I did an interview recently where I was asked if I regretted publishing my novel so young, which I hadn't really thought about before (which is surprising, because I think about everything, and with great intensity). I don't regret it - I love being a writer, I've had many brilliant experiences and learnt a lot and met wonderful people, and I don't think I was any more unready for publishing a novel at fifteen than I would be now. I'm not especially old yet, but I can imagine a 20-something novice writer Steph would find publication overwhelming, too. Almost all debut novelists would. I'm not big on regretting things because I haven't done especially many things worth regretting yet, but I am plagued by thoughts of 'how might things have worked out differently if I'd taken this opportunity/made a different decision?' I generally assume that there's not a Sliding-Doors reality going somewhere and I'm a millionaire there, because I think my current reality is pretty awesome already (and being a millionaire would stress me out).
If I had my time again, I would do it all the same, to quote Big Audio Dynamite. With some slight alterations. So, in the spirit of narcissistic blog posts everywhere, here are some things I would do differently if I had my teenage years again:
- I would never behave like a ridiculous caricature of an obnoxious teenager (occasions which I like to think were pretty rare, but you'd probably have to ask my mum if you wanted the truth). If I started over I like to think I'd have more self-awareness.
- I would not delude myself from the ages of thirteen to sixteen that external success directly relates to being a fulfilled and self-actualized human being.
- I would not fixate quite so heavily on being smart, and proving that I was smart.
- I would just let myself be a weirdo introvert. Everyone acts as if we are all supposed to be extroverted and outgoing as if that is the ideal human state, but really we do need some people to be quiet and reflective and listen. Introspection is not a bad thing, and I didn't need to feel bad for being so much in my own head, since being so much in my own head is what gives me the ability to write.
- I would not spend so much time on the internet, oh my goodness. I have been so enamored with the internet for so long and in the last two years it's occurred to me that maybe the physical world is pretty awesome too, and I've been ignoring it a bit too much. I don't know, technology is a drug.
- I would dress better. I picked some really terrible outfits for several years there. I continue to do so. If I'd been born any other species this wouldn't be a problem, and neither would my inability to work a keyboard properly. Unless I was a monkey that scientists were training to type and choose its own outfits. In which case I would be a very disappointing monkey.
- I would not miss quite as many opportunities out of fear or anxiety or overwhelm. The whole 'you regret the things you didn't do, not the things you did do' does not seem entirely true to me - maybe when I am on my deathbed I'll stop regretting dumb things I said and problems I dealt with badly. But I do regret things I avoided doing. As much as regret is a useless emotion.
- I would not have given up certain things. I could've been a prodigious musician by now, gosh! I would learn, learn, learn everything. I would read more non-fiction, perhaps, and take more classes, and learn to dance.
- I would care less what people thought of me (by 'me' I mean 'me plus all of the words I write which I regard as an extension of me against my better judgement'). This includes reading reviews.
- If I got to go back to being thirteen, having lived through my teenage years, knowing that I managed to avoid becoming an off-the-rails teen, am doing quite well with the writing-business, and that finishing high school was ultimately not all that difficult, I can tell you absolutely and definitively: I would stress less. But there being no unknown to fear would probably take the magic out of everything. Having never travelled back in time, I cannot tell you this for sure.