“It’s never too late to start, but it’s always too late to wait.” I believe that phrase is in reference to ensuring financial security, but it applies to writing as well. When I choose to put off writing for another day, those words rise up to haunt me, leaving me feeling a bit unsettled. Why is that?
I have always been a writer. I have folders and binders bursting with hundreds if not thousands of pages: many short stories consisting only of a scene or two, a few novel-length works, and notebooks filled with everything in-between. Nothing could quell the creative spirit within me. I wrote whatever I desired, even if that meant stopping a story halfway through to start another one, never to return to it. I edited tirelessly, turning rocks into diamonds as I chiseled away at my characters and storyline. Even now, when I sift through the papers, I think to myself, “Wow, this is pretty good. I wonder if I could still write like that…” and then, though I have little to show for the past 5 years, my self-assuredness kicks in and I add, “Yeah, of course I could.”
Could? Maybe. Prove it.
Um… that’s not exactly what I like to hear. I’d rather dwell on my past accomplishments because now that I’ve gotten older, five years of college and work have slowly drained my creative spirit and left me somewhat at a loss when it comes to the world of writing. I thought I’d never say this, but writing is hard. It takes time and energy and creativity, things which are often in short supply. I used to tell my younger siblings (now age 9) bedtime stories based off my fantasy novel Ashes of Endil (aka The Seven Stones) and when I got to the part where I had left off in my novel, I just made up the story as I went, adding goblins, dragons, sea serpents, and mermaids so that the story could forever go on (even though I had not written those things in my novel and had no intention on doing so). But now even that is hard, and I find myself stuck at a particular sea-serpent scene, not knowing what to tell them next. So I started reading John White’s The Tower of Geburah so that I wouldn’t have to think up a story of my own. The story they fell in love with and wish I would continue telling them.
This is perhaps the biggest reason why I am participating in NaNoWriMo this year, because it truly is the kick-in-the-pants I need to reactivate the creative spirit within me. Writing 50,000 words in one month is no cakewalk, but the looming deadline will force me to open up more and “just write, because that’s what we do.” Also, as I read through stories I had written 10+ years ago, I realized how different I am now from my thirteen-year-old self. If I had waited until I was “older and wiser” to write, I would never be able to look back and get a glimpse of that thirteen-year-old’s unique perspective of the world. What if Anne Frank had waited until she was older to write? She died at the age of 15. If she had waited, the world would never know her story.
“It’s never too late to start, but it’s always too late to wait.”
Chris Baty in No Plot? No Problem! says it best:
Every period of one’s life, I saw, bustles with novel-worthy passions, dilemmas, and energies specific to that age. The novel I wrote at twenty-six is much different than the one I wrote at thirty, which will (hopefully) be much different than the one I write at fifty. What better reason to get writing now? With each passing era, a new novel is possible. And a potentially great book you could have written slips away into noveling oblivion.