Were you an accomplished writer by 17?

Published 11 months ago • 1 min read

Hi Bookfoxers,

Last weekend I went to a reading by the teen poet laureate of Orange County, Tina Mai.

To say that she's a superstar would be an understatement.

  • She's won dozens of Scholastic gold medals for her poetry, memoir and essays.
  • She's been published in the New York Times.
  • She created an app to help blind people write (awarded by the U.S. Congress and Fintech Startup)

Folks, I was not this accomplished at 17 years old. (were you?)

She captivated the audience for more than forty minutes, concluding with a reading of several of her poems (which were excellent).

I turned to my tablemates and told them that I was feeling quite "unaccomplished."

They concurred.

Most of the writers in attendance were decades older than our speaker, but without a fraction of the accolades.

  • How do you reconcile the success of those much younger than you?
  • How do you keep believing in your book without feeling like a failure?
  • How do you not wish you were smarter/younger/more famous?
  • Most importantly, how do you avoid the green-eyed monster of jealousy?

It's such a long, hard road to become satisfied with yourself.

To make peace with your pace, with your abilities.

To realize that your writing journey can't look like anyone else's, and to accept the outcome of that journey.

What I tell myself is that older people have a richness of experience that can't be replicated by youth.

What I tell myself is that a frantic pace can sometimes result in burnout, and I'm in it for the long haul.

Sometimes I believe those things, and sometimes I think I'm only trying to make myself feel better.

But I do know this: there will always be many, many more people out there who are more successful, and to use them as a benchmark can only result in heartache.

What I can do is focus on my journey, my milestones reached, and celebrate those.

And, of course, to work diligently on the next step of the journey.


John Matthew Fox


John Matthew Fox helps authors write better fiction. He is the founder of Bookfox, where he creates online courses for writers, provides editing and offers publishing assistance. He is the author of "The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel's Key Moments" and “I Will Shout Your Name,” a collection of short stories.

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