The Writing Advice That Changed My Life

My shoulders slumped against the weight of the words that I’d just spoken. This was it. I couldn’t go on.

I couldn’t outrun the horrors of my past anymore, and I needed to retreat to take care of that darkness. This meant withdrawing from classes, and it crushed me. My face felt hot, and I blinked furiously to keep my eyes clear.

I avoided Jennifer’s eyes as she studied me. I didn’t want her to see the pain there, even though she’d read about some of it in my work. But I didn’t want her to see the pain and the Hell. If she looked into my eyes right then, I was sure she’d see the extent of everything, and I couldn’t bare it if she did. I didn’t want her to think less of me, though how she wouldn’t, given that I was being forced to withdraw, I didn’t know.

“Jill,” she said finally, “you have to keep writing.”

I glanced up at her face, still avoiding her eyes, my brows drawn together.

“I can’t,” I said. “I can’t do this anymore.

“You have to keep writing,” she repeated. “You have the talent, and, my God, you have the story.”

I finally looked my creative nonfiction professor in the eye. “I’m so tired,” I whispered. “I can’t do this anymore. I’m sick. And I’m just so damn tired.”

Jennifer didn’t break my gaze, but she leaned forward and, with a fierceness in her voice I’d never heard before and didn’t ever hear after, she said,

“Keep writing, Jill. It can save you.”

I had to take a ridiculously hard and long path to get to a point where writing could save me. There were traumas I had to face from my past, haunting memories, fears that had been branded into me, monsters that I once thought had been friends… there were things I had to resolve, things I had to confront and wrestle with and beat.

I also had to recover from a brain injury. I had to undergo a medical treatment that had injured my brain to the point where I couldn’t read. To me, this repercussion was like a death sentence. But I fought it, I retaught myself, and I started writing again, in part because I was convinced that Jennifer was right, and that writing could save me. It was and is one of the few lifelines in my life that I feel I can wholly rely upon.

J.K. Rowling has famously said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

I feel that this is true for me, and I never would have clawed me way out of the bottom of that pit without writing. So even as I was forced to take a break from school, my professor’s words sparked a hope in me that, despite everything, could not be smothered out.

Keep writing, Jill. It can save you.

I heard these words in my head as I fought sleep at night. I recited this advice as I forced myself to face horror after horror from my past. I held onto this wisdom as I sat down to read and thought so help me, I WILL get this back, and I prayed that these words would be true as I finally sat down to write.

Immortal Writers is my first published book. It comes out on November 7th, 2016. An overarching theme in this novel, and throughout the five-book series, is the idea that writing can save us. And not just writing, but stories, and characters, and new ideas. I’ve flooded Immortal Writers with this idea because I passionately believe in it with all of my heart. And I believe it because writing has, indeed, saved me, in both figurative and literal ways.

If I were to give writing advice to anyone who wanted to be a writer, it would be the same as Jennifer gave to me:

Keep writing. It can save you.

Writing can be fun, and it should be, but it can also be a weapon to wield in defense of oneself and in support of one’s mind and soul and body. I have used writing to climb mountains and slay the worst of villains. I have used writing to grow and become more powerful, more knowledgeable, more compassionate, more whole. Books are powerful, and stories are magical, but being able to create worlds and creatures and characters and plots… that is a true gift.

A gift that can save us.

And for me, it has.

And for you, it can.

So keep writing.

It can save you.

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