In a recent blogpost, I listed reasons I envied a particular Western Slope poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. One of my reasons was her being six years my junior, yet already so much further ahead of me. Perhaps because I’m the baby of my family, age has always been a factor, a gauge, for longer than I can remember. Too, I grew up in Texas, sorta the South, where regard and respect for one’s elders is axiomatic. And even now, as I’m but a year and small change from AARP age, I’m still feeling behind, like the baby of the writing family—even amid those younger than I.
Those of my tribe who are older than I, nonetheless, at ages much younger than my current one, had accomplished so much already. When Terry Tempest Williams came to a bookstore in Colorado Springs for a reading and signing of, Red, she was already such a name that the bookstore had to hand out seating tickets, which were filled weeks ahead of her arrival. During the event, Williams had just the month before turned nearly three years younger than I am, now.
Here I am, on the cusp of half a century, with so phenomenally little to show for my writing: A dozen, maybe a dozen and a half, book reviews; handful of essays, several rejected short stories. Every writer I see is, or was, at least ten full years ahead of me. The latest bloomer I can find is, Annie Proulx, who wasn’t published until she was forty. (I was forty-three when my first book review was published.) Typically, by their early- or mid-thirties, a writer’s career is already being established, if not already firmly so. Reading John McPhee say he submitted to The New Yorker for ten years until they accepted his work exacerbates my feelings of inadequacy and having come far too late to the party.
Yet, listen to me, being upset and despairing because I’m not following convention. Acting as though I have to give up my vocation because I’ve become later along in my years in answering it. As though because I’ve had a late start, I’m destined, doomed, to never finish. Too, I forgetting one of the crucial traits writers and artists must possess: persistence.
Writing, like much any art, can be isolating and lonely. It can be despairing during the tough spells. It can seem an easier and better thing to chuck it all for something more sensible, more conventional. For those of us without a family or readily-available support group to spur us onward through the fog and muck, to remind us of our abilities and how the world is needfully hungry for our gifts, it can seem even more uphill, even more isolating and lonely.
Early in my association with Susan J Tweit, I was commenting how it seemed I hadn’t gotten much of anywhere, even after all my years of writing. “I think you’re further along than you think,” she replied. At around the same time, during a writing conference, WC Jameson pulled me aside and told me much the same thing. Perhaps this is where talent, ability isn’t enough. I’ve read Georgia O’Keeffe regarded herself as possessing mere average talent, but above average arrogance. Afterall, writing is the easy part. It’s the placing your work into the outside world that takes courage. Perhaps it’s something other than talent for writing that’s placed so many of the rest of my tribe so far ahead of me.