Advice for young students who want to write

Sharing Perspective: Ana Castillo Uses Autobiographies to Inspire Students

The ZOOM program with Diablo Valley Community College in N. California was both a pleasure and an honor.  I appreciate the student writer in the school paper.  It isn’t my custom to correct facts in public interviews. 

But when giving advice to aspiring young writers and students in writing classes, it’s important to get my message right.  It’s important but not critical.  Still, today, it’s an opportunity to offer advice here to anyone wanting to write memoir or autobiography.

In the write-up the student reports that I said you should pick a subject that you think others may relate to.  I think she came to that conclusion in my discussion about the personal essays in Black Dove.  I’ve written extensively about my son in that book.  He was a young adult, 27, when he fell into a deep depression and became reckless.  We, his family were grateful and remain grateful that unlike with those in the ’27 Club’. (celebrities who lost their lives at 27)t Mi’jo survived his darkest moments and has since recovered to live a productive life.

When talking about this subject covered in the book I said my son approved of the essay and felt that sharing our story might help other families.

We didn’t write the story because we thought others would relate.  We initially wrote because that is what we each do–and in that dark time we wrote independently and to each other.  We each read voraciously, which is a favorite activity of any serious writer. Here is where the clarification enters. We decided to share that story afterward because we felt there were probably many families suffering privately and disenfranchised that might find comfort in our overcoming our crisis.

You must always write first what you feel you must write regardless of who or how many people you imagine will relate.  You don’t know who you’ll reach when putting your writing out there.  You mustn’t even try to guess.  You must write for you first.