I was honored to be asked to write a few columns about writing for Kristin Kindoll’s Writing Goal Group. She wanted them to inspirational and give advice on a few of the things I’ve learned about the writing life.
Here is one of them.
So, one night, while hanging out with some writer friends, drinking, talking shit as one does, this little 20-year-old thing, says to me, “Hey, Nik, do you regret waiting so long to start writing?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, like, you didn’t really get started until you were, like, you know. Old. In your forties. Aren’t you afraid you waited too long? Like, you should’ve started sooner?”
Because of the outright rudeness of the question, I was stunned and I think I sputtered out something like, “Yeah, I guess so?”
But I’ve had time to reconsider my answer.
*Insert the noise of cracking knuckles here*
Listen up, sweetheart.
The Arts is one the place that maturity is a freaking asset, sweetie.
While, yes, I will admit that I wish I had the vigor and energy that I took for granted as a lithe twenty-year-old but, as an artist, the years I’ve acquired have given me flavor and insight.
Oh, sweet beautiful thing. With your flawless skin, white teeth and high metabolism, you don’t understand life. Not yet. Not until you lived it.
It’s a cruel paradox.
It’s only after you’ve been through the fire do you understand the heat.
There is a perspective that comes with being able to look back on life in the rear-view mirror that you simple cannot have until it is all in the road behind you.
And it is from this, the best and greatest stories are born.
Do I think for a second that Past Nik would have understood regret? Absolutely not. She had read about it, watched movies and seen it from the outside but she had never felt it.
Now, I get it.
I can see all the hurt I caused my mother. The cutting words I hurled at her never caring about damage it did because I felt that the truth was all the mattered.
As if I understood what the truth was at twenty.
She died at 49; I am currently 52 years old. I have outlived my mother by three years.
And I have regrets.
I have been pregnant, went through labor and delivered children. I was a mother. Not the best one I could’ve been, I know. I suffered through years of depression where I was only a shadow mom. I had no money to give them what they needed and I have so many regrets.
I have 30 years of crap jobs that led nowhere but several that gave me some great stories.
I have traveled to different countries and lived in foreign lands where going to the grocery store was traumatizing. I once bought toilet paper thinking it was butter because I couldn’t read the labels. That taught me compassion.
And it took the passing of time to wear away my body so that I was no longer beautiful. To be a woman who is overlooked and unseen. That taught me to be myself because, fuck it, nobody else really gives a damn anyway.
While you are still swept up in the maelstrom of life, whipped around by youthful indiscretions and casual cruelties, I am outside the dance. I watch it, a chimera of Adult/Child and I can see all the movements.
So, the answer to your question, my sweet, gorgeous, simple child, is no. I do not wish I had started sooner.
I started exactly when I needed to become the person my stories need me to be.
1 thought on “The One Where I Slap Down a Youngling”
Eloquent and thoughtful, as always. Our culture is so focused on youth; I remember thinking that if I hadn’t published a great novel by THIRTY I was a failure (I didn’t, haven’t, and probably won’t). The vast majority of us haven’t really gone through the formative events that form the foundation of our writerly selves when we’re twenty. I don’t know, but I bet this young woman never goes anywhere.
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