I began writing after a break of decades. Now I have poems and creative non-fiction published in online and print journals. Hardly fame, but it makes me happy and fulfilled.
I’ve been thinking about an essay by grand dame Cynthia Ozick: Writers Old and Young: Staring Across the Moat.
There’s challenging food for thought in her comparisons between established old writers and new writers at the start of that path. These definitions prompted me to think of myself as a new older writer – meaning people who start to write, or to take their writing seriously, late in life.
New older writers have much in common with old writers. We share the long term view of our life and the changes we’ve witnessed, often writing after time lags during which we’ve processed and developed our themes and insights.
Cynthia Ozick puts it beautifully: Old writers have the eyes and breadth of biographers, even when they are not literally so: they are witness to the trajectories of entire lives, the early flourishing and the latter-day fizzling, or else the unpromising seed and its surprising fruitfulness.
By contrast, young writers don’t generally present their work as the first section of a long term process. They’re at an early point in their trajectory and don’t know how the coming phases will work themselves out, even when they write with expectation. Hence their finger-on-the-pulse immediacy.
The earlier stages of the trajectory are implicit in the work of old writers and new older writers, often consciously so.
Yet there’s a difference – new older writers draw on the whole trajectory even when writing about a specific phase, because we never wrote about the various stages as we lived them. Thus we write about all of it in a contemporary voice.
Do I regret not having worked my way through all the stages from young writer to old established writer?
I’d have written far more, I’d have written long pieces and books, I’d surely write better, and I can imagine to myself that I’d be known for my writing by now and earning a living from it.
For me, however, writing is a way of distilling and resolving my varied and intense life experiences. I know many people balance both, but I didn’t choose to move my focus from activity and involvement for long enough to clear time and mind space for writing about them.
It’s been worth the wait, because of the rich spectrum of events, feelings, encounters and dialogues I draw on now, and the emotional language I’ve acquired.
It’s been worth the wait for the joy of having a lifelong aspiration satisfied when someone wants to read and even publish my writing.
Now there’s the internet, which makes lit mags more accessible and taking the step to submit less daunting.
Either way, you travel the road taken, and I’m enjoying writing at this stage of my life and seeing my poetry and flash published.