There seems to be just enough time to squeeze out one more entry for 2017, this one inspired by the recent death of a fellow writer. I have to admit I have never read a single one of Sue Grafton’s books, but always admired her initiative and stick-to-it-tiveness. She of course is the author of the “alphabet mystery” series, beginning with A is for Alibi. But there is a certain poignancy that she was not quite able to finish the alphabet and died at ‘Y’, before the presumably final ‘Z’ book. I don’t know why, but I found myself thinking about that all day.
I suppose I’ve always felt that a writer is meant to write a certain number of books. But when you think about it, if a writer writes until the day he or she dies…there’s bound to be some things left unfinished. Things left unsaid. I’ve always thought I never wanted to leave behind something undone, (or unedited) and that I would try to stop writing before my ability to do so began to decline. But perhaps the main thing is to keep on writing as long as you can, and not worry about that kind of nonsense.
But unfortunately I’m at that age where I wonder how much time I’ll have, how many more books do I get to write? It’s ridiculous, because just yesterday—to get in under an insurance deadline—I had my annual physical for 2017. I was, in fact, the doctor’s final patient for the year. And except for a little arthritis, I don’t seem to be in any danger of expiring soon. Indeed, my own parents are currently preparing to drive north in a couple of weeks from sunny Florida to visit their snowbound progeny. So perhaps there is time enough, though no one really knows for sure. But not going to worry anymore about which book will go unfinished…
But I can confidently state that 2018 will be a year in which I get published, and by a traditional publisher not MYSELF (hurrah!), though I’m not saying anymore about that until I hand the manuscript in at the end of next month. I will also be travelling to Mertonland in mid-January—Louisville, Kentucky—so the new year will get very interesting very fast. So as I just told my doctor yesterday, see you next year…
This is likely to be my last blog post for 2017: I know it’s only mid-December, but I am up to my ears in book-writing, language students and Christmas preparation. I have an actual deadline for the completion of my biography—it’s in January—so I’m not necessarily rushing to finish it, but at this point, simply trying to give as much pure thought to it as possible, in order to make it as complete and whole as I can. The last thing I want is for it to look rushed and hurried. It’s a thoughtful kind of book, one I hope will rouse many of my readers to think about it for themselves.
This blog is likely to change direction next year, so I thought a fitting last entry would be a reflection on the quality that brought me here: Persistence. Maybe you could call it stubbornness, obstinance, stick-to-itiveness, or determination. Maybe it’s a substitute for talent or brilliance. But it’s what’s brought me here to this point: Not giving up or giving an inch in my determination to be a writer, despite the rotten odds and terrible pay. It’s not always good, when applied to something you’re clearly not meant to do or have no real talent for. Sometimes we think we’re meant to do something, claiming divine inspiration or grace, when in reality it’s simply an emotional desire with no basis in reality. There were times when I thought this about myself and my writing, and I have to say, it did take many years before I realized that this was indeed the road I was meant to take. It does no good, therefore, to advise young writers to give up now and forget about literary fame: Only time will tell if it’s meant for them, and they need to make that attempt. I’m grateful that, while I had a few people in the beginning (old writing teachers and critics) try to dissuade me from being a writer, I had enough sheer stubbornness to continue on with it, and enough insight into my own abilities to realize I could do it.
Stubbornness and persistence aren’t always seen as positive qualities; they are considered downright annoying sometimes, especially in arguments. But it doesn’t have to be a visible thing, this kind of persistence, but a secret carried in the heart. I can do this and will keep on doing this, until either my brain or heart fails. And so onward, writers and others with dreams. Just keep calm and carry on, as they say, in one of my ancestral lands. And happy holidays to all.