Sunday, August 17, 2014

You Are Too Old to Think About Writing

Notice I didn’t say that you were too old to write. Or to even begin writing. You’re only too old to waste time considering it.
When I was in middle school, there was no doubt about what I was going to do for a career. I was going to write. I devoured novels like pancakes and kept telling myself that Stephen King couldn’t hold onto his title forever. This passion followed me through high school and into college.
I majored in English, of course. When I wasn’t writing papers for my classes, I was writing short stories about whatever twisted thought leapt into my imagination. I was never without a pad and a pen, working on three or four projects at a time. The novel would come later, I told myself. First I was going to hone my skills with shorter works.
However, as I’m sure you all know, Life tends to get in the way of Art. And that’s what happened to me. I’m not going to go into the details about what happened, but my life took a massive side turn and the passion to create got snuffed out like an extinguished candle.
Forever. Or so I thought.
But to reverse paraphrase the show Once Upon a Time, “Creativity isn’t made, Dearie. It’s born.” And even if you’ve never pursued any type of outlet, that creativity is still there. It’s an itch you can never scratch. A nagging right behind your eyes that makes you occasionally see the world a little differently than everyone else. If you were born with that, it will never truly goes away.
Just because you’ve never started writing, or even if you’ve stopped, the fact remains that you can create.
No matter your age.
Seventeen years. Approximately. That’s how long it was from the day I stopped writing to the day I started again. In those intervening years my imagination never stopped pushing me to create. To build.
To write.
I would tell people about how I used to write. It was a conversation piece. “Oh, I had a short story published once in a magazine.” An ice-breaker. A way to introduce the me of now by making a casual remark to a major accomplishment of the me of the past. As if it were a phase or a fluke.
I used to be a writer.
I missed it. I missed it something fierce. My wife, who only knew of my writing through discussions about my past, encouraged me to start again. I didn’t, of course. I’d wave my hands and insist that was a part of my past. It was who I used to be.
I didn’t want to start writing again because I was Too Old. It was too late for me to take up the proverbial pen and try to create again. So much easier to make an excuse and try to find contentment in the glory days.
I joined a few groups on Facebook. Groups that appealed to me and my tastes; science-fiction and fantasy. Some of them were even artists’ groups, pulling together like-minded creators who shared their art with their fellow members.
One day, there was an open call. One of the members of a group had published a novel and was trying to put together an anthology based in her imaginary world. She solicited in the group’s post that she was looking for contributors. As usual, the thought of taking part occurred to me. Only this time, something changed. This time, I wrote.
I wrote a short story and passed it to her. I didn’t care if she liked it or even wanted to use it. I was more excited about the fact that I wrote it and liked it. It needed polishing and some heavy editing. But the block that had held my imagination prisoner in my own head was broken. The excuses became transparent-thin and meaningless.
And the writing began again.
I wasn’t too old.
And neither are you.
If you’ve always wanted to write that novel, make a record, paint a canvas, compose a poem … do it. Pick up the required instrument and do it. Who cares if it sucks in the beginning? It doesn’t mean a damned thing if you have no idea where it’s going to go. Just create. It used to be impossible for me to believe that anyone born with the spark of imagination could never take the chance and make something from it. Now I know better.
I don’t care if you’re 50, 60, or 90; you’ll be too old to create when you’re dead. And not a moment before. You can turn the thoughts and dreams in your head into something beautiful. Even if you never sell it or achieve fame from it, it is still something of yours. A piece of your soul that you have shaped and put out into the world.
And that, my friends, is what life is truly all about.

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