They say that truth is stranger than fiction. I’m not sure this is true. I am especially doubtful after a month spent writing my own version of bizarre fiction. I sat down at the keyboard on November 1st and a story I had never considered started emerging from my hands. A rough story. An unfinished story with huge plot holes and undeveloped characters. But still, a story I had not realized I was carrying in my brain until I sat down and started writing it.
That is a strange truth. The writing is also a strange fiction.
In Stephen King’s book, “On Writing”, he states that stories are the coming together of random unrelated ideas in new ways. That is one of his truths.
He also says he would not want to be trying to become a writer at 40, 50, or God knows even 60.
The truth, Mr. King, is neither do I.
Yet it is the final day of a month spent writing and I have realized, at this very late point in my life, that this is what I want to do.
It is not romantic. There are no waves crashing on the beach as there are in a scene in my rough improbable story. There is no heroine experiencing an aha moment as the waves wash onto the shore in a rhythmic pattern. There is only me in this chair, sometimes accompanied by my cat and guilt inducing snacks.
“Aha,” I say.
“Aha.” I am sixty years old. I wish I had realized this was what I wanted to do a long time ago.
Oprah keeps saying in repetitive monthly publications, that we should not give up on new dreams as we age. On the pages of her magazine, readers are introduced to and encouraged to admire women who have turned in new life directions.
Women who were accountants become artists. Bankers become musicians. Administrative assistants become bakers.
Oprah says it only takes heart, perseverance, vision and determination to achieve your dreams.
The truth is my writing is a perfect representation of Mr. King’s random ideas philosophy. Over many years the various components of my own story have finally led me to the acknowledgment of my own strange truth. I enjoy writing.
But, also like Mr. King, I wish I wasn’t navigating this road at sixty.
I wish I had started at thirty or forty instead. Or maybe even twenty.
Certain activities feel more possible at a younger age. At twenty I wore mini-skirts and bikinis on the beach. I self-dyed my hair blonde and wore it like Farrah Fawcett. I tie-dyed clothing and I wore a tee shirt that said “Bitch” across the front. In pink!
It is not that I want to do these things again, but it can be tough to accept that at sixty it is too late.
Oprah says, it is not too late.
At the beginning of this month of writing I went to a book festival. After listening to multiple panels of successful authors I asked this question;
“When did you reach the point in your life when you answered the question, “What do you do?” with the reply, “I am a writer?”
Is it when you are published? Is it when you are paid?
Maybe the truth is, being a writer is a matter of self-definition.
I have decided to modify my answer to this question from now on. I am sixty. I am therefore granting myself some self-defining wiggle room.
I can no longer wear a mini-skirt or a bikini on the beach, but from now on I am going to interpret this question as I chose.
Go ahead and ask me, “What do you do?”
I finally have my answer ready,
“I like to write.”
That is my truth.