Somewhere I have a book of Judith Viorst’s poems. In one of them she laments that she is getting older without having achieved anything wonderful. The last line is about how nobody will ever say “And she did it so young!”
There are days when I think if I hear about one more Bright Young Author who, at twenty-seven (or twenty-two or nineteen-this-coming-Friday), is about to publish their third book, or even their first, I’ll wither up with envy. As I’m not generally an envious person (I have other sins), this is Very Bad For Me. But the truth is, we aren’t all Wunderkind. Some of us are – um, whatever the German is for old people who do well. Wundergeezer, perhaps.
The truth is that when I was young, I’d have been a terrible writer. I was a terrible writer. Even if I’d written a book – and I did – it wouldn’t have been worth publishing. Oh, no, it wasn’t. And it has deservedly disappeared into the void, and you’d have to pay me a real lot to even think of resurrecting it.
I have decades of experience and study behind me, reefs and mountain ranges of interest and accumulated trivia, if not wisdom. I didn’t have that in my twenties, and I believe that that’s part of the reason that I’m a good writer now and wasn’t then.
The other reason is that I’ve had time to learn not only the craft of writing, but a host of other transferable skills, like self-discipline, diligence, persistence, the ability to meet deadlines, the value of reworking something until it was right, or at least the best it could be. I learned these skills through printmaking and pottery and manuscript illumination and running my own business. I learned them through working in offices and retail stores, through spinning and weaving and knitting and embroidery. I learned them through training my dogs and keeping a rather strange assortment of pets. Oh, yes, and voracious reading.
So I arrived in my middle thirties at a place where I was willing to dare to submit a piece of humour to a magazine. There are writers who arrived there in their mid-teens. Good on them. I wasn’t ready then. The editor who bought that piece told me I had a lovely writing voice – I think that has, in the end, meant more than the cheque I received for the work.
Instead of being in my twenties or thirties with a writing career ahead of me, I’m in my fifties. Over the hill, some may say. Not worth the run for the years I have left, maybe. Wotthehell, let’s throw in that soul-killing phrase, “Too late”.
I don’t believe it. I’m just getting started. I have a lovely writing voice and stories still to tell, and as long as I can hoist my geriatric butt into a chair and poke the computer keys with my arthritic fingers,I’m gonna tell them.
Over the hill, you may say, indeed. But that means, of course, it’s a downhill run from here. Woo-hoo! Gravity is on my side.
Wundergeezers Unite and Write! Even if you have to whack the keys with your cane!