Guest post by Matthew Quick, author of Silver Linings Playbook and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.
Dear Seventeen-Year-Old Matthew Quick,
It’s you (me?) from the future—at thirty-nine. Yes, thirty-nine! I was only allotted two paragraphs so I can’t explain how this time-traveling letter is possible—oh, sh*t, I’ve already wasted a chunk of this paragraph. You will be okay. You leave childhood, become an adult, and it’s ultimately okay. You still get depressed sometimes, and you often need to be alone. Most people don’t get why you will always need occasional solitude and sometimes your intense feelings cause misunderstandings, but they also create art. You will use the emotional storms to write the books you now publish. Yeah, that’s right. PUBLISH! All over the world. You’re a New York Times and International bestselling author. Hollywood makes an Oscar-winning film out of your first novel. I shit you not. So keep writing! Keep working hard! And don’t listen to the people who tell you that being a fiction writer is an impossible way to make a living—that you are from the wrong town, the wrong family, that you are not smart enough, went to the wrong school. It’s all bullshit. You will rise.
People now call you Q. Fourteen-year-old girls will give you this nickname. (You coach freshman girls soccer for five years.) You will hate being called Q at first, and then you will accept it. You will become Q. When you teach high school literature classes, you will figure out who you are, find your voice. You become a new person. Q. And you will have the best life partner in the world helping you through this transitional period. Her name is Alicia. You call her Al. You meet in college. She’s the best thing that ever happens to you. You now live in Massachusetts with a Scottish Terrier named Desi. Desi climbs into bed with you every morning and snoozes on your chest. You adore Desi. You write fiction all day. You love writing fiction, even though it is very difficult and never gets easier. You will work incredibly hard to obtain the writing life, but you are extremely lucky to have it, this life that seventeen-year-old you doesn’t really believe is possible—but it is possible, trust me. We’re living it.
You’re listening to The Smiths all the time now, back in 1991. You think Morrissey is the only person who understands you. You often go to the creek at night and sit alone on the bench, watch the lights dance on the water and feel hollow, lonely, confused, and maybe even doomed. You worry that you will never feel content, let alone happy, and you struggle with these feelings because you don’t yet have the vocabulary to express yourself properly, and in your neighborhood, feelings are taboo, especially if you are a man. You are hiding the best part of you, because you have been made to feel unmanly. Hold on. You will leave your neighborhood. You will meet amazing people. Travel to Africa and South America even! You will fall madly in love with your life partner—the woman who will stand by you no matter what. And when you finally write honestly about everything swirling around in your chest, when your novels make their way around the globe, other people will respond—many people—and you will know that you are not alone, and you never really were.
I’m out of paragraphs. Already gave you one (now two) more than I was permitted. You’re going to be okay. It will often be hard. Not everyone will love you or your work. Friends will come and go. There will be haters—people who want you to fail. But you hike every day with your wife in the woods, often up the small local mountain, which calms your mind and makes you feel healthy. It will be enough. It will be beautiful. Make sure you stick around. You won’t want to miss it. Trust me.
Q (Future You)
The fabulous team at Headline are celebrating young adult fiction with LoveYA month so head on over to their Facebook page Which Book Next? to find your next YA read (and not just Headline's books). The are also on Pinterest and you can follow the goings on with #WeLoveYA.
Find out more on Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Matthew's forthcoming YA novel.