A letter to my unpublished self
by Jessica Thompson
Well, you are 22 years old, living in Kent and working all the hours God sends to follow your dream in journalism. You want to take the step up to make it to the nationals, and it’s almost all you can think about. You spout your ambitions to long-suffering friends whenever you see them; you exhaust your family and even the dog with your longing to write for The Guardian or The Times.
You’ve always been a writer. You don’t know it at this point, but deep down you have. It’s been there ever since you were very little and wrote bizarre poems about squirrels (which weirdly, still feature heavily in your work as an adult…)
Deep down it’s always been there but you don’t quite have the confidence, or the time, to write your first full novel. In fact, you don’t even know at this point that creative writing is your calling. You think it’s news.
You’ve started a few books. You’ve written dozens of poems and short stories. You even tried to encapsulate your youth in a 100-page manuscript that by the age of 22 is so embarrassing to you; it remains to this day in the bottom of a drawer on a floppy disc.
Sadly, no matter how hard you try, the journalism stuff isn’t working out for you. You’ve applied for so many jobs, you’ve worked late into the night, you have effectively exhausted yourself but you just keep hitting walls. You are starting to feel quite down, well, very down. When you were growing up people said to you that you could achieve anything if you tried hard enough, but this wasn’t coming into fruition no matter how many hours you put in. Real life was kicking in.
But, unpublished Jess, just hang in there, things are happening for you.
All the hard work will amount to something so different to what you imagined. For one day very soon, in about a year, a publisher will get in touch out of the blue while you are putting an edition of the local paper you work for to bed. You will, initially, wonder if it’s a joke by a particularly wicked-humoured friend, and then it will become clear that it isn’t. You’ll submit some work and then meet a wonderful agent. You will be so nervous on the day of the meeting that you can’t even think straight.
But things will work out, somehow, and three years on you still won’t believe it. You will still be as thankful as the day you were spotted.
Keep trying and don’t lose faith. If you work hard in life, good things come, even if they arrive in unexpected packages.
Some of the happiest years of your life are to come. Enjoy them.
Accept that it won’t be easy and that your ambitions will continually be replaced with bigger ones. That is always a good thing.
But most of all, just relax.
Jessica Thompson is the author of Three Little Words and This is a Love Story.