2022 Teen Writers' Rally

From Free-Time to Forever: Encouragement for Writers Seeking the Next Step // Guest Post from Grace A. Johnson

Heya, TWNers! We’re back with the next installment in TWNs 2022 Teen Writers’ Rally! If you’re visiting for the first time or a returning reader, on behalf of TWN, I want to say welcome and thank you for joining us as we kick-off National Novel Writing Month with back-to-back posts featuring amazing authors, bloggers, and more! Tune in every day until November 5th for new posts with writing tips, advice, and encouragement. Posts go live at 6:00 EST, and we encourage you to subscribe to Teen Writers’ Nook via email so you can receive a notification when the next post for the rally is up. (Form can be found to the right if on a computer or at the bottom of the page if on a mobile device.) 

Just like in Mary’s guest post, we’re going to do the entry to the giveaway a little differently this time. If you want to be entered into a chance to win one of the books pictured below, then all you have to do is answer one of the questions of your choice that Grace leaves at the end of this post!

Okay, so even though Grace Johnson needs absolutely no introduction, I have to take a couple of minutes to introduce her anyway. If you don’t know who this writerly genius is, chances are you’re either new to TWN or you’ve been living under a rock. TWN has had the pleasure of having Grace featured over here so many times because not only does she write fun and engaging posts, but she also has SO much great advice and wisdom!!!! Some of which you’ll no doubt see today!!! Grace Johnson is the author of SEVERAL amazing titles such as Held Captive, Prisoner at Heart, Daylight, With Fear and Trembling, and the upcoming Bound and Determined (which, y’all, I just now realized releases THIS month!!! *fangirl squeals*)! She is also an editor and blogger and honestly, is there anything this girl can’t do? I’ve had the honor to get to know Gracie over the last couple of years and she is such an amazing, inspiring, God-honoring gal (and my twin sister, but that’s a long story) and I am just literally bursting with excitement to share her post for the rally!! I hope y’all enjoy reading it as much as I did, and make sure to check Grace out online where you can also find links to her other socials. =) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I will be over here fixing the time machine I stole from Grace which she also broke (that’s also a long story…) while y’all enjoy her fantabulous post!!!!!

It still feels like yesterday that I was pounding out words on my mom’s computer keyboard in my free time on lazy Sunday afternoons. At only ten, writing seemed like such a distant dream, something to truly pursue when I was at the ripe old age of sixteen or, better yet, twenty-six; so even though I wrote then as a hobby, my focus was on other things (like becoming a ballerina).

Well, seven years have come and gone, and now I look back and mostly wonder at how in the world time has flown by so quickly…and I also shake my head at my younger self, who had no idea what was going to happen next. Maybe then I would’ve prepared myself better and made it even farther by now than I have; who knows?

But seeing as how Issabelle stole my time machine to rescue Xavier (*coughs* long story), I can’t go back and tell younger me all the things I want to say, so y’all will have to suffice.

(Kidding, kidding! But also not.)

We all know the scripture 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (NIV). And if you were like me, you probably took a look around you and thought, “Hmm, no one appears to be looking down on me. Oh, well.”

(If you’re also like me, you later realized everyone looks down on you because you’re so short. But that’s beside the point.)

But sometimes our worst critic and the one who discriminates against us most…is ourselves. So before you start thinking about how old you are and how many years you have left in school and how long you’ll be in college before you can start pursuing your career in writing (provided your parents don’t go on that rant about starving artists again), pause for a minute. Remember what the Bible says and what people like David and Jeremiah lived out, that God can use us no matter our age, that our destiny has no time limit, that our purpose on this earth has no start date apart from the day we’re born and no end date but for the day we die.

You don’t have to wait for the ripe old age of sixteen, thirty-six, sixty-eight, ninety-five (please don’t wait ‘til ninety-five; I don’t recommend it). You can start now and turn your free time into your forever.

Prepare Yourself

When we think about waiting, we all probably think about waiting rooms: sitting around doing nothing but looking through magazines.

But that’s not what waiting periods should look like, whether you’re waiting for five minutes or five years! Waiting periods are preparation periods, in which we’re growing and building up to the next season of our lives. Never should we find ourselves sitting on our bums, twiddling our thumbs.

So start in your waiting period. Start preparing yourself for whatever comes next, even if you haven’t the foggiest notion of what it is. (This doesn’t just apply to writing, by the way. This goes for every area of your life.)

One thing I regret the most (apart from being socially awkward, not that I plan on doing anything about that) is not devoting more time and effort into developing my craft and really learning what writing is, experiencing being a writer. I rushed to complete full-length novels when I should have honed my voice with short stories and studied prose with flash fiction. I jumped into self-publishing when I should have been researching the publication process and building my author platform.

Long story short: don’t be like me. Take advantage of every moment you have and prepare yourself by researching, learning, and—most importantly—experiencing. Being a writer, even having an author career or business, is not a job. It is not a nine-to-five that you clock in and out of. It is a journey, a lifestyle. And it should be treated as such, so instead of hitting your word count for the day and then procrastinating with YouTube, enjoy writing. Immerse yourself in your stories and their worlds. Try new genres and styles. Entertain those plot bunnies. Go off on six-hundred-word tangents. Spend three months developing new characters.

I know that seems like a waste of time, but guess what? It’s not. Everything you do, every word you write and every story you start and never finish, has a purpose. Enjoy it. Experience it. Learn from it. Use it as a tool for the future. Trust me, you’ll be better off for it in the end.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Like every book coach will tell you, see the book, be the book.

Wait, no. That’s baseball. Never mind.

You can apply that to writing, though. Keeping your focus trained on what you want to be and to accomplish helps. It just does. It gives you motivation and inspiration and simply pushes you to do the very best you can.

Don’t ever let yourself get bogged down in the doubts, the defeat, the “I’ll never finish a novel,” “I can’t write well,” “I don’t have a strong style,” “my plots are all cliché.” Here’s the thing: your goal is not to finish a novel or have a completely original story.

It’s to be who God has called you to be and do what He has called you to do. He called you to write, so write!

We recently talked about vision in my youth group, from Proverbs 29:18 that states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Even though this refers to prophetic vision and revelation from God, the same goes for the vision for our lives. When we don’t have vision from God and goals that align with His, when we aren’t seeking Him in all we do, when we’re just floundering through life or trying to survive…well, things aren’t gonna end in a happily-ever-after. It’s only when we seek God’s heart and His desires for us, when we fix our eyes on a solid vision and work toward it, that we will find reward and accomplishment.

Remember that He’s the one holding the strings. He’s the one pitching the ball, and He knows good and well where it’s headed. Just keep your eyes straight ahead and your feet moving forward, and you’ll be fine, believe me!

Don’t Be Afraid

I know, I know. You’ve heard it all before. (At least all 365 times in the Bible.) Don’t be afraid, never fear, faith over fear, yadda yadda yadda.

As cliché as it is, I’m serious. (As serious as my fear of spiders, that is, which is pretty serious.)

There are always so many fears at play when it comes to trying something new and big. Fear of rejection (“What if no one ever reads my book? What if everyone hates it?”). Fear of failure (“What if I never finish? What if it’s horrible? What if I never achieve my goals?”). Fear of not measuring up (aka, imposter syndrome) (“What if I’m not as good as Joanne R. or Stephanie M. or Jenny H.?”).

Heck, even the fear of being afraid! (“What if I clam up at the last minute and get so scared I can’t do it?”)

All those what ifs, all those doubts, all those questions, all that anxiety…

It ain’t right. It ain’t natural. Shoot, it ain’t even real, if you wanna get serious. There is no foundation or reason for you to fear anything. Literally anything.

Why? (Be ye forewarned: sermon incoming.)

Because you were made in the image of God, and He is not a God of fear. Moreover, He didn’t give us fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He gave us a sound mind and spirit of love and power. (Sound mind equals logical, critical thinking that is rooted in faith and peace rather than overrun by fear, in case you were wondering.)

So start resting in that, believing that, operating in it…and remember: God made you special, and He loves you very much.

*coughs* True, but not what I was going to say.

Remember that no one may read your book, you might not finish that novel, and you may not compare to Jerry J. and Leigh B., but that doesn’t change a thing. That doesn’t mean you are any less worthy, loved, and full of purpose, with an amazing destiny ahead of you!

So don’t be afraid to be rejected, to fail, to be different. Don’t let the joy of your life be robbed from you by anxiety, worry, and fear. Like I said earlier, enjoy it. Enjoy writing and editing and formatting (yes, even formatting). Enjoy publishing and designing and marketing (oh yes, especially marketing). Enjoy making $1 a month or $100 a month. Enjoy making 7 friends or 1 reader. Whatever stage you’re at, whatever road you’re taking on your journey, enjoy it. Savor it. Have fun, and be thankful for every step you take!

Work Hard & Research Harder

You know, some of us (*coughs* me) kind of expect things to just happen. To come about at there own time and fall perfectly into place without any effort on our part.

In a perfect world, maybe. But not in reality. To get somewhere, you’ve gotta walk there. To find something, you’ve gotta search for it. To accomplish something, you’ve gotta do it.

It’s literally that simple, so remember that even though it’s fun to just play around and procrastinate, and even though it may seem easy to just up and start something one day, you have GOT to work at it. Moreover, you have GOT to do your research!

Want to publish a novel? Write one. Want to sell 100 books? Market them. Want to gain 1k followers? Start posting.

See what I mean? Y’all take this as your motivation this month to just do it. Put the pedal to the metal (or, in our case, the fanny in the chair) and get to work! Outline and plot and prep. Write and edit and format. Read and read and read some more. Learn and study and research.

You’re never gonna make it to your destination if you don’t actively move forward. That’s the major mistake I made: I jumped into writing and publishing like I already knew everything, like it’d be a breeze and everything would fall into place.

Wrong! I should have (1) done as much research as I could before even jotting down my first word (maybe then I would’ve known how to indent paragraphs) and (2) worked hard and put serious time and effort into doing the absolute best I could rather than half-tailing it then calling it quits.

Trust me. You will not regret actually devoting time and effort to your work. You will not regret researching and learning. You will not regret trying (and therefore failing) and working hard on all you do.

Long Story Short…

Let’s face it: this post should have been named “mistakes I made that you shouldn’t.” But that’s no fun.

So what have we learned today, kids? (Kidding again! But…kinda also not…again. *chuckles*) So very many of y’all have these AMAZING callings and commissions to fulfill, so many inspiring gifts and talents to share with the world, so DON’T look down on yourself because of your age, lack of time and resources, busyness, tendencies to procrastinate—none of it! Don’t be afraid to dive in and start learning and growing as authors—and as people. Don’t fear failing or crashing and burning—instead, remember that your author journey isn’t just a long stretch of highway; it’s full of hills and valleys and rocky cliffs and oceans to cross and skies to soar through! And in every season and every leg of your journey, you’re preparing for something even greater, for an awesome destination you’ll reach through hard work and dedication—a prize that will be worth it if you just keep your focus on what matters most!

Remember who you are, what you’ve been called to do, and why you do it! That is how you make the most of your hobbies and daydreams. That is how you achieve great things and reach epic goals. Not through algorithms and routines, but through good old-fashioned trusting in God and letting Him guide you through all you do!

Y’all let me know down below what piece of advice spoke to you the most! What do you need to start doing to reach your goals and make your dreams reality? Has anyone ever looked down on you, especially because of your age? Have you ever made mistakes that you wish you hadn’t? I’d love to read y’all’s thoughts in the comments!

PS: There is absolutely a reason for mistakes. Remember that trying and failing I talked about? Some of us make those major mistakes or botch things up so that we can share our dos and don’ts with y’all—and even though I know I should have done things differently, I also know that God has worked in and through all my stupid choices to make something wonderful, so I ain’t complaining, and neither should you!

PPS: I totally should’ve thrown something about positive thinking into this post (because it’s also super important). Darn. I need to write a couple more in this vein…I just do.

PPPS: Also, while you’re down there commenting, let me know if I missed anything or if there’s anything else y’all’d like me to write about! If y’all beg hard enough, maybe the girls will let me come on and guest post again! *winks*

Grace A. Johnson is a teenage Christian fiction authoress, book reviewer, and avid reader. She lives in beautiful (but humid) South Georgia, surrounded by farmland and forestry, with her parents and six younger siblings. She has written four novels, three of which are published, and a smattering of short stories and novellas, which you can find on Amazon. She’s also a homeschooler who loves learning about history, linguistics, art, and the world around her. You can find her on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, or blogging on her website at www.graceajohnson.com. Join her for a virtual cup of tea and a free preview of her debut novel when you sign up for her e-newsletter!

Issabelle Perry is a proud Jesus follower, an extroverted writer, and a homeschool graduate. When she's not writing, you can find her reading, jamming to Skillet, studying history, hunting for Narnia in wardrobes, or envisioning herself wielding a magnificent sword (but due to her clumsiness, let’s hope that never happens). This self-proclaimed exclamation mark enthusiast can be found hanging out at Teen Writers’ Nook, a community of teen authors Issabelle co-founded in 2020. She is the author of Don't Let Me Go (Sky's the Limit Press 2024), May We Make Them Proud (2023), and a co-editor for two anthologies. What she’s probably doing right now is fangirling about her favorite books to random people or scanning the pantries for chocolate.


  • Issabelle Perry

    Girl, I LOVED this post. ❤ Honestly, I really needed this encouragement myself. And I love the “see the book, be the book.” That should totally be your new motto. XD Haha, and there’s no begging necessary, cuz you know you’re welcome over here anytime, sister!!! <33333 THANK YOU for guest posting!!!!

  • Joelle Stone

    This is FANTABULOUS. Seriously, Grace, how do you do it?!?!? Oy.

    To answer the question, your advice on not looking down on yourself because you’re young kinda hit hard. I tend to do that (and procrastinate, and flinch away from those starving artist conversations, and watch too much random YouTube (tho to be fair I can use FBI training in my stories so HA XD), and compare, and not do my research, and all the stuff that we should not be doing).

    Thank you for this post. I needed it this morning. 🙂

    • Grace A. Johnson

      Girl, you are too kind!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post!! 😀

      (Haha, there is a place for binge-watching YouTube. XD) But I’m glad this could be an encouragement to you!! Thanks so much for reading!! <333

  • Mary

    Wow! Loved the words: “Here’s the thing: your goal is not to finish a novel or have a completely original story. It’s to be who God has called you to be and do what He has called you to do. He called you to write, so write!” ❤️

    Ack, also, I super feel the “just do it” part. Most days it feels like I have no time to write…but if I seriously just did it, I would. Same with blogging, which I’m trying to get myself back doing. It confuses me sometimes how I can love both writing and blogging so much and yet go months without doing either…

    Also, has anyone ever looked down on me, especially because of my age? *sighs*, yes, all the time. I’ve certainly had people think that, due to my young age, I had no idea what I was talking about when I was giving out writing advice on my blog. To be fair, I started blogging at 12, but it took a long time of studying and giving out writing advice before it convinced people I actually knew what I was doing.

    Anyway, SUPER AMAZING POST, Grace!!!

    • Grace A. Johnson

      So glad you loved that, Mary!!

      GIRL ME TOO. I totally understand. But like they say, consistency is key, so even if you only manage four words every day, making a point to sit down and, yes, just do it, will make a HUGE difference!!

      Aww, girl, some people just assume that age equals experience – and sometimes it does, but not all the time! I published my first novel at thirteen, so I feel ya!! You just keep doing what you are called to do!

      THANK YOU!!

  • Gemma

    Such an amazing and inspiring post! (Now I’ve got to go do some research on publishing…..) Well my next step in my writing journey is editing. So I’m one step closer to publishing.

  • Katja Labonté

    This is a great post, Grace! First off, it’s super well written and I love all the humour. XD And you have some great advice here that I’ve learned now and wish I knew when I was younger. Or maybe I still need to hear it… anyways, one of my biggest mistakes was trying to handle my writing by myself and not giving it to the Lord, which, *coughs* He is still working on, so… Right now, I’m just working on cranking out words and trusting Him for the publication process, so I guess I am learning? XD

  • K.R.Mattson

    OF COURSE I’ve made mistakes I wish I hadn’t. Letting my emails pile up until there’s over fifty in my inbox is one of them😜. But all we can do is pick up and move on. Or at least…thats what I tell myself.

  • Saraina

    AHHHH THIS WAS SO ENCOURAGING!!!!!! Thank you SO much for this, Grace!!!! <333 Hehe, I've definitely made a lot of mistakes I regret, but instead of the things you regret, I wish I had actually put myself out there more, rather than writing stories and letting them sit there. (Like, I neeeever would have imagined I'd be getting published before I became an adult!) But that did serve a purpose, I guess! But anyway, thank you again for this post!!! 😀

    • Grace A. Johnson

      AHHHH THIS WAS SO ENCOURAGING!!!!!! Thank you SO much for this, Grace!!!! <333 Hehe, I've definitely made a lot of mistakes I regret, but instead of the things you regret, I wish I had actually put myself out there more, rather than writing stories and letting them sit there. (Like, I neeeever would have imagined I'd be getting published before I became an adult!) But that did serve a purpose, I guess! But anyway, thank you again for this post!!! 😀

      AHH THANK YOU GIRL!!! My pleasure!! <333 Hey, all of it certainly does serve a purpose, and God can make something amazing out of our mistakes!! You are so welcome! Thank YOU for reading! <33333

  • Corrie.S.P

    How are there not more comments on this page already!
    Mwhahaha! Totes to me for being the first!
    (Issabelle don’t count since this is partly her site)
    I wanna have a time machine😢😭

    Hehe, I am pretty tall, taller than most of my friends and some of them match me in height. So I look down at them to talk. But yes, I have been looked down on for wanting to help, or asking a question, or whatever silly thing it is because of my age. It is getting a little better now that I’m older. Still, at 8 I had the same mindset of helping and wanting to be involved and people did not let me. It sucks but at least I can comfort myself with the fact that even in Bible times young people were being looked down on.

    Ahh yes, the ripe old age of 16. I am only 15 soo….. Practically 90 years old. (side note, I crochet, and read Agatha Christie and wear nightgowns and showercaps. So my family teases me about being 18) But I get it. Don’t wait to help and do what God is calling for. Do it now! Like how now I am a helper at a youth group. I run blog stuff. Latta yatta yah…..ect…
    PS: My time in waiting rooms is filled with reading my current novel that I’m working on.

    See the book, be the book! I actually laughed. I do feel that way when reading though. I can only imagine being a writer is the same. Even when I’m writing essays I try to “be the school, be the essay”.

    I did not know how many times do not be afraid was in the Bible. 365! (the number of days in a year!) I’m suuuree God did not make it that way so we could have a helpful message every day… yep… nothing to it.. (in case you are wonder I’m sure He did! God has a pattern and design in everything!!!) I mostly suffer from stress fears.

    Hard work! The backbone of civilization. Also, Girl!!! You have gotta tell me how to indent paragraphs!! I still have no clue!

    Y’all let me know down below what piece of advice spoke to you the most! What do you need to start doing to reach your goals and make your dreams reality? Keep at them positively. Being negative won’t get me anywhere! (also, I’m pretty sure my 6 paragraph essay up there tells you what I took away from this😂)
    Has anyone ever looked down on you, especially because of your age? Yep! But I also miss being small. It got me into neat places. Like how one time we were at the capital lobbying for a bill and Governor DeSantis was there speaking and my wittle kidness got me to bypass the red ropes to get closer pictures of him for our trip shots. I only got 3 blurryish photos of him though because I got bored…… (later my dad made fun of how I got three blurry pics of him and 4 good ones of a chiwawa(i’m sure I spelled that wrong) in somebody’s office🤣🤣 What can I say? I had priorities!
    Have you ever made mistakes that you wish you hadn’t? Besides the forementioned Chiwawa incident? I have made quite a few! Who has not?

    PPS: I’m think this is the longest comment I’ve ever wrote!

  • Grace A. Johnson

    IKR! It’s amazing! XD

    Aww, yeah. I understand. YES! From David to Jeremiah, many of those whom God used in a mighty way were so young!

    Haha, girl, I feel ya! I do all of that too – except instead of crocheting, I bake bread. XD And my granny glasses don’t help. LOL! EXACTLY!
    PS: Sounds a LOT better than old magazines! XD

    XD It is, yep!

    YES! Oh, yeah, totally a coincidence. LOL! Aww, same, girl! *hugs you*

    ABSOLUTELY! XD Oh, just hit the tab key at the end of your computer keyboard. So simple, yet so difficult. I would use the spacebar back in the day. XD

    Ahh, yes, that’s a good one!! (Haha, it certainly helps. XD)

    BAHAHAHA!!! I love that story, girl. XD

    PPS: I think so too! Kudos, girl!

    • Corrie.S.P


      Samuel too! It’s most popularly know that he was 12 but we don’t know for sure. He is my favorite Bible person!

      I bake bread sometimes. But I prefer to make other baked goods such as cookies and Cinnamon Rolls.

      *accepts hug*

      The TAB KEY!!!Gosh darn it! So easy!!!!! I use the spacebar too😂

      Yep hilarious🤣 I’m still teased about it.😂😂

      PPSS: Maybe, maybe not😏 Time shall tell!

  • Rylie

    Thank you so much for this post, Grace! Writing is currently a hobby and I probably will never get big or published but I don’t really care since I just enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t put effort into it. I can’t be afraid of rejection, because I will grow. Sometime… In the next who knows how long. lol Nano’s actually helping me, because if I actually end up writing 50K, I feel like i could do anything. lol Anything is a possibility as long as I find the right story.
    People have literally looked down on me bc i ain’t even 5 ft but idk about age.. maybe… I personally want to rush into planning my future so maybe i look down on myself because of my age. *shrugs*
    Ya i’ve made lots of mistakes i regret.. lol the lists to big to count them all and i don’t really want to remember stuff like that. lol
    Thank you again for the wonderful post!!

    • Grace A. Johnson

      You are so welcome, girl! Thank YOU for reading!! Well, my advice does go for anything you are led by God to do, but you’re right! Whether you write as a hobby or a potential career, you should do it to the best of your ability, as if working for the Lord and not for men! 😉

      And I’m so glad to hear NaNo’s helping!! YES! Anything is possible with the right story, and I know you’ll find it! (Or, of course, a certain retelling idea might just be it!)

      LOL! You and me both, girl!

      Haha, of course!

      My pleasure! <333

  • Emma

    Ahhh this was a wonderful post, thank you SO much Grace!!!! It was super encouraging for me and I learned some really helpful, eye-opening things (especially in the Prepare Yourself section) <33 Hehe I have totally made mistakes that I wish I hadn't…when it comes to writing I think one of the biggest regrets was not starting sooner when I was younger and had more time to write and learn the craft. I don't have as much free time now but hey, I'd rather still have a little time to write than none at all, so I'll take what I get. XD

  • Faith Quelle

    First, I loved the VeggieTales quotes. Just sayin’. You can always tell a homeschooled kid…


    I started NaNo early and I’ve been working hard (and falling behind) and getting freaked out about hitting the date I set for myself… but I forgot about the fun and the joy in writing. I forgot why I fell in love with this character and had to share his story. I forgot what made this story unique and wonderful.

    So thank you SO STINKIN’ MUCH for sharing this post with us. *gives polite hug* I needed it so bad… and I know God put me here to read it. Especially since it’s late and I’m not making my goal again tonight… yeah. I need this post. *gives sheepish grin*

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