! What I’ve come to realize – and something I’m about to share with you – is that it’s okay. It’s okay for there to be days where you just can’t seem to squeeze out an ounce of creativity. It’s okay to not actually progress your plot, instead just mentally planning or jotting down notes. Any progress is still progress.
No progress is still progress too, because you’re resting your mind. It will help you come back bigger and better than ever! One thing many people seem to forget is that you can’t force inspiration, no matter how much you try. It’s something that just has to come naturally. Song lyrics are good ways to get simple storylines, ones that you can twist and change to give it your own voice and direction.
People watching outside is a fun pastime too. Sometimes, you’ll even gain inspiration from your dreams! Although, if you’re going about that method, try to write it down as soon as possible. I keep my phone next to my bed to jot down any breakthroughs or ideas I get in the middle of the night, no matter what the hour. In the end, it helps me and my writing. The most important thing, of course, is to make sure to keep your writing fun. If you don’t feel like it, don’t force it. Your final work will thank you for it.
3. Too Much Inspiration
Everyone, writer or not, is familiar with the issue of writer’s block. That’s a relatively famous term. But has anyone ever heard of it’s less-known twin, writer’s flood? Actually, probably not. I’m pretty sure I just made that up right now. Nonetheless, the issue is still perfectly valid, I assure you. Where writer’s block is the absence of ideas, writer’s flood is the exact opposite – the overabundance of ideas. Now, I know what you’re all thinking (rolling your eyes too I bet). Why in the world would this ever be a problem? Most people struggle with coming up with one, semi-decent idea.
Why would too many be so awful? It sounds like paradise! Yeah…that’s what I thought too. Let me tell you though, I’m not a fan. In fact, I feel like this problem is one I struggle with even more than writer’s block, and the worst thing is, there’s not even an easy solution. Or if there is, I just haven’t found it yet. Either way, I’m just here to educate and inform on this other issue that teenage writers end up facing quite a lot. It’s actually more common than you’d think.
I think everyone can agree that one of the most important aspects of writing is being excited about what you’re writing. If you’re having fun, your readers are having fun – that’s just a fact of the literary world. We’ve all been in the situation where we get really excited about a project and the only thing we want to do is sit down and get all of our bubbling inspiration out of our head and onto a page.
You sit down and crank out 2000 words per hour (I know from experience, it’s actually not an impossible feat). For the first time, you feel super pumped to write! Except…then you end up getting bored of it just days after, like every drop of excitement has been squeezed out in the form of typed-out words.
And I get it. It’s normal. Interests shift, moods change, feelings transform, and you feel like moving onto something else. But then the next thing you know, you’re circulating between twenty different WIPs (Works in progress) – and absolutely nothing is getting done.
Your ideas are going to get mixed up and your mind is going to keep wandering on some sort of new plot element when it’s not supposed to and really, you’re just going to stretch yourself out too thin. Trust me, it’s not a fun feeling. Because you want to finish writing them all! But the truth is, you can’t.
Deciding what to write is like forcing yourself to cut out that piece of your heart for a little while. It’ll help you in the long run. In order to combat writer’s flood, what I find helps me is to jot down quick notes about new story ideas as they come, but save the actual writing part for whenever I do get to that particular story.
That way, I’m not losing a potentially awesome idea, and it’s getting out of my head (and onto an iNote for further usage). It’ll be hard to focus on one story – and stick with it – but the end result will turn out much better when you’re not mixing up and confusing some of your characters and genres. When you do finish that one work, you’ll have plenty more just waiting for you to create!
4. Sharing Your Work
Oh, this is a huge one. As a writer, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself often being pulled in multiple directions at once. Messy desk, messy mind, right? I have too many ideas and I find it hard to decide on a singular work and commit to just one (for more, see Too Much Inspiration). Because of this, when I finally do end up finishing something, whether that be a poem, short story, or even a full-out novel, it’s pretty obvious that my first feeling would be pure, unadulterated joy.
Let me tell you, there’s nothing more amazing than the feeling you get when you finally, finally finish that thing you’ve been working on for ages. As soon as I type the very last period (punctuation is important), my first instinct is to send the entire thing over to all of my friends and contacts and just let the praises roll in…except I don’t quite ever manage to do that. Because to do so would mean to willingly put out a piece of the innermost workings of my heart, bleeding and all, for everyone to see and judge.
And yes, I know that getting criticism is an important part of learning and growing as a writer – or as anybody, really – but…it’s hard sometimes. Especially for me, when I write a story, there are pieces of myself in each of the characters.
My dreams are woven through the fabric of their world, their actions, their words. Every breath they breathe is a fraction of mine. To have someone come in and witness what I have worked so hard to create and quite possibly, for lack of a better word, hate it, would absolutely demolish my world.
Or so I think, every single time. In truth, I know that when my family and friends do read my work, they will have negatives as well as positives (hey, I have at least that much confidence in my writing). The important thing is to learn to embrace both of these parts, and learn to take every word about your story with a slight grain of salt.
While it is true that there will always be people that just hate your work simply for the fact that it is yours, most criticism actually has truth within them, and it would be greatly beneficial to try to at least greet them with an open mind.
Now, that being said, of course there will also be unhelpful feedback, the kind where people say, “Well, I would have written it this way,” or, “If this was my book, I would have added that part in.” These kinds of people? Well, not to sound rude or anything, but you can ditch them.
Honestly, it’s not their book. It’s yours, and you have the option of choosing not to take someone’s advice. Everyone won’t love your writing, and part of growing as a person is learning to come to terms with that fact. I aim to please everyone I meet, but sometimes, you just need to accept that haters gonna hate.
So you may be wondering, how do I actually start to share my work? Who do I show it to? The answer to that is up to you! Some people are comfortable showing it to their close friends and family. Others may want to get an objective opinion, but not give a piece of their heart and soul to a complete stranger. Some may want to do just that. It’s all about your comfort level and whose opinion matters most to you.
The most important thing however about sharing your work, is to just go ahead and do it! Yes, it’s scary the first time, and yes, you feel like pulling all your hair out while you anxiously wait to hear if they hated it. But every piece of feedback you get, every compliment, even the insults, they all serve toward one purpose – to make you the best writer you can be. So take a page from Nike’s book, and just do it.
5. Self-Doubt and Insecurities
This is quite possibly the largest obstacle in a writer’s…or…well, any human being’s life, to be completely honest. I’m sure everyone knows what I’m talking about – the self doubts and insecurities that eat away at your mind at the worst of times. We all have our own demons, but sometimes, it’s those demons that make it difficult for us to pursue our dreams and our passions.
Everyone has this notion that as soon as they accomplish their goal, all of their doubt will just evaporate into thin air. If I just finish this draft, if I get a publishing deal, if I sell out a bookstore, if…and on and on. Now, while I’m not by any means a best-selling author (though I definitely hope to be!), even I can tell you that those ideals need to be scrapped.
The truth is, self-doubt never really goes away. It will always be that monster lurking in the back of your mind, whispering mean words in your ear, looming over your shoulder. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be. There are things you can do to stop those insecurities from getting the best of you. One thing you have to note is that every writer struggles with self-doubt. That one kid in your writing seminar who always gets A’s? Yup. That professor who claims to have a master’s degree? For sure. Your absolutely favourite author who you aspire to be only half as successful as? They probably have the most.
It seems hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s that self-doubt, the constant feeling of am I ever going to be good enough that helps you grow. But on the flip side, you also have to be happy with yourself and be confident in your capabilities as a writer.
That confirmation of you being isn’t going to come from your editor, or your readers, or some random person off the street. It has to come from inside yourself. There will be times when that small voice in the back of your head continues to sneer and jeer at every word, every thought that crosses your mind. This is inevitable. What you need to learn is how to shut down your inner-critic, and tell it not today Satan.
Try giving yourself a little pep talk every time you begin to feel even the slightest bit disheartened. While it may seem kind of silly to you now, I guarantee that it can help you feel even the smallest bit better. And hey, that’s a start, right? Simple words like “I can do this” and “I believe in myself” can truly do wonders for your self-confidence, and consequently, for your writing. One of the largest areas of self-doubt, especially with writers and other artists, is when you compare yourself to others in your field.
You think you’re amazing and revolutionary and- and the girl who sits a couple rows down is probably going to get a publishing deal before you. I know that this is definitely something I’ve struggled a lot with personally, always comparing my skills to those around me. As a result, I used to feel as if it wasn’t worth creating everything I had in mind. Because if Person X can write it better, what’s the point, right? Wrong.
Sure, someone may be better at grammar or something. They may even have a more cohesive writing style. But you know what they don’t have? The colours and flavours of words and stories and visions that you bring to the table, by doing nothing other than simply being You.
Some of the worst parts are unavoidable. You will have serious doubts, and sometimes even feel like giving up completely. It’s just a matter of picking yourself up off the ground and saying confidently, “I can do this!”
The Pro of Being A Teen Writer: Creating Something That’s A Part of You
After hearing me list all of these setbacks to being a writer, you may very well be wondering – why in the world would I want to write something? I will admit that there are times when you feel like crumpling your manuscript into a ball or, hell, even chucking your entire laptop out the window, there’s nothing in the world that can compare to one thing. That one thing overrides all of the insecurities and issues with being a teen writer. It’s the joy of creating something that is completely and utterly a part of you.
Random Piece of Information that Doesn’t Fit Anywhere Else: It gives you knowledge! Writing takes a lot of research, even in fictional worlds. It gives you an understanding of the world around you, the moral concepts, the timeless lessons – and allows you to cleverly implement them in such a way to pass on the message.
Ever heard the saying “you master something once you teach it to someone else?” Writing is the best way to do that. You won’t believe the kind of random facts I’ve picked up from researching types of food and other stuff like that. And of course, adding your own spin on them makes you feel like an inventor.
It all comes down to a basic fact. When you write something, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, your innermost thoughts, feelings, beliefs…they all bleed onto the pages, hidden between the words.
With that, a part of your heart and your soul melds with your words, and you lay yourself out bare for your readers. That kind of vulnerability can feel terrifying, especially when someone in front of you is reading what you wrote. But it’s also completely liberating in a way.
Writing, at least for me, is a stress-reliever. When I write, the rest of the world just melts away, and it’s just me, my coffee (or tea, depending on my mood), and my laptop. I fall into the fantasy realms and action-packed cities, and it truly feels like these worlds, these characters are all real. Because in a way, they are.
All of my characters have some small piece of me. For them to live out their adventures in my stories…it kind of feels like I’m a spectator in my favourite show. When other people read my work and like it, it’s that warmth that bubbles up inside me, the feeling of knowing I was able to make a small difference, an impact on someone out there.
And really, isn’t that what writing is all about? If you want to publish a book for the money, I can tell you right now, find another hobby. That’s not gonna work. I write because I want to be able to make someone feel something – joy, nostalgia, sadness, anything at all.
Even if I impact one person, that’s enough for me. Writing is something beautiful that’s meant to be shared, even if it’s with yourself. It reveals the parts of yourself that you didn’t even know you had, and becomes a lifelong companion on the road that is life.
When you finish a book…there’s no better feeling in the world. Because it is a representation of you, sitting on the table in front of you, crawling into the hearts of 100, 10, 1 person, and touching them to the core. And that? That is the real joy of writing, and the one thing that makes every other setback with being a teenage writer worth it.
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Devanshi Bhargava is a high school sophomore, who loves anything to do with art. However, creative writing is her true passion and she has had 9 books published at a local library, as well as 2 short stories included in anthologies on Amazon.