I have been writing for a very, very long time. It’s hard to put an exact number on it because I literally cannot remember a time that I wasn’t writing. The first story that I can vividly recall was one I wrote as part of a short story competition with my brothers. It was titled, appropriately, “The Competition,” and detailed the troubles of a young girl who was the star of her ice skating team but broke her leg before their big competition. I’m not sure my exact age, although I know I was still living in Wisconsin, so probably 5 or 6. So I’ve got at least 2 decades of writing experience under my belt.
One, writing that makes me feel old. It brings to mind this excellent xkcd which lists the relative ages of keystone movies. “Did you realize The Matrix came out not last decade, but the one before that?” (The comic itself is dated to 2011 which just adds to the sting.)
Two, it makes me feel defeated. The real gutpunch of that xkcd comic is the alt text (the true key to xkcd’s awesomeness, in case you were unaware). “If you’re 15 or younger, then just remember that it’s nevertheless probably too late to be a child prodigy.” I know this sounds silly, but I always had dreams of being a sort of child prodigy when it came to my writing. I finished my first novel-length manuscript when I was thirteen. Sure, it had its problems. But it was my starter novel. I finished my second novel when I was a sophomore in high school. I was fifteen. Surely I had learned from my earlier mistakes. A little editing would make this one salable. I was well on my way to being an astonishing teenaged author of a blockbusting fantasy novel. I would do a book tour that included Conan O’Brien (still on NBC, hosting Late Night) and Oprah.
Well, that didn’t happen. And to add insult to injury, that was right around when Christopher Paolini became famous for being the astonishing teenaged author of a blockbusting fantasy novel. I told myself that my second novel was just a warm-up, and my third novel would surely be The One. Maybe I was too late to be published by the time I was 16, but 20 was still far away.
Turns out I didn’t even finish that third novel until I was 22 (I took a long hiatus!). And as much as I loved it, and as much as I edited it, I never got any nibbles on those queries (it is the one known as “novel 1” here). The third novel went on the back of the shelf. I worked on short stories and other projects and other novels, and eventually I started on what is now “novel 6” (it’s my fourth completed novel ms). And time kept passing by. Now I’m 26, and I am old enough to realize I’m never going to be an astonishing young author. People my age are getting published all the time. And even though I’ve been working on it for two decades, I’m not among them. It’s disheartening and frustrating and insanely stupid to worry about.
I know I’m far from old. But I’m also not young anymore. I’m an adult, and it’s time to follow through on childhood fantasies and make them a reality!