Birthday Thoughts

I turn 26 on Wednesday.  On the one hand, I know that’s nothing. On the other, this tweet feels scarily accurate:

 

 

So, 26. Aging aside, there’s been a strange shift in the wind, lately. It’s nothing I can quite put my finger on, but it feels like change is coming, thunder rolling in the distance.

And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying war!

– “Kubla Khan,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge

My twenties have been relatively comfortable thus far, all things considered. Yet it somehow feels like a chapter is closing. One age ending; another beginning. I don’t know—maybe it’s just birthday feelings.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I had an interesting conversation the other day about writing at different stages of life. Generally speaking, I agree with Theodora Goss’s theory that to write a certain story/novel, you must first become the sort of person who can write that story/novel. Kelly Robson echoes similar thoughts in her wonderful essay “On Being a Late Bloomer.”

Those thirty years didn’t just make me a writer. They made me a good writer. That paralyzing self-doubt morphed into a keen sense for quality in my own work. When I write something that stinks, I can usually smell it. I’ve been reading for more than forty years, so I have thousands of great books and stories banked for information and inspiration. And best of all, I have a lifetime’s worth of unplumbed material to draw on—I’ve seen the world in all its glory and ugliness.

– Kelly Robson, “On Being a Late Bloomer,” Clarkesworld

Point is, all stories originate from somewhere inside of us. If it isn’t in there somewhere, we can’t pull it out. We can fake it—manufacture a piece with a shiny veneer that crumbles at a touch. But you can’t write the story – not for realuntil conditions are right inside you.

Which is why young writers’ works have such a short shelf life. I’d write things, return to them a year later, and immediately see the delta. “I don’t write like this anymore,” I’d say. It was the same feeling you get from examining old photos.

“That was just five years ago—why do I look so young?

2017 on the left; 2012 on the right. Evidently, five years is longer than it feels.

Of course, there’s another implication to all this. If you’ve changed enough, it can make it hard to return to old worlds, old stories. Occasionally, I get asked if I’d ever write another story in the Hapax universe.

And you know what? I don’t think I could. I wrote Hapax at nineteen.

  • I still had two parents.
  • I’d never been in love.
  • I’d never really grieved.
  • I had never even considered working in museums.
  • I hadn’t met my dearest friends and collaborators.
  • I hadn’t failed very much.
  • I hadn’t gallivanted around the Antipodes by myself for two months.
  • There are hundreds of amazing books/stories I hadn’t read.

I’ve changed enough that the world doesn’t fit anymore. Sure, I could resurrect characters and pick up the mythology (I will say that Hapax’s theology still pleases me), but I wouldn’t write the same sort of story. It’s like leaving Narnia. Once the door is closed, it’s closed.

Of course, 19-year-old KT definitely couldn’t have written any of the short stories I’ve done over the past few years. She couldn’t have written Six Stories or the Creepy Play. Of course not—I wasn’t yet the person who could.

So when I think about falling into a new stage of life, part of me is excited. Or at least, curious. After all, look at all the growth in the past seven years. Where will I be in seven more? What sort of stories will I be able to tell then? By the time my twenties draw to their close, what person will I be?

I don’t know, of course. Perhaps that’s part of the fun—or at least the journey. There’s a lot of stories I haven’t told yet.

But just you wait.

KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

An unexpected piece. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” floated through my head early last week, and it’s been on repeat ever since. Obviously, I’d heard the song before—but I’d never really listened to it.

Yes, I can be a ridiculous sap. But those gentle, lilting broken chords and the velvet richness of Elvis’ lower register—

It’s a lullaby.

Posted on June 26, 2017, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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