Our reporter shows young and aspiring writers what’s really important.

On October 16, our Japanese-language reporter Mr. Sato was invited to be a guest speaker at a special class of the liberal arts department of Nihon University College of Art. As someone who never went to college, having jumped between part-time jobs after graduating from his vocational high school, he felt immensely honored to be specifically invited by a professor with experience in writing.

What did he have to say, and how did he feel speaking to the youth of today? Let’s hear from the man himself.

Write, Write
by Mr. Sato

I’m not much for sophisticated public speaking, but I had one thing I really wanted to convey to the students, and that was, “If you try, you can do it.” Those students are far more brilliant than I am, so I wanted them to know that as long as they didn’t give up, they could achieve anything.

Prior to the class, I thought back on where I was when I was the same age as those students. When I was 19 and 20, my thinking was really twisted (and you can still see hints of that today). People didn’t like to be around me; I just wasn’t happy. In today’s terms, you might even say that I had a mental illness.

Because I was young, I didn’t think of myself as reliable. I doubted myself constantly, and every day I faced the fact that I had no idea how to live. In other words, I felt completely powerless. I believed that, no matter what I did, I would never become myself, and I absolutely hated myself for being that helpless.

Every second of every day, from the time I woke up, to the time I went to sleep, I hated myself.

Many of the adults in my life would simply tell me the same things over and over again. “You’re overthinking it,” they said, or “Stop worrying about it.” I hated that too. I even thought everything would be fine if I just disappeared. If that’s not depression, then I don’t know what is.

The one thing that offered a tiny modicum of support was writing. When I was in high school, I had a vague dream of becoming an author, but for my depressed self, that dream was a crutch, the only thing keeping me moving.

This was in the late ’90s, when the Internet wasn’t widely available yet, so I would spend every day recording how I felt on paper. This was the outlet for my pent-up feelings. I filled multiple notebooks with my thoughts. No one would ever see them, but I kept writing, writing, writing.

“You’re overthinking it,” the adults would say to me, and I know now that was their way of trying to be nice, but at the time, I could only think of them as annoying. But there was one adult I really respected, the owner of a certain bar who listened to me, who heard the things I said underneath my vulgar, childish words.

He would often tell me, “Just do it.” If you want to do it, just do it. I think that was his philosophy. And I don’t know if I can describe how it felt to tell someone how I felt without being interrupted and disagreed with. “Just do it” became my new crutch.

It’s been 30 years, and now I’m one of the adults. And what’s more, I’ve been invited to take up the podium as a guest speaker at a university.

Many of the students in the class dream of becoming authors. The class itself is about the craft of writing, so I didn’t think there was much that I could say that would really be useful to them. But even so, writing is something close to me, so I decided to do my best to have something practical to say.

For example, I told them that “small discoveries and realizations are key.” Don’t allow yourself to think of them as stupid and discard them. Hold them in high esteem. I believe that, in this age of information, anything overlooked, no matter how small, has value. I asked them to always keep that mindset.

I also made sure to tell them that any experience they have while they’re young will be useful later in life. In this day and age, you never know when you might lose your job. That applies to me too. If I happened to lose my job, I know that I can go back to the things I did before (like bartending, security, deliveries, and temporary work).

Without experience, you’ll hesitate to try. Becoming unemployed in my forties and fifties and trying to find new work in an unknown world is difficult, but not impossible. Whether or not they choose to hire me, it’s a strong comfort to know I have places (jobs) to fall back on.

“You’re going to keep on experiencing new things,” I said. “So I want you to experience as much as you can.” Whatever you do is a bonus. You can’t get the time back, so if you want to do something, do it. Don’t look back and think “I wish I’d done that.”

There was one final thing I told them: try to earn some money with your writing, even just a little. When you earn money, you gain responsibility. You should be able to make strides in this world if you write what you like how you like it. And even if money isn’t everything, taking on responsibility lets you open up your world. Feel that pressure as you send your writing out into the world. I’m sure you’ll see far more of the world than you see now.

You might not know who you are yet, or what you want to do. You may have no idea. Maybe you don’t know how to get your dream job, either, or even if you have the courage to put your work out there. Even so, as long as you don’t give up, you should be able to achieve what you want. I had a vague dream of becoming an author, but even though I’m not an author, I get to work as a writer. If I can do that, you can do so much more.

Just do it, whatever it is.

Write. Write. Keep writing.

Not much for public speaking, he says! Mr. Sato has proven once again that he can inspire the masses. Hopefully his words have encouraged you, too, even if your dream isn’t to be a writer.

If you or someone you know is in Japan and having suicidal thoughts, there are people here to help. Click here for more info.

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