Kayla Heisler and LaTroya Lovell spoke at a reading we hosted for young writers outside of the New York City region who do not have an Affiliate for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and therefore usually receive no recognition other than their certificates and keys. Their words were so direct and insightful, I asked if we could publish them here for all writers to read.
Kayla Heisler’s advice to young writers can be found below. Please click here to read LaTroya Lovell’s words.
“Being writers gives us a unique position in the world. Every person has a story, but not everyone feels they have the skill to tell it; not everyone notices that there are stories worth telling. That’s what makes being a writer so special—we notice things and bring people to focus their attention on things that they might otherwise never think to care about.
Our biggest jobs as writers are to learn and teach.
Listen to feedback. I know sometimes it can be difficult to hear, but taking advice from your teachers or other writers can improve your writing terrifically. Don’t take criticism personally—if someone’s taking the time to read your work and give you feedback, it’s because they want to see you succeed. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get advice from other people on your work. It’s easy to fall into bad writing habits and never realize that we’re doing them until another person points them out.
For me, the most important aspect of the writing life is reading. Read everything your teachers tell you to read—even the stuff that doesn’t seem interesting at first. If they’re having you read it, it’s for a good reason. In high school, many of the books that inspired me the most were the ones assigned in class, and many of the ones that were initially the most difficult to get into proved to be the most rewarding—such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It’s also crucial that you seek out works on your own. Read as often as you can and read widely.
In addition to literature, draw inspiration from other creative sources—from artwork, movies, plays, music, photographs. One thing that’s helped me immensely as a writer is to carry around a small notebook, so when inspiration strikes, I can make a note of what I think or feel and express it through writing.
Learn from your peers, and inspire others. Everyone on the planet knows something you don’t know—even your fellow writers who are your age or younger. Last week I went to a staged reading of a play written by a freshman at my school. The only reason I went was because the playwright walked up to me in the cafeteria out of nowhere and invited me to go, and I figured anyone who had that amount of confidence in their work had to be producing great content. Before I went, I’d been struggling with major writer’s block, but the play was extremely thought provoking, and after I left I had so much going on in my head, I didn’t know what to write about first. When you put time and effort into something, you have a right to be proud of it, so have the courage to show it to others. No man is an island, so be brave, and put your content out into the world, and make sure you let people, especially other artists know that it’s there.
Ultimately, as writers, we have an obligation to make others empathize with others. Our creative output influences the world, and it is through our work that voices are heard and changes are made. Never stop learning, teaching, inspiring and creating. Write fearlessly; write frequently; and write with the knowledge that your words have power.”
Kayla Heisler is a student at Eugene Lang College pursuing a degree in Literary Studies with a writing conversation. Her work appears in Eleven-and-a-Half literary journal and will appear on the Helen Literary Magazine blog. She enjoys writing poetry and short fiction, but she focuses most strongly on personal and research-based non-fiction. Kayla grew up in North and South Carolina and enjoys hiking and star-gazing when she returns home from the city. She has loved writing stories and reading books since childhood, and she feels that writing is the most important way she contributes to the world.