Writers, Like Fine Wines, Get Better with Age
About a week ago, I picked up my first pair of reading glasses. I like being able to see more clearly, but cautious overcompensation to avoid a collision between the lenses of my glasses and the rim of my tea mug has resulted in tea dribbling down my front on more than one occasion. There is also the fact that the bridge of my nose is a bit crooked (or, maybe it’s that one of my ears is lower than the other), so the glasses sit askew, giving me a slightly crazed and disarrayed look. Not exactly what I was going for.
Though a small part of me laments the fact that my eyes will now likely become dependent on glasses, a larger part of me accepts this development as the mostly benign rite of passage that it is, and also something of a privilege. Still, knowing that my faculty of sight is no longer what it once was is a gentle reminder that I am not, as I sometimes seem to presume, immortal. Time is always passing, and with it the minutes allocated to my life here on this earthly plane slip from present to past and are lost to all but memory.
But, somehow, even in the face of that stark reality, I still giggle at my reflection – crooked glasses and all – staring back at me from my computer screen.
Though sometimes I think I should spend more time lamenting all the things I have yet to accomplish (not to mention the constant discrepancy between my intentions and my actions), the truth is that the older I get, the more I seem able to let go of certain expectations. Even when it comes to writing.
There was a time not so long ago when I could be quite easily discouraged about my writing “progress.” For years, my joke response to questions about my writing aspirations has been that I’d like to be the next J.K. Rowling, only me … and better. The trouble is, I’m not actively working on a novel. In fact, though I did make time to take an excellent class at Grub Street this fall, I haven’t done much fiction writing for a long while. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. (I do!) But, I haven’t yet reached a point where I feel compelled to make the small, personal leap that will liberate more writing time from my otherwise captive days.
This creative inertia left me feeling like a fraud, a failure, and a fool. I felt like I was falling way behind, losing the race. I worried that my best days were behind me and my chances at “success” (whatever that was) were long gone, taunting mirages retreating into the distance. I wondered if I should just give up the whole idea of being a creative writer and surrender to living a more “normal” life.
I still have those days, but more and more I find that I can bear witness to my own evolution with a mostly impartial eye. It is true, I guess, what they say about age bringing perspective. Even though I can still work myself into a minor tizzy about all the things I have yet to do, I feel less and less anxious about meeting specific expectations. I am more willing, I suppose, to accept that I am on an adventure and I cannot (nor should I want to) predict exactly how things will develop or turn out. Even when it comes to writing.
Not long from now, we will all be dangling our legs over the edge of this year, preparing to jump and dive and fall into the New Year. All around us, people will be talking about resolutions, goals, commitments, and visions. We will be tempted to measure ourselves and our passions against fabricated benchmarks and deadlines. The urge to compare ourselves to others and to the vision of “how we thought things would be” is strong. I hope you resist.
Writers do not have expiration dates. In fact, most writers improve with age. We can’t help it. The older we get, the more we understand. The more practice we have under our belts, and the more perspective we gain. As the years go by, we learn how to be more curious, courageous, and creative. We hone our craft. We discover that we are less afraid now to say things that terrified us only a few short years ago.
Time may ravage our bodies, chipping away at our senses and strength, but time also bestows many gifts on the writer’s mind and heart. I am not arrogant enough to think that I will not still suffer moments of regret and frustration about what I have and haven’t accomplished as a writer. I will. But, I am hopeful that I will continue to grow into the kind of writer – and person – who can gracefully acknowledge the true nature of the creative journey and embrace each moment and experience for the treasure it is.
What I’m Writing:
Not much. And that’s the plain truth.
I continued to work on client projects this week, and I’m delving into my Christmas projects; but overall my writing output has been fairly low this week. There are just too many holiday tasks nipping at my heels. And, you know what? THAT’S OKAY.
At this time of year, I’m reminded that though writing is an important, defining part of my life, it is not my whole life. And, in fact, if I were to focus exclusively on writing to the point of missing out on life, I think that’d make me one heck of a boring person (not to mention a poor writer).
So, while the holiday “magic” is whipping up all kinds of chaos and insanity, I am content to put my pen aside for a bit. I will write only the things that need to be written (my column and these weekend editions that I enjoy so much). Any other writing will be done exclusively in my head as I immerse myself, open-eyed, into the season – taking it all in and storing bits away for later writing.
It’s all good. Even when we’re not physically writing, we’re still writers.
What I’m Reading:
Though the busy season leaves little time for pleasure reading, I did carve out a few minutes this morning to enjoy a fairytale by Charles Vess called Father Christmas: A Wonder Tale of the North. Featured on Tor.com, this origin story weaves magic, talking animals, and trolls into a traditional-style fairytale that is full of dark charm and hopeful light. Like the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Father Christmas Letters, which I mentioned in Friday’s post about favorite holiday tales, this story eschews the contemporary leaning towards saccharine characters. Though a Santa story featuring trolls may not appeal to the masses, there is something undeniably true about great beauty and kindness springing from great sorrow and loss.