The Living

“At first sight experience seems to bury us under a flood of external objects, pressing upon us with a sharp and importunate reality, calling us out of ourselves in a thousand forms of action.”  ~Walter Pater

There is a moment in every woman’s life, where she’ll realize that she isn’t the young woman that she once was. There is a face that she’ll always expect when she looks in the mirror, regardless of what is there in reality. This might hold true for men as well, but since I’m not a man, I can’t very well assume. That moment, for me, came this past saturday. I was dressed up in a fur bikini for a photo shoot, traipsing around Flat Rock park on crutches, when it hit me: I’m too old to be doing this. It  might have been the shot where I was told to lie down on the rocks that did it. Whatever it was, I suddenly felt less like a contestant on America’s Next Top Model and more like Janice Dickinson:  Waaaaay past my prime.

Per usual, this got me thinking about how I’ve changed as an author, how experience and time affect my abilities and my confidence. We reach a stage where we question everything about ourselves…and this stage often brings fear with it, which in turn erects a writers’ block. We see black balloons and feel like the luster of our youth is forever behind us. We’re sort of bitter, sort of experienced, sort of terrified. We’re bombarded with everything from everywhere—blogs, news articles, commentary, societal pressure, internal pressure…a thousand voices all at once.

That’s when we’ve got to step back, take a breath, and regroup. We have to shut our eyes and our ears to everything going on around us and listen to the writing—to that ever present being inside of us that will still be able to channel a 20 year old even when we’re 97 because it’s what the story has asked of us. That being, our voice is immune to the effects of time. I don’t mean that it doesn’t change as we mark the years off of our proverbial calendar. But, it changes like we do…we’re still us. I will always be me, no matter what I go through…I will never be anyone else. No matter how hard I try…

Your voice will always be yours and yours alone.

I came home and washed the make-up off, sat on my couch and had a good laugh at myself. I have been thinking a lot about age lately, and family and what it all means in the grand scheme of things. Everyone likes to ask me when I’m going to have children, when I’m going to “start a family.” I have a family and we’re complete just as we are. I’m not saying that I’ll never raise children—it’s in the cards, I’m sure. But until that moment comes, we’re still a family. Nothing is missing. Our writing is no different. If you’re unpublished, the question is always, when are you going to get published? Once you’ve accomplished that, the next question is, when are you going to make a movie? As if writers whose books are sold as movie rights actually make the movies. Still, you get the drift. Aging, life, writing, it’s all the same. Everything is in stages and the world will forever be on your case about what you’re doing next and how. You’ve got to ignore this and learn to listen to yourself again. Remember that post from awhile back, Evergreen? This is what I was talking about. No matter where you are in the process, nothing is missing. It’s the being—the living–that matters, not your surroundings. You are a writer. Period. Nothing else about your ‘career’ matters at the end of the day. Not fame. Not fortune. Not accomplishments. You don’t need any of the things that society has told you that you need in order to “succeed” as an author.

Live…write…because what you do need, what we all need, is truly limited: time. And there will never be enough to say it all, so say what you can…pen the worlds that you can…and pray you’ve time enough to get onto paper all the important bits. At the end of the day, fame, fortune and accomplishments won’t have gained you one more second to write. Isn’t that why we’re doing this to begin with? Because we love it? Yes. It is. And our living is the proof of it.

So live already…

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13 responses

  1. Write or die, I always say. It’s the way I can spot the dabblers from the writers. Both are having fun, but the writers, the real writers, burn with an intensity that gets words out of the head and onto the screen. They have to write or they simply wither and fade.

    Oh, and yer still smok’n hot.

  2. Gawd woman, you know I have been on a ledge more times than naught. I see myself and all I see is age.

    I am 34. I have more gray hair than my younger sister. I have gray gardens, YES I SAID IT- GRAY GARDENS- for fecks sakes!, That was a shocker, a humbler tumbler to the bar as I say. My brows are even goin gray. WTF!

    But this is what sacres me more than all of the above….

    “Your voice will always be yours and yours alone.” But what if no one is feckin listening?

    I need to live as my lady bits are withering about me.

    I was at an “Erotic Reading” this evening in the armpit of downtown Philadelphia. Flora was there. She is 93 AND sexually active. She had more balls than me to get up and tell, um, sexy stories. And they were feckin sexy.

    Her man is 95.

    THAT IS LIVING.

    There is life after GRAY GARDENS after all….

    Great post JC!

  3. Thanks for this post, JC. I’ve been having this conversation with myself a lot lately – not specifically about age, but about life stages and what the world thinks I’m “supposed” to be doing. I really love the idea about nothing being missing; it seems to tie into the idea that (contrary to popular belief) life is not meant to be lived in a linear fashion. You have to dance through it and backslide and stumble, and learn to enjoy the process. I figure it’s the same way with writing, and that for real writers, doing it is its own reward. Ultimately, you have to do what you do for yourself, not for the world. And there’s no point in trying to view it as a competition or measure yourself according to other people’s standards, because they’re not you.

  4. Very inspirational. I realized yesterday that being published is only one objective that I have with regards to my writing. I have thousands of them, and each one that I achieve makes me grow in some way. I just reached one of them. My mother has always been one of my harshest critics when it comes to my writing (I know – strange, eh?) She doesn’t read the genre that I most commonly write in, did not get past chapter 3 of the first novel of my series (and first complete novel ever.) She begrudgingly got through the first novel of my trilogy but did not ask to see books 2 and 3, even though the story is incomplete without them. Well, yesterday, I finally got an e-mail from her that shows all my struggling, all my practice, and all my perseverance have not been in vain. I finally sent a story to her that she loved – despite the genre. She’s even going to force my father to read it. Goal accomplished!

    Now its on to the next one…

  5. Live. Write. Be Happy. The words I live by. A lot of big things have happened this year for me. I’ve always been thin and this year reality hit me in the face when I realized I had to fight to stay at a consistant weight where I was happy. My motabolism isn’t working the way it use to.

    I swear my daughter has grown to the point where she’s an artist. She makes landscaps, people in them, animals and has all the trappings and bows in place… when did she get old enough to do these things?? My son, well he’ll figure out any addition problem you give him and he’s reading. It also happens to be his first year of school. Gasp! I’m in the excited stage now, but… in a few weeks, I’m sure I’ll be in tears.

    I’ve had people who I never thought would support me in my writing actually look at me like a writer. I decided to try an experiment and printed one of my shorts without my name on it and handed it to a few people I’ve been trying to convince I can write, despite their doubts. As they read through it, all three agreed that the short story was great- and I asked for feedback for my “Friend”. It was all great. There was nothing they would change and they loved the short. When I then admitted it was my own I think they had new eyes for me. It wasn’t one of my fantastical fantasies which they just didn’t understand. It wasn’t one of my nasty horrors, it was more of an “I’m a girl” stories, but to see their eyes open and truly look at me as the woman I’ve become rather than the child I was is a big deal to me.

    My children’s book is out and doing well and I illustrated a book which will be out very soon. I have more plans in the future, for this project or that… it kinda annoys me that people still tell me what to do. My entire family thinks I should focus on my childrens books. Yet my heart lies with my fantasies, even if they can’t grasp what that series means to me. I’m not saying I won’t keep working on my kiddy books, but they’re not where my passion lies, and I want to have my first book in the “Trials” ready for the end of the year. So, despite what other chirp into my ear, I follow my own plan. The one I’ve had writen in my heart for years. The one I made up to suite my needs as a young girl who realized she wasn’t going to collage and opening doors that would make life easier. The young girl who realized she would have to work harder to get her craft where it needed to be and read the “How to books”, watch others, read more, teach myself. It’s the way I’ve always had to do things, and honestly, you don’t have to be published to get the question, “When’s your book going to become a movie?” I’ve had that from more sources than one would imagine considering the book isn’t even finished.

    Yes, there comes a time when you have to step back and stop letting the world dictate who you are and what you’re doing in your life. This is a way of living I can’t even imagine. The thought of having to be or feel as someone different than who I am is uncomfortable… I don’t think dictation of what I’m doing and who I am will be well received from this lady. I am that I am, and that’s all I can be. I’m happy with that. IF I make it into something bigger out in the world, I’m still going to be me. IF I don’t, I’m still happy with what I’ve become. I’m a mother of two beautiful kids trying to make a difference in the world with my actions and words. In some cases I have succeeded. In other I have failed. The point is, I keep trying no matter what. To me, that automatically means I’ve already won. Perhaps it’s just my imagination… perhaps it’s my attitude. I’m not exactly sure. But it’s working for me, so why change despite others not agreeing with my path? I say, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  6. Kaely- I love your statement: Contrary to popular belief life is not meant to be lived in a linear fashion. You have to dance through it and backslide and stumble, and learn to enjoy the process.

    Very powerful and very true.

  7. What a fantastic, inspirational post! I’m trying to envision you in a FUR bikini and then wondering what I would like one lying on rocks and I’m kind of just dying thinking how bad I’d look. Haha. But living is living, as you say, and I’m so happy to be writing and making things happen for myself instead of waiting around for things to happen. And having children doesn’t make you a family, I agree. And I hate that some people think you have to have children to feel “complete.” Yes, they are wonderful, but not right for everyone. I’ll bet your children, if you choose to have any, would be brilliant, beautiful little things. 🙂

  8. Very inspirational, JC. And so very true. Often we get so caught up in the ‘what happens next …?’ that we forget to just WRITE. We feel compelled to be published, the sooner the better, because, after all, it makes us better writers, right? NOT.

    Charli, we all need to stop, ignore everything else around us and just listen, listen to what are muse whispers so seductively in our ear …

    I write so much, and so often, my two year old daughter has to have a pen, pencil or crayon, or her toddler laptop, because she HAS to write.

    Be happy, and write!

  9. Wow, this really said it for me. Unlike you, I have children. 3 of them. And they’ve prematurely aged my body by decades. My breasts sag, my abdominal skin is no longer tight. Worst of all, I have permenant health problems because of it. Not to meantion that the little stinkers make it really hard to work off those last 10 pounds. . .

    It didn’t help that I started at 21.

    Ah, well. Even if I could have my prebaby body back, I wouldn’t do it unless I could take my brain with me. I suppose that’s saying something.

  10. I swear that you wrote this for me. I went through a “mid-life” crisis, truly believing my life near over, back at the beginning of the year. Men feel the same and I believe age affects us earlier on in life because we, men, unlike women, see outward appearences, those bulging muscles or perky breast and smooth skin, before we look inward to ourselves or others.

    You’re right Chancellor, time is truly the only limited thing we have in this world and most of us don’t know what to do with it when we have an extra minute. You can have all the money, fame, love, hatred, happiness, loathing lonliness, or whatever adjective with a noun you can stick here, but what does it matter when time runs out?

  11. A wonderful post, and I couldn’t agree more.

    You might be interested in reading Barbara Sher’s “It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now.” She describes that moment of startlement when you look in the mirror and suddenly realize that the you you’ve always considered to be you – isn’t there anymore. But that it’s all okay, and that life over 40 (I’ve been there for a while now, lol) can actually be more free and more fulfilling than ever before.

    In middle age, people are forced to look at you for being you – not as a cute young thing they can patronize or project fantasies onto. As a woman, actually, that is quite freeing. 😉 And of course – as a writer you always are free, into middle age and beyond, to spin stories and give birth to dreams played out on the page.

    Life only gets better, the further on you go.

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