27 Things You Know As A Writer In Middle Age
We know a few things after all these years...
1. You know that writing is not a romantic endeavor. It's a struggle. It's sacrifice. It's not a party and drinking doesn't help. It's real love.
2. You know that it takes a lot of sitting and that leads to back pain. Back pain makes it difficult to sit for a long time. You have to exercise.
3. You know that you just need to write the damned story. Be clear. Write well. Don't worry about being "unique" or "new". You're mostly like other people and a little bit not like them. Both things are good. Just write like you.
4. Unless you're a jerk. Jerks suck. Don't be a jerk in person. It might, however, be okay for you to be a jerk in fiction.
Do people still use the word jerk? Do you remember the Steve Martin movie The Jerk? The one where he feels like he's finally somebody because he's listed in the phone book?
Okay. Just don't be a jackhole. Unless you are writing as one of your characters.
5. You know not to follow rules because you are trying to "write well". Write what works for what you are writing. But spelling incorrectly is embarrassing. So don't do that.
Remember, these aren't rules. These are things you already know. (Because with back pain comes knowledge.)
6. When people tell you that you can't or shouldn't, you know to smile, nod, and tell them to fuck off in your mind. Then ignore them. Only pay attention to the people who tell you that what you are doing is interesting and they want to see more...
7. ...until you are revising. Then look for your cattiest friend who will tell you the truth about everything. (I have one I can loan you.)
8. You know that if you mix it with pickle juice to make it taste better, the wine was not a good deal--even at $2.99.
9. You know that you are not a fuck up. Everyone else wants to do it. You already do. And you probably do it better because you've been doing it forever.
Also, it doesn't matter what other writers are writing. It doesn't matter how successful other writers are. You are still not a fuck up.
10. You know that cheese is easy to eat in large quantities when you have forgotten to eat for twelve or sixteen hours.
11. It's possible to forget to eat for sixteen hours.
12. You know that, after writing fiction for 35 or 40 years, you are probably "good enough."
13. It's not your fault that your characters don't stick to the novel plan.
14. You know that you sometimes have to readjust your grammar and punctuation, because the way you punctuated just fifteen years ago is out of date.
You also know that complex grammar is fun and actually useful. Unfortunately, it does not fly in blogs.
15. Nobody cares. But people care about you.
16. Just... go for a walk. (Unless you live in the desert and it's summer--then invest in a sprinkler, even if you don't have a lawn.)
17. You know to stare at it longer.
18. And that no one is going to give you a standing ovation.
19. Spending time with other writers is energizing. You know to take the opportunity when you get it--as long as it doen't interfere with your writing hours.
20. You have resigned yourself to the fact that your house is messy. It will always be messy.
21. Emotional vampires are not useful. Get rid of them, even if they are lifetime "friends". This includes people who tell you that you are negative. (They're the ones calling attention to negativity, those negative naysayers.) And it includes the people who try to "help" you because you are trying to figure things out. (They are trying to figure things out and projecting on you. You are figuring things out because you're a writer. That's what writers do.) It also includes the people who focus entirely on themselves. (Seriously, you are intereasting, too. They should listen to you occasionally because you're smart and observant and intuitive. If they don't, screw them.)
22. It's good to set a timer for mealtime. Eating three meals a day keeps you from eating cheese at 10pm because you ate nothing but a bowl of oatmeal at 5am.
23. Feeling like you are going insane, like your novel is completely out of control, is good. You know it means you are working through something in your novel and you are almost there. You'll see it in the revision.
24. You know the first revision will be agony.
25. The fourth revision could, possibly, feel like it's finally getting there.
26. You know to live a life beyond writing. You won't have anything to write about if you don't. And you'll lose sensitivity to the things that exist within a life. Be human.
27. You are human. Like everybody else. You're not special, but you do have a weird way of entertaining yourself...