I’m ashamed to say this was my response to my youngest daughter when she informed me last October that she wanted to pursue a career of study in “Communications.” She insisted: “Writing is my thing, Mom—you know that—I thought you would be happy.”
Initially, I was supportive, though not overjoyed. Was writing just a hobby for her or a true passion she could hang a career on? My child, my legacy, wanted to follow in my footsteps; she wanted to pursue what is clearly in her genetics and become a writer. Over the next six months, the idea slowly grew on me. I remembered the passion I felt in 10th grade (the same age as my daughter is now) when I realized it was writing that inspired me.
But questions remained: What do I tell my daughter about this incredibly complex, exciting, creative, rewarding profession that I chose? How do I tell her that she will have to “pay her dues” … that she may need to take that lateral move now to move up later, that she will need mentors along the way to guide her, that learning from those that report to her is as important as learning from those that she’ll report to? How do you make a 16-year-old understand that it is in the “doing” that you learn, fail, and succeed? Then, finally, how do I ready her for the inevitable: that change is as constant as the rising and setting of the sun and, as a communicator, she’ll be asked to face it over and over again and help those around her excel when confronted with it.
So, as I lingered somewhere between pride (in my daughter) and procrastination (what advice could I impart just now?), I thought about the simple things … the foundation, the things that remain true even after 28 years as a communicator:
- The number one way to become a better a writer is to WRITE. Write everything: write the maximum length research paper, take on the volunteer assignments, write for the college newspaper, take every opportunity. Go do it.
- The second way to become a better writer is to READ. In my late 20s/early 30s, I developed a love for reading: fiction, non-fiction, news magazines, you name it. Can’t tell you, my sweet daughter, what reading does for your writing. Go do it.
- Find mentors along the way. I fondly remember my first mentor, Maureen McCabe. She pushed me, challenged me, prodded me, and critiqued my writing until I couldn’t see the words on the page through my tears, but at the end of most days she was right there telling me, “You did a great job today, kid. I’m proud of you. Go do it.” (And, yes, daughter, if you let me, I can be one of those mentors along the way.)
- Find your voice and tell your own story. No matter what you end up writing, or who you’re writing for—remember that when they gave you that PC/laptop/tablet/pencil, they made you the writer and you have a voice. Go do it.
- Remember your audience. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to do something that even some of the best communicators sometimes forget: remember WHO you write to and for. What they think and what they need from you is important. Find out what it is and then go do it.
- Walk away. You say you want to be a good writer? Be willing to walk away from it. For twenty minutes, for an hour, for three days. Then come back to where you left it. It will still be there, I promise. But your approach, your mindset, your way of thinking might have changed—and, voila! —that block you had, that rewrite you knew it needed—well, you’re ready now. Go do it.
I remember now … the signs were there all these years. You wrote plays at the age of five. Made your cousins and sister read from your scripts at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wrote letters to me. Am I happy about your career announcement? Darn right, and proud, too. I get to share my greatest passion with you, my youngest daughter. I consider that a gift. Nothing left now but to watch your talents and passion unfold, daughter. Go do it!
Author: Danielle MacDonald