This morning’s craft chapter was all about how no one is ever too old or too young to write.  Sellers talks about how in her writing classes at the college where she teaches, the students are late teens or early twenties and don’t feel like they know enough or have experienced enough to write.  And at conferences she meets folks in their forties, fifties, sixties, or later who feel that they are too old to write.  They they should have started sooner if they want to accomplish anything.

I don’t identify with either of these perspectives one iota.  Starting young (and I did–at 12) is great.  Sure you don’t know stuff.  You learn as you go, as you read, as you write.  You make mistakes–loads of them–and you tend to try and experiment more than an older, more experienced person might.  I don’t get the too old thing either.  Maybe this is because I’m 28 and didn’t wait half my life to start doing the thing my soul yearns to do.  The idea of a perfect age to write is erroneous.  That’s Sellers’ point, and I agree.  But I hear occasional stories about people who put off writing “until…” whatever circumstance occurs.  Until they finish school.  Until their kids are in school or grown.  Until they retire.  Hell, if you keep that up, you’ll “until…” yourself all the way to the grave and will never have done anything for yourself because you’ve spent your whole life worrying about somebody else.

Man, I’m sorry, but I just cannot fathom that.  If writing is something you love and want to do, there is only one choice.  And maybe it’s not writing.  It may be painting or knitting or music or whatever.  You either make the time to do it or you don’t.  And if you really, truly love it, that’s an easy decision to make.  You’re happier doing it than not.

I suppose a lot of people feel guilty taking that time for themselves away from whatever responsibilities are on their plates.  Family, children, friends.  That feeds back into all the Shoulds in our lives.  It’s kind of liberating that I don’t have that problem.  Some people might call me selfish, and I’ve got no problem with that either.  The thing is–and I frequently had occasion to tell clients this–psychologically, it’s healthy to be selfish sometimes and not put the world’s needs before your own.  We aren’t socialized that way.  Selfishness has a horrible connotation and is something we’re taught is wrong.  But selflessness taken to an extreme is just as bad–it transcends into martyr territory and that is very definitely not healthy.  If we take the time to be selfish sometimes and take care of ourselves, we tend to do a better job of taking care of everything else because we’re happier.  Our souls have been nurtured.

Anyway, I’m drawing to the end of Chapter After Chapter.  I’ve really enjoyed this book, and I think it’s given me a lot to think about.  Next up on the craft deck is Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins.

One thought on “Until…

  1. You know, it really is annoying how we feel we have to explain away a little healthy selfishness, and yet no one ever has to apologize for being too selfless. Both are good, but neither in excess. You’re right.

    And if writing is selfish? Then we all need to be more selfish. I have learned so much from writing, and from reading. I can’t imagine not having that because I (or my favorite authors) felt they shouldn’t take that time for themselves.

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