This October, the Klein Forest Speech and Debate Club kindly invited me to speak at their Expression Through Writing Panel. Here's everything we covered, and some extra insights!
Where did you find the support and encouragement to pursue your passions?
For most of us, when we have an idea, we immediately turn to others to validate if it's any good.
I spent the first year writing my book with that mindset. I waited for others to show their encouragement so that I had the courage to continue writing. The problem with that strategy is, most people won't support you until you've built something to believe in.
Of course there are those few, rare people in our lives who will support us no matter what. But I've found that most people won't outwardly show their support until you show them that you believe in what you're doing. You've got to build the foundation first. You've got to support yourself first. Once you have something of substance, that's when others feel more comfortable showing their support and encouragement for you.
So while support and encouragement from others is awesome, don't wait until you have that to start pursuing your passions.
For me, other than my parents and older sister who have always showed me unconditional support, the most impactful encouragement that helped me finally publish my book came from my TikTok followers. Mostly GenZers, they are the individuals that I really wanted to connect with. Once I started posting what I had been writing, and they actually liked it, that's what inspired me to work day and night to get the book published.
How do you use your writing skills outside of work?
I really love journaling. I didn't used to, but once I let go of the belief that I needed to write every single day in order to have a good journal, I started to like it. Not only is it really cool to look back at how you've progressed over the years, but it also feels good to store all of your thoughts somewhere other than in your head.
Something writing related that I'd love to get more into is screenwriting. Every time I witness a really good story, I just want to write it down so that others can experience that moment like they were really there too.
One really important use of my writing skills that I use nearly every day is email writing. There is an art to writing an email that actually gets opened and responded to, especially if you're sending it to someone you don't know. Be sure to pay attention in English class, that writing practice and those grammar lessons really do pay off!
What do you wish you knew at 16?
I wrote a whole book about the three of the main things I wish I knew at 16. It's called It's the Depression for Me: 3 Ways to Make Being a Teenager Suck Less.
I even have weekly book clubs where we read the book together and talk more about what we can do to improve our lives. Email me if you want to learn more!
But here's another one, because there are waayy more than 3.
Focus on what you can control and ignore the rest.
You can't control what other people do or what happens in the world. All you can control is how you respond.
What physical space and routine do you use when you write?
There are definitely external things that help me get into the 'writing mood,' like playing the same song on repeat, writing outside or in the morning, but I think the real key is: Always be open to new ideas.
Meaning, if you have an idea in the middle of your day, write it down! If you don't capture it, you'll lose it. Keeping your brain aware of the thoughts you're having at all times will help you know exactly what to write when you sit down at your computer.
This is actually how I came up for the title for my book It's the Depression for Me: 3 Ways to Make Being a Teenager Suck Less. I shut my phone off 30 minutes before bed and gave myself time to pray, visualize, and mediate. That time alone with just my thoughts allowed my creative brain to wake up. As I was falling asleep, that title popped into my head. I wrote it down while I was half asleep, and was surprised the next morning to find that it wasn't half bad.
Remember! You can't come up with new ideas when you are consuming content (a.k.a. watching TikToks or Netflix). Don't be frustrated with yourself if you are looking at content all day, and then when you sit down to write, you get writers block. Give yourself time to THINK! Go outside and take a walk, without music, and let your creative brain run wild.
I hope you enjoyed these extended panel answers from my most recent event with Klein Forest High School in Houston, Texas!
In 2021, I'll be traveling around the globe to fill 100 schools with hope. If you want your school to be included on that list, message me!
Being a teenager can suck, but it doesn't have to forever.
Now let's talk about how to actually make it better...