No crisis, just a – well, a wobble, I suppose. Today I turned sixty. I had a “moment” when I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere with my writing, but then my friends Pauline and Angie – without once rolling their eyes at me – figuratively smacked me up the back of the head and got me back on track. Look, five years ago I didn’t even have a complete novel, only the first draft of one. Now I have two complete novels, a small but steady list of clients, and two regular humour columns. I remember when having a single column was merely a wishful thought.
I look at the careers of people who began working on their writing in their twenties or earlier. (I actually knew Tanya Huff when she had one of her earliest stories published, and I treasure my autographed copy.) If I compare my career to theirs, I’m way behind. On the other hand, I spent many years in other arts, such as printmaking and pottery.
Since I only really started taking writing seriously as one of the arts I had to follow in 2006, I suppose I’m not doing too badly at all. Hitting that decade landmark can make you feel as though there are limits on your time. The fact is, there have always been limits on your time. Hell, at one point in my life I was dead sure I’d never see sixty. Now I’m hoping for another twenty years so I can finish up all the books I have in my head, and do some other things I’d like to get at.
I sometimes think I should have been an art nun – that I’ve allowed marriage and other things in life to distract me from being the stereotypical single-minded artist starving in a garret. But it’s life that gives you things to write about, or do any art with. Besides, I read once that only about 6% of nuns are in contemplative orders, and the rest of them are out there dealing with life in the world one way or another.
Because I have two books published (Erik the Viking Sheep, Shepherd in Residence), I am now a mid-career writer. I often think of Daphne du Maurier’s introduction to the first part of her autobiography. “Now, approaching late middle age…” she wrote. The woman was seventy.
Yeah, mid-career, mid-life. Not even approaching late middle age yet.