If Walls Could Talk: Letters from Myself

M.H. Norris

I came home from work on Monday to find an odd piece of mail. It was from my Alma Mater but two things made it stand out:

  1. It listed me as Mary Helen Norris. Normally, my Alma Mater refers to me as Mary.
  2. The address was handwritten.

My mom had sat it down because she noticed it as well. Both of us were curious. So, I opened it and took a look at the letter inside and couldn’t help but laugh.

Sometime while in college I wrote a letter to myself that was supposed to be mailed to me at the end of the semester. I guess it got lost somewhere along the way, because it was postmarked a few days ago.

The thing is, I had to have written that at least two–if not three to four–years ago. James and I have bickered about what it says, and where it is in my personal timeline.

But gosh, so much love to long ago. To the M.H. Norris who hadn’t quite become the mystery maven and sci-fi sorceress you’ve come to known and love.

And yes, I know y’all are dying to know what the letter said. But I’m not going to share it. Partially because it’s between the days long past and the ones that hadn’t come yet, and partly because it made me realize something.

Though honestly, it’s something I’ve known, I just got a reminder in the form of a letter from my younger self.

Things can change drastically in a seemingly short amount of time. The Mary Helen who wrote that letter didn’t have a book out (nor second, with both receiving awards), she wasn’t on a podcast, and she had maybe (depending on when it was written and I honestly don’t remember writing it) just been introduced to Doctor Who.

James loves to tease me about how my writing was when we first met, and how I’ve grown so much as a writer since then. Even book-to-book I feel like I do a bit of growth as I learn more about me and my writing process.

I’m tempted to write another letter to myself and leave it somewhere to open in a few years. I wonder where I’ll be then?

In the letter, I talk about a couple of projects that I have either left or sat to the side. In the letter I see that I’ve grown a bit as a person and a writer since I wrote that message.

There’s my advice for you today.

I met someone once who writes but I honestly wonder if they’ll ever make it anywhere with their craft. I know, that sound so harsh but it’s the truth.

Why do I think that?

Because they aren’t willing to learn and grow in the craft of writing. They think, because they’ve done it for a number of years, that they are a good writer, and that people will enjoy their stuff, and that I didn’t understand whenever I suggested changes or offered critiques.

And the sad thing is, they had talent and potential there.

So here’s my advice to you today, dear readers of this column. As writers, we will never stop learning. We will always be learning and growing in our craft.

You have to/ You can’t settle for anything less than your best and it can (and should) grow and change.

Every so often I find a couple of notebooks I know are hiding in my room. They contain short stories that I wrote ages ago. When I do come across them, and read them, I can’t help but shake my head and laugh at the antics of my younger self.

You wouldn’t recognize the writing style of a young M.H. Norris. Honestly, you might not even recognize my writing style from 2010.

Trust me when I say that that’s a good thing.

Before I sign off this week, let me say this one more time in case you’ve just been skimming: Do not hit a point in your writing where you think you cannot improve.

Because growing as a writer is half the fun.