I was feeling pretty good yesterday morning, working away on what I would hope is the last major revision of my novel when I stopped to read the latest blog from Writer Unboxed. It was written by Barbara Rogan, an author of eight novels and an online instructor among other achievements.*
She started out honest and funny—older woman can’t eavesdrop like she used to due to hearing loss putting a crimp in gathering dialogue. I admired her ability to disclose the myriad of frustrations as we age. No need to provide the list—check with AARP if you can’t wait to find out. And then I read this . . .
“It’s not discussed in polite circles, age being the last remaining closet. But the truth is that there are commercial penalties for WWO — Writing While Old. One is no longer in the running for “hot new writer.” There is, sadly but inevitably, a tipping point at which the books become sexier than the author. Older writers in search of a new agent or publishing house are at a disadvantage compared to young writers with decades of work ahead of them.”
More limitations followed: frequent poverty if you make your living as a writer, and examples of how older writers’ “get up and go” gets going, going, gone.
Bad timing hardly covers the fact that I had just finished Stewart Onan’s novel Emily Alone. His portrayal of Emily is well-crafted and sympathetic, but also depressing as he covers the landscape of aging: an obsession with death (dog, husband, neighbors) to pants wetting when Emily sneezes. I soldiered on through her life and circumstances, but would put it down each night painfully aware of how fast my own meter is running.
I kept working on Chapter Ten, but more than once I could imagine my daughters going through my effects—namely my unpublished essays and this bloody novel. I was sick at heart yet feeling equally bad for them—having to decide between adding them to the recycle box or keeping them. By the end of the day, I was practically Emily’s twin sister!
Just as Barbara Rogan closed her blog with some bright-side remarks I will too.
I’m blessed with an outlet—my daughter—who listened and then pointed me back in the right direction saying, “Writing is your passion and what you do well. You need to keep on, no matter what.” I’m not done with this topic—Part II coming soon.
*Here are links to the Writer Unboxed blog post and Barbara’s teaching website: