Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Big 4 - 0

The Big 4 - 0... 40... XL... Forty... No matter how you say it--you still end up with the same amount.



And in six short months, I'll be there. Is that so bad? There are a lot more numbers after forty than before it, right?

The problem is, unlike my two amigos, I have yet to produce a tome. A chunk-o-pages. A pile-0-leaves.

A novel.

Short stories I have aplenty--and some of them published, even. But nary a novel.

Ink has three or four sitting in drawers. I'm sure he'd loan me one but it wouldn't be the same. And there it is...40...staring me down.

You read about how (insert famous author's name) wrote five novels by the age of (insert insanely low number) and it's easy to get discouraged. But they didn't have daughters eleven and nine years old, and a rabid Jack Russell terrier gnawing on their toes whilst they wrote... Or did they?

Oh well. Forget about losing a few pounds. Forget about volunteering at the local food bank. Forget about helping a few more ole ladies cross the street this upcoming year. You know what my resolution is. June 30 is highlighted on my calendar and I sit poised amongst a pile of index cards, notepads and sundry other instruments of fiction creation.

I wonder though... Am I the only one who feels the press of TIME and AGE in my writing? Or am I just being a little neurotic?


L. T. Host said...

Hi Bookworm :) We don't really know each other yet, but I wanted to pitch in and say I can definitely assure you that you are not alone. *I* feel pressure too, and I'm 25. I think a lot of it ends up being about the expectations you have for yourself, though. You hear about other famous authors, and you feel like you have to live up or it will never happen to you. Me, I feel a lot of pressure to make something of myself.

Maybe 40 will just be a good year to finally write that novel you've been thinking about?

Ink said...

Oh, I don't think you're alone, Book. Things never work out quite as expected.

I did my BA in Creative Writing, and then my Masters and then after another degree I got out of school and signed with an agent for a novel I'd written. It was all so fluid, all so A, B, C. I'll do this, and do this, and this, and bingo! There I'll be. Seems so easy.

Then the agent died. And my father died. And I'd just gotten married and started a family, and was changing careers to start a new business... suddenly nothing was quite what it had been. I put that one book aside (partly from burnout and a need to change, a need for my writing life to reflect my real life, needing that sense of newness and renewal) and wrote some new things.

A much more circuitous path, and one I hadn't expected... and didn't entirely know how to navigate. But I like to think that in the end I'm better for it, and my writing is better for it. Sometimes I have that feeling of lost years, that I've taken too long (one of my gradeschool friends publishing a book didn't help, lol), but in truth I like where I am now. It's always the road in front of me that draws me onward. So many places to go. And still time to find them.

Donna Hole said...

Nice to meet you Bookworm. I'm new to this blog since the last time you posted.

But no, you're not alone in feeling the press for time. I didn't even START writing until I was - well lets just say I've waved byebye to 40. I have a new milestone in my life, and lucky for me it's still 13 years away. I will be published with something - well a novel, hopefully; surely a few short stories would have at least been published in a non-paying e-zine by then.

I haven't got the trick of ignoring distractions though, revising and searching out agents can be just as daunting as writing the novel itself. Once you sit down with your idea, I'm sure you'll find the words come.

Pay off the daughters with money for the mall, find a better chew toy for the dog . .

I know, easier said than done. Life just gets in the way. You'll make it work, I'm sure.

Bryan: Wow, thanks for the life story! Always interested in knowing how people got where they are today. Sounds like you've had an interesting journey. Your attitude is very inspiring. Thanks again.

Happy New Year everyone.


Susan Quinn said...

My younger brother turned 40 this year. He convinced me that the counting should start over at 40. By his reckoning, I'm a preschooler, still learning to put pen to paper and fascinated by the light switch. Sounds about right. And you are a brand spanking new baby, full of hope and promise and potential.

Feel better now?

I feel the press of time, but it's more akin to the impatience of youth - I want it now! - than the fear of the Reaper. Maybe it's the post-40 liberation. Or maybe it's hard-wired. My sons six, eight and eleven are impatient for me to finish those books, too.

I have a slew of resolutions, being a hyper-planner, but the most important one I stole: Don't compare your path to another writer's path. Only you can travel your path, and only you can write from it. It's what makes you unique. Own it.

Happy New Year!

p.s. Ink - I'm sorry your path has been so rocky. But I know great things will spring from it.

Fiona said...

I'm 41, and 40 came as more of a shock to me than I anticipated. I've always been a kind of 'ignore the numbers' person, and I don't feel 40+ in the slightest.

Perhaps I feel a bit cheated as well, because a lot of my 30s were consumed by illness and crappy jobs, so I've not quite worked out where that decade went.

But I'm alive (far better than the alternative), have my own house, my huge garden, my animals, secure employment, two novels under revision...really, it's probably a life that 95% of the world's inhabitants would envy.

I think your 40s is the time to really achieve - success when you know what you want and have the maturity to handle it.

D.M. Bonanno said...

I'm kind of with you, somewhat. ;) I'm turning 35 in six months, and while 30 didn't bother me, this one does, only because I'm not where I'd hoped I'd be with my writing for the same reason: I took time out to have children and a life. Other writers can all that together. I can't. So you are NOT alone. Just make sure it doesn't drag you down: use it to spring you forward. :) Good luck with this writing year!

Ms Kitty said...

Hey, the big 40 is only a number. I'm looking down the barrel of the big 50, and you know what? It's just a number.

Two years ago I found Forward Motion. A year ago, I finished my novel. I've spent the last year learning how to market it.

In all honesty, when I read a lot of novels I get the feeling that the author has not lived enough to tackle the subject. The work lacked depth and scope, two things that only experience can bring to the writer.

The great thing about the years after 30 - you appreciate life much more than a tween-ager.

You have much more to bring to the table.

Bookworm1605 said...

Hmmmm, great comments and advice.

Writing's a head-game, like sports or any worthwhile endeavor I suppose. I'm trying to juice myself up. Stoke the fires. Bait the beast, so to speak. And it's working.

Since this posting I've resucitated my first love (novel idea, that is), built my main characters and formed an entire planet from the primordial vapors. Thanks to everyone for goading me along.

40, here I come.

Mira said...

In this youth oriented culture, there's a very well-kept secret, which is that as you age there is a definite trade-off. You gain as much, if not more, than you lose.

For what you lose in physical agility, energy and beauty, you gain in skill, depth, power and wisdom.

Getting older is a good thing. Again, this culture is totally screwed up about it, so we get the opposite message, but there is great value in age and experience.

Which is good - right? :) Since it's not like any of us have a choice.

All those bumps in the road and frustrating life experiences, and painful disappointments, trials and tribulations will add to your writing, not take away from it.

So, maybe your novel that you publish in your 40s will do handsprings around the one you would have in your 20s. That's not to denigrate the freshness and passion of youth, at all - we need both - but we all have our own path, and maybe yours needed time to ripen, like a very good wine. :)

That said, happy birthday! :)

Anonymous said...

Bookworm, enjoy 39. You may not reach 40. My son didn't.

And I'm 82 and self-publishing my "first" novel. And believe me it ain't easy--just ask poor Ink who's the horse pulling my sled through all the high snow drifts!

Enjoy your life and the book will eventually get written without your having to look back and say: Where'd my girls go, where's the dog? The rest of the things I loved that I sacrificed for this d---novel? I'm not hiding but since I don't have a Google acct. I have to use anonymous. [Renee]Ink can identify me.

Tara said...

Your post makes me smile and laugh. I was supposed to die at the age of 32 when life smacked me down with a fatal cancer. But I rose up and fought back. I was too young to die, and my childhood dream to become an author had not yet come to fruition. Besides having young children. Who likes to leave messy unfinished business? Now at the ripe old age of 36, I look at 40 and laugh. So it looms on the horizon... it's part of that wonderful circle of life for all of us if we're lucky. You see folks buying black tombstone candles and black balloons when they plan 40th Birthday bashes. Me, I'm gonna celebrate. Getting gray hair, hitting the big 40, having more time to savor life and write that stellar novel- it is all a badge of honor; it means we're still alive and yet have the opportunity to make our dreams come true. So hop to it, keep writing. 40 or not, make those dreams happen. Life may have gotten in the way of tidy lists and plans, but life sweetens with age and all that wisdom and insight will make your masterpiece all the more flavorful... :)