So far as I know, no one has unfriended me on Facebook because of something I wrote. But I have landed in some unfriendly situations because of writing, including with myself. There were times I would have unfriended myself if I could have. I took a risk turning 50 and continuing to take myself seriously with writing despite having no publications of significance and no prospects. At times I felt crazy. I’d scribbled away for years and never gone anywhere. As much as I loved it, I stopped talking about writing because I couldn’t stomach questions like “Where might I have read something by you?” The answer, “In my waste basket,” didn’t cut it. Neither did, “In one of the 100 grocery bags stuffed with notes on gum wrappers and corners of paper for the next 30 poems and the great novel I’m going to write.” See what I mean—crazy—I was/am a crazy poetry bag lady.
Just after my 51st birthday, I indulged in a ceremonial burning of some of my writing. I thought destruction might open the path to success. But before the smoke cleared, I began to think the heap of ash was the best thing I’d ever written. It’s always easier to imagine a golden glow from an unfinished or a lost piece of writing than it is from something you actually finish and put out there. The truth: I was afraid to submit because of fear of rejection. What if I really wasn’t any good?
It wasn’t until expressions like “better late than dead” started to have real meaning that things started to roll. As soon as the first book was off the press, I learned you can never be too old to piss off your mother. But that’s a whole other story about risk taking.
Lenore Rowntree is appearing at the 2017 Whistler Writers Festival in the Writers of Fiction event Sat. Oct. 14, 10-11:30am, and teaching the workshop 50 is the New Writer Fri. Oct. 13, 4-5:30pm at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.