MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU!
Oh… and happy birthday to me, I guess.
Yeah, it’s that time again. Celebrating a year closer to death. Yay.
Just kidding, I’m not actually that cynical and jaded, even if I am getting older.
So, twenty years old. My teen years are over, and man, what a string of years they were. Hard to believe I’ll never be considered a ‘teen’ again.
I knew this day would come, and so I wanted to give something to all the teens and young people out there, particularly the writers. But, if you’re not a writer, that’s okay, I won’t discriminate. I will be primarily speaking in the context of writing here, but honestly, whether you’re a teen who just likes reading blogs, a parent to a teenager(s), or even an older writer, I think you may find this helpful. Just try to re-contextualise it for yourself if you’re not the primary target audience.
But for all my fellow millennials, generation Y, X, whatever they call us, this is my gift to you.
The Surface of the Problems
(You’re not too young)
I’ve heard and read from young people on multiple occasions, that they feel their age means “there’s no point.” By that, they mean they’re too young, so why bother.
It’s true that if you’re young, you may lack the ability and understanding to accurately express your ideas, and that may lead to you being misunderstood and maybe not taken very seriously by others.
But that’s not an excuse.
I’ll use writing as an example.
You can access information to help you, you can find resources to help you improve and hone your craft. You can find online communities to give you encouragement, to remind you that you’re not alone.
Instead of seeing your age as a limiting factor, think of how it can be a boost. I have branded myself off the idea that I’m a young writer. My podcast is literally called ‘From Zero’ because I have almost nothing to my name, besides my talent, skill, and passion. But that’s all you need to start.
Back in 2014, about a week from today, I was freshly 17, and I decided to begin writing a book. I knew next to nothing about writing books at the time, now I know as much as anyone else.
Everyone says you have to read a lot, and prior to that I had been a reluctant reader in my teens. I went to a Waterstones, went to the Science-fiction & Fantasy section, and I knew almost nobody. I think the most I knew, was J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, and maybe a couple others. Fast-forward a year, and I knew almost everyone and what most of their books were about, and even a bit about some of them as people.
Did it require a ton of immersion in the field to get that understanding? Yes.
But the amount of effort that is required of you, depends on the height of your ambitions. If you just want to finish a manuscript, format it, and self-publish it, only expecting your friends & family to read it, that’s very different from hoping to create a bestseller that thousands of people adore, because that requires a thicker skin, and greater dedication.
You might think your age is the reason why you can’t finish your manuscript, you may blame it on school or your parents, but I promise you, whatever writer’s block you have, whatever situational issues, you can still find the time to write. How do I know that?
Because, you’re reading this blog.
If you’re sitting here, right now, reading this, then you could also be opening another tab, and looking up ways to overcome your blocks. You could be practising what that advice preaches, or better yet, you could be writing.
Even if you have a terrible home situation, if you’re still in school, then you can use that space to write. If for whatever reason that’s not an option, then go to a friends house. If that’s not an option then go to a library. If that’s not an option then download Word on your phone and write on there.
Welcome to 2017, where there’s almost no excuses anymore.
Understand that you’re using your age as a scapegoat. I used to think I was too young to pursue publication, but there are people that got published at a younger age than I even began my manuscript.
The Root of the Problems
(You’re not too old)
In this age of instant-gratification and the glorification of first-world problems, many people I know at my age get depressed and demoralised, thinking they’ve already ‘missed their time’. I’m often left thinking: “What the hell are you lot on about?”
But I do understand.
We live in an era unlike any other. In days past, older people, respected in their fields were the ones who made the money and had the celebrity status. Even if they were young, it was in few industries, and getting that fame and respect was an arduous endeavour that was rarely achieved.
But nowadays, you can hop onto YouTube, click a button or two, and ‘Broadcast Yourself’. Young writers can go onto Wattpad, post stories and become mini-celebrities. You can find communities you fit into within seconds. You can interact and connect with the people you admire immediately.
Older people often say our generation has an entitlement issue, but when you look at the facts and the lack of rational perspective to balance it out, can you really blame us? And teenagers have been around since the 50s… so, entitlement issues began well before us anyway.
People in my generation rarely look up to the mature people anymore. They see lights and glamour, and they see it working. They see that an 18-year-old girl can make a lot of money purely from her looks on Instagram. Their 10-year-old cousin can get paid for making YouTube videos about his favourite comic-book characters.
Fame is not some distant thing that happens in Hollywood anymore. It can and does happen anywhere and with anyone and for almost anything.
As someone who has grown up in this generation, I’m always fascinated with our future. On the lighter side, I wonder what marvellous new things we’ll design. On the darker, I ponder what health issues we’re developing and will suddenly break out in out thirties, creating a generational epidemic.
But many of my fellow young people are concerned with their current problems. That makes sense, but they dwell upon things that, in my view, they have no need to dwell on.
So, you’re 17 and you’re not a YouTube celebrity. So what? Most YouTube celebrities aren’t 17. But you see, the issue is that enough of them are. Enough to make many other 17-year-olds concerned about their own self-worth and develop a fear of missing out.
Social media obviously has done a lot of good by allowing us more inter-connectivity. But it has created a ‘snapshot’ of people’s lives. Modelling catalogues, celebrity culture, and things of the like have done this for ages, but now, it’s everywhere. And anyone that’s not you, can seem like they lead a more glamorise life if they know how to make it seem that way.
I mean, the other day, I heard a girl in my class at University tell her friends they should pay extra money for a hotel room. Why? “Because we can do snaps.” Yes, she was referring to Snapchat. That was her counter to her friends rather rational point of, “We’re just sleeping in there, so we don’t need to pay much.”
This could be seen as just a ‘phase’ but the problem that I see in it, is lasting self-esteem issues that could bleed into adulthood, and potentially the rest of our lives. Regret is in my view, the worst feeling you can have. And already, before 20, many people are regretful of things they shouldn’t even be expecting of themselves.
Consider that we now live in a world where your schoolmates could be earning more money than your parents.. combined, because they play Minecraft on YouTube and have a dedicated legion of fans.
Personally, I think that’s amazing. I’ve been making content on YouTube for nearly 10 years, so I’ve seen it change a lot. I recall the phases it’s gone through (particularly in the gaming department) in regards to monetisation, and those old-school partnerships and gaming networks.
Now, anyone, anywhere, can click a button and start earning. For free. That, to me as someone who grew up in this generation, is still insane. But you see, for many people, that’s “how it should be”.
See the problem?
The Solution to the Problems
Instead of appreciating what we have been given, and relishing in the opportunities around us, our first instinct is to boast about how it is ‘deserved’. It’s the difference between an entitlement mentality and an appreciative mentality.
So, yeah, I’ve been going on about internet culture and all that, but it’s important to give some perspective on what I believe the wider issue at play here is. We think we’re not worthy of getting something because we didn’t get it earlier, and thus, we believe the time has passed. We expect that just because we exist and have a smartphone, there should be some kind of fame attached to it.
Now, I know some of you are thinking: “Hold on, I don’t care about being famous.” But even if it’s not to that extent, many young people expect a certain number of likes. It’s my birthday today, I would be a bit weirded out if nobody posted on my Facebook wall to wish me well.
Do you see my point? There’s nothing inherently evil about wanting these things, or in aspiring for them, but understand they are not deserved or certain. But because they have become such a part of our daily lives, we do expect a degree of validation from others.
And I’m primarily addressing those who are very concerned with this, which, if you take a look at studies, is a lot of our generation.
But… what are you rushing to anyway?
There are some industries that require you to have looks, or a level of fitness that you just may not have. Or only have a certain amount of time to capitalise on. Okay, in those areas, you should be working faster to achieve it, but don’t beat yourself up over it if you’re truly doing your best. Remember that you still have time. And even if that never pans out (because it just won’t for most people), don’t view yourself as a failure.
I wanted to be published as a teenager. As of today, that dream is dead. That will never happen now. Guess what? I don’t care. I’ll still get published, and instead, it’ll be in my twenties. But here’s the secret, even if I don’t get published in my twenties, I’ll just change it to my thirties, then my forties.
And in each of those cases, I will see the positives in the situation. If I’m published in my thirties it just means I’ll be a better writer by then, and my stories will be 1000x better than they are now. Forties onward, the same thing.
The truth is, if you don’t know how to appreciate what you have now, you will never appreciate what you have later.
Even if your dreams were dropped into your lap, without the work and time, the blood, sweat and tears required of you, you’d never appreciate and enjoy it. Look at most child stars, they don’t exactly turn out that great later on do they? It’s all glam glam for a while, but then it’s a downward slope from there.
How on earth can we live in a world more connected than ever, yet studies show a lot of young people feel lonely? I’ll tell you. It’s not that they have no friends necessarily, or nobody to talk to (though that is the case for some). It’s that they’re unable to understand the value in those things.
I like to give advice and offer new perspectives, and this is a very close to home issue, where people I know are strongly affected by this way of thinking. I am part of this generation, I’m growing up with you guys, so if I can see things this way, you can too.
You are not too young and you’re most certainly not too old. What you are, is too unappreciative and lacking perspective.
Don’t think you’re not performing well just because your friend has internet fame and you don’t. It’s a lot of hard work to get fame, even on the Internet. Sure, you can get it easier than ever before and for things you’d never expect, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen tomorrow.
Yes, some people do go viral for the stupidest of things, and can become celebrities (“Cash me outside” girl). That’s internet culture for you. Fame can come that quick, and if you’re ever lucky enough to be one of those people, be very grateful, and realise your fortune for what it is.
Remember, even millionaires can go broke.
If you’re not one of those people (which is more likely), then be happy with what you have. I know that’s cliche, but it’s the honest truth. Stop rushing. Work towards what you want and do all you can to outperform and rise above the competition. Don’t cut yourself slack just because you’re young, but… (here comes the paradox), remember that you are young. Remember that you do have many years ahead.
It’s a paradoxical belief, but if there’s one thing I can promise you, it’s that understanding it, and living it, will change your life for the better in so many ways.
Now, if you don’t agree with me, comment all your doubts so I can dismantle them, then after that, go and tell your story, go and do whatever it is you must do, in whatever way you must, and let the world be your audience.
Just remember you have plenty of time to practice. 😉
Other things you can follow me on:
Anime List: https://hummingbird.me/users/NGN (where I get a fair amount of my inspiration)