The only friend I kept from high school died today. She was an inspiration, someone who dedicated her career to the fight against domestic abuse. She lived doing what she was meant to, what mattered. It breaks my heart that she’s gone.
I was thinking today how annoying I found it for people to talk about Alan Rickman not being in a movie until he was 42, about how he should never have succeeded because he started that career so late—that your life is supposedly over at middle age. And as annoying as that is, they have a point. Jennifer was 42. My age.
What does this have to do with writing? It’s a wakeup call. People often tell me they’d like to write a book, to do that work. Worse, I know gifted writers who don’t write. They feel called to, but they’re distracted by life, something we can all relate to.
While I disagree completely that you can ever be too old to write, our lives are limited. I finished two books last year, got 30,000 words into another, and got an agent. Still I feel that sense of a ticking clock. Having reached what Arundhati Roy called “a viable, die-able age,” in the God of Small Things, I find I have less and less time for pointless conflicts or fear. There are days when I look at the news, at the political landscape, and wonder if the world holds anything else before I remember that I can’t do very much about that. What I can control is my writing. I can work every day, and it is work, to achieve what I want in my craft and career.
Writing takes an immense amount of time: hours of plotting, brute force hammering, and gentle wordsmithing. It takes pushing yourself to learn two completely disparate skillsets: the craft itself and the networking/publishing side. You have to develop dragon thick skin to deal with rejection, get knocked down by disappointment, and get your ass back on your feet to push on. So why do it? Because when it works, it feels like nothing else. For me, it feels like I’m doing the thing I’m meant to, the work I rise to, the first and foremost point of why I’m here.
Maybe writing is not your purpose, your driving passion, but whatever that thing is that you’ve been putting off, the book you want to write or the life you feel you’re meant to live, the good you want to do, or the change you’ve been needing to make? Go do that now.
“You have your whole life to do something, and that’s not very long.” – Ani diFranco