It’s been years since I’ve published anything. I even went two years without updating this blog. This wasn’t planned. It was a slow, barely noticeable derailment. But like all derailments, I’m left to look back and ask, how the hell did that happen?
Here’s what I can use for an excuse:
- I’ve been working on a novel for four years
- What short stories I have written I haven’t submitted to more than a handful of journals
- All those journals have been highly competitive
- I’ve been busy raising two kids
- I’ve had twice as much paying work than I used to, requiring twice as much of my time
- I waste too many hours on Twitter
- I waste too many hours thinking/talking about politics
- I have a lazy streak
All of that’s true. But none of it’s right. None of it gets to the root of why, after publishing at a good clip for a number of years, I’ve released nothing since 2015. The real reason is this:
It wasn’t a derailment at all. I simply stopped worrying about my eventual death.
That sounds somber. It’s not. The thing is, I started writing late. Or at least late for the youth-obsessed publishing world, which likes to reward writers for being great while still being young (the 5 Under 35 award comes to mind). Since I didn’t start focusing on my fiction writing until I was 34, I felt I needed to play catch-up. After all, there was still a chance for me to get on a 20 Under 40 list!
But then I turned 40.
And it seemed I had crossed a great and wild river. I would never be a young genius. And that was freeing. Instead of focusing so much energy on publishing, I focused it all on writing the best fiction I can possibly write. Not that I wasn’t trying to write well before. But, now, I don’t worry about when I might publish a piece; I worry about how good it will be when it’s published. And by good, I mean lasting.
I want to write something people will read in 100 years. In 200.
Maybe that’s impossible. Maybe that’s beyond my talent and skill. But it’s what I think about when I write these days. And I have been writing. I’ve been writing a lot. Maybe soon, a story of mine will appear in the world again. Maybe my novel will too. I’m excited about the work no one has seen. I think it’s some of the best I’ve ever done.