At some point after I turned 50, I started to ask myself who I would be if I didn’t write. I quickly decided that I’d always write. I love blogging and reviewing books and occassional assignments like the BBC thing are fun. But what if I gave up writing novels? How would I structure my days, what would I obsess about, who would I be in the world?
My questions came about naturally. Combine my age (53) with the book-length manuscripts (12) I’ve completed over 30 years. Add the fact that only one of those is published, and that’s because I had it privately printed. The result is a pretty clear case of “Why the hell don’t I give up already?”
But I don’t want to give up, and before yesterday I could not figure out why. Was I just stubborn? Stuck in unhealthy old patterns? It bothered me. How much productivity in other areas of my life had I missed out on because I’d been so single-mindedly plotting novels all these years? Wasn’t it time, before I died, to put my energy in other places, places that might make a real difference to my life?
I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers in part because I wanted to find proof that I should give up this mad preoccupation or else find the secret to fine-tuning my lack into success. Gladwell makes a compelling case for personal history, plus the time and place one is born into, being as much a part of success as luck, talent, and intelligence. He proved beyond a doubt, to me at least, that a unique mix of these many factors go into any major success story.
Perhaps the stars hadn’t quite aligned for me. Perhaps it was not my fate to be a published novelist.
Notice I say “perhaps.” That’s because I’m not dead yet, and after yesterday it is finally clear to me that I’ll be plotting a novel with my last breath. So that means anything, even a later-in-life career as a novelist, can still happen.
So how did I banish the doubts that have been chasing me for a few years now? I read a timely post by Crawford Kilian eloquently admonishing writers that “Every story you write is first of all a dialogue with yourself, and only after is it a dialogue with your readers. So keep talking with yourself, listen to what your inner writer wants to tell you…”
My inner writer says writing novels makes her happy.