Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.
When some cultural critics fret about the “ever-more-appalling” YA books, they aren’t trying to protect African-American teens forced to walk through metal detectors on their way into school. Or Mexican-American teens enduring the culturally schizophrenic life of being American citizens and the children of illegal immigrants. Or Native American teens growing up on Third World reservations. Or poor white kids trying to survive the meth-hazed trailer parks. They aren’t trying to protect the poor from poverty. Or victims from rapists.
No, they are simply trying to protect their privileged notions of what literature is and should be.
In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
Many people seem to think it foolish, even superstitious, to believe that the world could still change for the better. And it is true that in winter it is sometimes so bitingly cold that one is tempted to say, ‘What do I care if there is a summer; its warmth is no help to me now.’ Yes, evil often seems to surpass good. But then, in spite of us, and without our permission, there comes at last an end to the bitter frosts. One morning the wind turns, and there is a thaw. And so I must still have hope.
The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and dance and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked…that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.
Most of my work is simple persistence. I’ve had some stories for twenty years. I keep adding to them word by word.
Every single day I get emails from aspiring writers asking my advice about how to become a writer and here is the only advice I can give: Don’t make stuff because you want to make money, it will never make you enough money. Don’t make stuff because you want to get famous because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked and maybe they won’t, and if they don’t notice I know it’s frustrating, but ultimately that doesn’t change anything because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for but to the gift itself.
Learn a lot about the world and finish things, even if it is just a short story. Finish it before you start something else. Finish it before you start rewriting it. That’s really important.
It’s to find out if you’re going to be a writer or not, because that’s one of the most important lessons.
Most, maybe 90% of people, will start writing and never finish what they started. If you want to be a writer that’s the hardest and most important lesson: Finish it. Then go back to fix it.
Ireland is a land of poets and legends, of dreamers and rebels. All of these have music woven through and around them. Tunes for dancing or for weeping, for battle or for love.
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark. In the hopeless swamps of the not quite, the not yet, and the not at all, do not let the hero in your soul perish and leave only frustration for the life you deserved, but never have been able to reach. The world you desire can be won, its exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.