In all honestly I truly hope I’ll continue publishing my writing, but the reality is that it may not work out for me, like so many others in the arts. It may be that this year marks the end of my career as a writer, just as I feel I’m still only dipping my toes in the water.
My new book comes out in July this year, and I’m completely terrified by the reception it will receive, sick to the stomach type of terrified – there are so many possibilities of what a new book could do, but if I boil down all the routes – it’s either forward or stopping – either I’m allowed a pass to keep writing, to try again, or I don’t get the chance again. Maybe I’m wrong. But mostly I think about maybe I’m right – that the book doesn’t get good reviews, maybe the sales are abysmal, enough to force me to focus on a teaching career or move onto to other projects. Maybe there won’t be another contract around to sign. And that has to be okay for me, as worried as I am by the possibility of failure now, I (as future me) – want to reassure myself that life will go on.
Dear Tara (circa 2016)
Briefly, you tried.
You shouldn’t stress so much about what other people think of you.
Don’t worry if you don’t amount to the assumptions people have made of you.
Don’t worry that you aren’t good enough; you were good enough for me.
You’ve tried, you’ve stayed up nights, you’ve worked through days and weekends, and you’ve read widely. You’ve tried to grow as a writer. You tried, you turned up to the desk, you’ve clung onto the merry-go-round for dear life. No-one can argue that fact. You can’t deny it.
So what does it amount to? It’s a secret. – I’m writing to you to tell you that in your writing, even if your worst outcome or your wildest dreams come true, either way you’re still a valuable person, you still have worth and you’re not a failure. You can’t be a failure if you tried.
I’m older now, wiser, I know you should have exercised more, slept more, took breaks for stretching, stopped drinking so much coffee at the desk, drinking too much wine away from it. Been more available to your friends, and your family. You were always there for your daughter – so be proud of that. Be proud of showing her what success is in any case – you showed her that success was the rolling of the dice, the striving without reception, the work without the fanfare. Be proud of that and hold onto that. I haven’t forgotten it, those close to you, who love you for the person you are, haven’t forgotten that.
You can’t know what will happen and I can’t tell you the end of the story, until you write it, build it, paint it, run it, march it out yourself. You were always meant to be doing what you’re doing now, you love stories, you love books – aren’t you glad you found something you loved so quickly? Aren’t you glad some people liked, even loved, some of the things you made from nothing? That you created? You can own that feeling like objects to touch – that thing you did, those things you kept doing in life were all worth it, along the way.
I’m sorry for all the difficult times, if I could change the past, smooth out the roads for you I would have – but life doesn’t come with carpet laid out, no one gets that, so just – face the sun from now on in. Enjoy the wonder of life, for the sake of wonder, get out in the weather and the air and jump in the water – forget dipping your toes in life – charge at it!
Don’t fret about money, it ebbs like the tides.
You should have quit smoking earlier, you know that, but I’ll mention no other faults– it is all grist for the mill. You use your mistakes eventually.
Forgive yourself, love yourself, be kind to yourself, look after your teeth, look after your back, and look out for others. Be grateful for everything you have always, past, present and future.
Tara June Winch (b. December 2, 1983) is an Australian (Wiradjuri) writer based in France. She has written essay, short fiction and memoir for VOGUE, VICE,McSweeneys (US), and various Australian publications including Overland,GoodWeekend Magazine, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, GriffithReview, Meanjin, Overland Journal. Her first novel, Swallow the Air was published in 2006 and has been on the HSC syllabus for Standard and Advanced English since 2009. Her forthcoming short story collection After the Carnage is out August 2016.