I wonder who that old man is who looks back at me in the mirror? He looks vaguely familiar, but I don’t recognize him. He has gray hair, and I have brown hair. We both have blue eyes, but he has a big belly, and I’m very trim. He struggles to swim once a week, and I go every day. He would rather go to concerts, theater, and travel, while I conscientiously send out query letters everyday. He doesn’t seem to worry about form letter rejections, and I take them personally. I never thought of myself as a writer, but he still keeps dabbling in the craft without much success.
So who is this stranger? Is it a question of a dual personality, or just the process of growing old? What is old? For most of history anyone over 40 was old since most folks didn’t live that long. In our youth-oriented culture today, anyone over 30 is “over-the-hill” and not to be trusted, much less looked at as desirable.
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately and playing the game of “what-might-have-been,” which is a real waste of time. I intensely feel a lot of regret about many things in my life that I never understood before because I was just wandering through without really participating or having a goal other than to get laid and to get rich. The past is gone and can’t be changed so all that is left is today. I’m very organized and schedule my calendar down to the hour, but that old man seems content to just let things drift without much thought of tomorrow or what needs to be done. I go to writers’ conferences and study the success of others, and he looks with a wry grin at all of the super-egos in play. “My book sold better than yours” has a distant association with kindergarten. That workshop on “how to reach your inner creative self” has a ring of something that I heard in similar setting 20 years ago. Is there nothing really new to say about the craft of writing?
If that’s the case, then why are there all those hundreds of blogs about writers and writing? Why does Writers Digest not only publish a magazine, but also books, workshops, online courses, and enough emails to clutter my mail box every day? Obviously they’ve found a market and fill a need for wannbe writers as well as an outlet for successful writers. I’m going to enter an essay in their annual competition so maybe this year I can make the transition. My essay is about my early years so I guess that is what provoked my reflective mood.
My “voice” tells me that I’m not a writer, but my friends tell me that I have an opinion about everything and voice it freely. (They also say that I write better than I speak, but I’m not sure just how to take that.) I tried for years to find my voice as a writer, and I guess that is part of blogging, except that I seem to be doing all the talking while no one is listening or responding. Is that because I really have nothing worthwhile to say, and so my voice is hollow?