Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's My Birthday, and I'll Blog If I Want To

So now I’m forty. Woo. 

Age is just a number, but it does pack a bit of a psychological whammy. When I turned twenty, I felt like I was finally leaving my childhood behind. When I turned thirty, I felt like I was now a “real” adult. (I was very depressed over that particular birthday.)

And now here’s forty, getting all up in my face. What a bitch.

Forty feels weird because it’s sort of the point at which people stop saying, “Oh, you’ve still got plenty of time to marry/have kids/buy a house/build a career.”  There’s a new feeling that the clock is ticking, and that if you’re going to get anything accomplished, you might want to get a move on.

I’m not completely depressed, because I do have things I can point to that show I haven’t just been doing macramé and watching YouTube all this time. I quit smoking – for real, this time – so I’ve got a much better chance of future birthdays to piss and moan about. I’ve got a number of manuscripts that I am slowly preparing for publication, and I have copy-editing work to keep me out of trouble. I took the leap and left my law gig, and I’ve been swallowing my self-doubt and putting myself “out there.” I’ve gone to workshops and voiced my opinion on writing, even though I had a strong suspicion that my view would be in the minority. I’ve actually allowed other people to read my work and give their opinions. I’ve learned to listen to criticism without hiring a hit squad to ice the person who would dare to think that there was a gaping plot hole in my book. Even though there totally was.

No, I haven’t gone to print yet. No, I haven’t written the next big thing. No, they are not making a movie out of my book. And no, David Tennant hasn’t called me up and asked if we could be best friends. Dammit.

All the same, I do have things to feel good about. I’m not going to say I’m “truly blessed” because that phrase makes me itch. (“Truly” as opposed to what? “Kinda blessed”? Looked like “blessed,” but turned out to be a clever disguise for “royally fucked” at the last minute? Why do people feel the need to say “truly” when they’re expressing their blessedness? I don’t get it.)

I digress. It’s what I’m good at.

I have wonderful people in my life. One can only assume they’re there because they want to be. As little as I may understand why they feel that way, they appear to value me. Since I think they’re all pretty amazing, it’s a happy thing. Look at all these super-groovy people who think I’m the shit! (Go, me!) I have a wonderful family of friends and relations who like me for who I am and see good in me that I’d never have noticed myself (and frankly am still skeptical about). Once I stifle the irrational fear that I will disappoint them, I can only be grateful to know each of these unique and quirky people for making my life an interesting adventure. It wouldn’t be half as much fun without them.

I have two phenomenal children who will either become dictators of small countries or who will help make the world a better place. (It’s a fine line.) They like who they are, and they’re not afraid to be different, which makes me so proud I could spew glitter.

I have a husband who is almost too good to be true. He cooks, and he fixes computers – what more does a writer need in her life? Fortunately, he puts his foot in his mouth just enough to keep him from being too perfect. We’ve been through hell together, and I can’t think of another person I would have rather made that trip with. Maybe someone with an ice chest. And some beer.

And here I am at forty, carving out a new career for myself. I’m finally working toward the dream I have had since I was a little girl. I may succeed, or I may fail. I’m giving it a shot either way. All the writers out there who are struggling to get published, wrangling editors and query letters and Oxford commas with sincere passion and devotion, are in the same boat that I’m in. We want to succeed so badly, and every year that slips by makes it harder and harder to hang onto those dreams. 

I guess all I want to say is – your life isn’t over until you stop living it. Dreams can still come true. Even after you’ve turned forty.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Losing Faith

Every so often, I lose faith in humanity. We hurt each other, we stubbornly and willfully resist change, we deny truth, and we seem to only recognize strength in anger and violence. Today’s news about the young victims of the shootings in a Colorado movie theater was hard enough to hear. People’s reactions to that news were even more disturbing.

(Excerpts from CNN website comments)
“Oh my word, these idiots commenting on it! I can't even take it! Do shotguns just walk around shooting people on their own? No, but psychos do! People need protection from the psychos...guns without psychos are pretty okay.”
“Get your check books out right wing scum this killer will need funding.”
“coffins of dead movie goers make great soap boxes to push their anti gun agenda from.”
“Nut bags like this is why we still need the death penalty. When the evidence is beyond a shadow of doubt they need to be put to death. In a case like this pleading insanity would be no excuse.”
“Whelp, another candidate for execution. Goodbye scum, thanks for making it so easy to pick you out.”

Are we only capable of responding to violence with more violence?

I don’t care what you think of Rush Limbaugh or the Obama Administration or whether there should be prayer in schools or if you believe that giant spuds will take over the world next Tuesday. Can we not all come together and discuss these problems without separating into factions and personally attacking each other for having different points of view? The truth is that events like this frighten us. When we are frightened, we tend to strike out aggressively to defend ourselves from the perceived threat. But if we don’t stop lashing out at each other and work together to find solutions, then the problem will only continue to grow.

You can’t fight hate crimes with more hate. You can’t battle ignorance and intolerance by being ignorant and intolerant. You can’t promote peace and harmony and love with a fist and angry words.

We need to change our own hearts before we can change the world.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Novelist at 40

I’m turning forty this month, and I can’t say I’m particularly happy about it. I mean, I’m nowhere near mature enough to be middle-aged. I’m certainly not ready to start acting like a productive member of society. How can I be turning forty?

Oh, wait. That’s right. I’m a professional writer.

My profession is one of my absolute favorite things about my life, because it’s like belonging to an exclusive club: The Pedantically Insane Club for the Compulsively Verbose, if you will. This club’s membership stretches back to the dawn of time and includes such pillars of the community as Charlie Dickens, Willy Shakespeare, Dorothy Parker, Hunter S. Thompson, and Virginia Wolfe.

By pillars of the community, of course what I really mean is brilliant lunatics who made it socially acceptable to be an eccentric misanthrope with permanently ink-stained fingers, a complete lack of tact, and a dodgy sense of fashion.

If you think about the writers whose works have endured – particularly if you are a writer yourself – you will notice a pattern. Each of them is described by contemporaries with words such as “socially inept,” “caustic,” and “completely batshit crazy.” While we accept this as the natural order of the universe when studying long-dead masters of the written word, we still seem to be surprised when we encounter the same qualities in contemporary wordsmiths. Generation after generation of writers has been confronted with society’s clearly unrealistic hope that they will behave like normal, rational human beings. All this accomplishes is to guarantee that modern writers are just as misunderstood and ostracized as their long-dead counterparts.

Our world has manufactured a criterion for socially-acceptable insanity: brilliance. Once you have been labeled “genius,” you can be as rude and unhygienic as you please. Unfortunately, it is rare that such a distinction is awarded prior to the death of the weirdo in question.

However, it is possible for modern writers to take comfort in the history of censure that those who have gone before us have endured. As writers, we are traditionally expected, and in many respects are obligated, to behave in a socially inappropriate and often blatantly disrespectful manner. Crazy is simply just one part of the job description. Hence my self-proclaimed status as “professional oddity.” It’s not just an arbitrary title – it is a sacred trust.

So it’s okay that I’m turning forty, because I’m a writer. No matter how old I get, I’ll never be old. I shall wear my immaturity and irreverence like a badge of office until I draw my last breath. And if I’m very, very lucky, my writing will still speak for me after my own voice falls silent.

Until then, I’ve still got stories to write!