Thoughts from a 12 Year Old Me

As time goes on there are moments you’d like to go back to. Maybe you’d want to just relive them. Maybe you’d want to talk to your younger self and inform them of things to come. Let them know that while there are going to be some chaotic times coming for them, to just hang in there. There are many things I would like to share with my younger self. A version of me in Middle School, having recently moved back to the Atlanta suburbs. Dealing with being in another new school and trying to figure out how this was going to go. I wouldn’t mind talking to him and giving him a glimpse of some things to come (nothing that would mess up the time stream, don’t worry).

Things we all would like to say to our younger selves.

mother is watching

Yet the other day, as I was digging through my email I found something my mother sent me… from that younger version of me. I’m think this is his way of having a little visit with me.

“Ten Guidelines I Would Like to Live By.”

1 – Make the best grades I can.

One of the things I took pride in was being good in school. Up until Middle School the only B I’d ever gotten was in Penmanship (and that was quickly corrected after my step-father spoke with the teacher). This striving came to a head in college when I had made a couple of D’s one quarter and proceeded to doubt my abilities to even make it. Luckily my dad understood exactly what I needed to hear and instead of disappointment from him, I got encouragement.

2 – Be more considerate of other peoples feelings.* (apparently I put the asterisk there, probably denoting a level of importance)

I try to do this. I think I’m more successful than not, but I know there are things I could do to ensure no one thinks I take them for granted (friends, family, co-workers). Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in my own world.

3 – Try my best at doing everything.*

Another one that I still strive for. I think it is something I would like to have in my writing… always getting better, always trying to learn…


4 – Respect elders

That’s one of those from my own parents and grandparents and Aunt and Uncle. It was ingrained at an early age. Something as simple as saying “yes sir” or “yes ma’am”.

5 – Keep organized

Well, you can’t win them all can you…

Actually I am pretty well organized. Following my lovely bride’s example, I worship the Goddess of the To Do List. The thing that eludes me is organizing my time in the most efficient manner. So many distractions (so many more than the 12 year old me could imagine).

6 – Do not vandalize

A very odd one. I’d love to know why this was on the list at all. Not like I did any vandalizing in my youth, and I’m happy to say, as far as I can recall, I’ve never defaced anyone else’s property.

7 – Do not steal

My younger self wouldn’t count Napster as stealing would he? I mean everyone was doing it. How else was a struggling college student going to keep up with all the new music? But I never bothered with Metallica (I had their stuff already).

8 – Do not lie to elders

Tied directly into number 4 above. Again, I think I’m winning this one so far.

9 – Respect other people’s ideas

But what if they are really dumb?

I mean, really dumb? Then it’s OK, right?

As a writer, working with other writers, not only do you need a tough skin to handle criticism, I think you also have to be open to other ideas about your work. You need to be able to use the parts that make the most sense and those that you don’t believe apply… don’t use. But always remember each little note, as painful as they can be, is only going to make you better.

10 -Set goals and keep them

100 times this. I struggle with this, as I think most people do. And I think it is important to do this, but I also think you have to be careful to set realistic goals. Push for things you can control, but don’t beat yourself up about the stuff you can’t. And celebrate your victories, because sometimes they come in bunches, but sometimes it takes a while for the next one to get here.


With all of this, I would like to think, even with my failings, that I’ve made my 12 year old self proud. Just need to shore up some of those I’ve fallen a little short on.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at

Art Advice to my Younger Self

Me, in KindergartenWe all have our own path to follow, but the rate at which we reach various checkpoints in our lives is influenced by our determination, perseverance, and sometimes events we cannot control. I’ll be honest. I’m not where I’d like to be in my life. I try my best not to dwell on that, instead I focus on pushing forward. But here are the facts:

Cancer at 17 (and the fallout after) was out of my control. The health issues that followed after were and are out of my control. They set me back. When I was a senior in high school I didn’t have time to focus on applying to colleges. I was fighting for my life. With or without those obstacles, there are some pieces of advice I wish I could have told my younger self.

1. Don’t let one bad experience stop you from learning and growing.

I had an awful teacher for art in middle school. This woman should not have been teaching, let alone spreading her ugliness to impressionable minds. The experience soured me to art classes. I loved art, but stayed away from classes till my senior year high school, when I needed an easy class I could take while on chemotherapy. When I graduated, that teacher lectured me on not taking art all 4 years–not what I needed either. But it was my choice to let those experiences stop me from growing as an artist. I did eventually get over that chip on my shoulder.

2. Don’t avoid drawing the things that scare you, tackle them head first.

When I was a kid I loved drawing horses and after that any and all animals. I avoided drawing people like it was the plague. I recall thinking, I’ll never be able to drawing a human face. Never. So I avoided doing it and then I took drawing in college and was faced with a self-portrait a week (on top of our regular assignments). I did it and realized it wasn’t the nightmare I thought it would be. I could have saved myself a lot of stress and anxiety if I’d just given it a try earlier.

Micky and I - 1986/87

3. Don’t paint from just the surface of yourself, but from your entire soul.

I’ve always had a passion for nature, fantasy and horror. I grew up on Star Wars, Labyrinth, The Last Unicorn, The Hobbit (animated) as well as, Alien, Terminator and old Vampire films. I spent a lot of time riding horses and wandering the woods in our neighborhood. I kept snakes, salamanders and toads for a day in my aquarium. I loved all these things but for many years my art rarely touched anything fantastic. I’m still not quite sure why fantasy was not part of the equation, but once it was, I felt complete and my art began to be something more. Don’t limit yourself!

The Young Artist in 1985/864. Don’t listen to people that know nothing about art.

We’ve all come across the person on Facebook who feels they have to inject their unqualified opinion into a conversation. Those people exist offline too. Always be careful who you let sway your path. Are they giving you a valid critique or are they toxic? Good advice from a professional is invaluable, but bad advice you didn’t even ask for can set you back.

5. Don’t ever think it’s too late and don’t make the mistake the comparing yourself to other artists.

Everyone seems to be in a race these days. I’m 39 and there are times when I feel anxious that I’m not farther along. But I know a few artists in their 20’s that feel this way too. We spend too much time comparing our art and our careers to our peers. Don’t fall into this trap. It’s never to late to make art your career. Keep pushing ahead. Keep growing. Keep creating.