I hope to avoid making this post either corny or bittersweet, but please forgive me if I'm able to avoid neither perfectly. What I want to do today is simply this: to encourage you to look your dreams and your goals in the eye and then go for their throat.
As someone with an overly complex philosophical and theological outlook, I try not to live with regrets. Except when I'm suffering from exhaustion or general malaise, I usually manage that pretty well. But while I do not regret the choices I've made in my life, I can still encourage others to make different choices. Rather than wallow in memoirs and rambling advice, let me boil down my thoughts for today to points and examples:
If you're young, so what? I know some impressive, productive young people who are involved in writing, such as Tiffany Cole and Golden Eagle, and some who are not much older than them such as Misha Gericke. These writers are energetic and enthusiastic, and I hope every day that they manage to keep up being aggressive. I know when I was in junior high, high school, and even college I often thought to myself, "But who's going to publish a guy who's only ___ years old?" Don't think that way. Just write well. If your writing makes your age irrelevant then, well, your age is irrelevant.
Don't procrastinate. I've written hundreds of short stories. I've probably submitted about a dozen of them. There are dozens more, at least, that are worthy of submission. And most of the ones that have been rejected have only been rejected once -- and are certainly worthy of re-submission. But for much of my writing life I've had this habit of lazy planning. Ugh, I need to find a way to print this, and then I need to get stamps and mail it. Oh, and I need to make a SASE. I'll get to that this weekend. Or, um, next weekend. Or maybe the weekend after. Or... perhaps... never.
Perfection is a goal, not an expectation. So don't wait until you've written something perfect to start submitting. Write something good. Write something of quality. But it's trap to try and wait until you've perfected the craft of writing or until you feel like there's nothing left to improve about a story. No one perfects the craft of writing, and there is always something left to improve about a story.
Health is not irrelevant. Your emotional, physical, and social health are important for your functioning as a productive, creative being. Do not neglect them, even in favor of pursuing of your dream, because when they suffer, your pursuit will suffer, too.
Take the time while you have it. This is a hard one for most people to respond to, because everyone feels busy and you always feel like you have pressures to meet. And you are busy -- and you do have pressures. But life rarely gets simpler between the ages of sixteen and thirty-mumble, and it doesn't look like it gets simpler by forty-mumble or fifty-mumble either. Find ways to maximize the time you have now, because a year from now, you're probably going to have more and more complicated pressures for your time than what you have now.
Be smarter than me. Writing and getting published are challenging enough without creating your own obstacles. So don't do it.