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Getting Older

My birthday passed last week and I found myself thinking about how my age has not only dictated what I write about and what I relate to, but it's also put a kind of clock on my life goals. When I was in undergrad and even grad school, I had this feeling that I had plenty of time ahead of me to write and get published and make a whole career of being an author. Now, at 31 and pregnant with my first child, I'm feeling more of a time crunch to get my first book finished and out there.

I know that might sound silly. 31 really isn't that old in the grand scheme of things. Often, I feel like a child who has no idea what's going on or what I'm supposed to be doing. Yet, I also feel like if I don't get an agent and get my first book off the ground, I might never do it. It hurts even more when people in my life try to talk to me about self-publishing (and no disrespect to the people out there who do it, I just have zero interest in self-publishing.) People talk about it like a last resort to "at least get your book out there."

For the past three years, my New Year's resolution has been to finish my book edits and get an agent... Well, the end of 2023 is looming and I'm barely closer to that goal than I was in 2020. Thinking about this can be so demoralizing that I want to put my manuscript away forever and forget about it, yet it also lights a fire under me so I get through three chapters of editing a week. It's always so hot or cold. I guess that's always been my problem when it comes to my writing, it's feast or famine. I've never been good at sticking with a writing routine.

Trying to feel better about my age and lack of publishing, even some short stories, I began looking at some of my favorite authors to see when they got their start. Surely, I'm not too far behind... right? Disclaimer: looking these up made me feel much, much worse.

Jodi Picoult first published at 26, along with John Irving, Emily Henry, and Pierce Brown. Pat Conroy and Ann Patchett were both 27. I kept looking up authors trying to find someone to make me feel better. Celeste Ng published her first book at 34, however, she had published short stories in several incredible journals before that and won a Pushcart Prize. Finally, I found Jane Austen published at 25, but really that isn't much encouragement since women basically weren't allowed to be published back then and many of her books weren't even credited to her until after her death.

Obviously, these are all big-name authors, but they're also ones I look up to not only in their storytelling abilities but within the genres I hope to publish someday. I know there are plenty of authors out there who don't even get their start until later in life, but I had trouble finding any of them. Anyone who's had a full career in writing and didn't get started until they were past 40 (which is what it's feeling like is going to happen for me.)

After looking all of these people up, I lay my head at my desk, despondent. My husband came into the office and started rubbing my back, telling me it was going to be okay, but that didn't help. So instead he started looking up some of his favorite authors and he found that Andy Weir got started at 42 and J.R.R. Tolkien was 45. J.K. Rowling was 32 when she first published Harry Potter. That made me feel slightly better.

I think so much about the concept of age and what we want to accomplish at certain points in our lives is arbitrary. Yet, we can't help but compare ourselves to those around us. I felt like I was starting late at having a family when compared to my mother and her friends, but I looked around at my peers and found I'm one of the first to start. I feel like I'm so behind on my writing goals when looking at those who have already accomplished theirs, but again, among my peers, I'm right on track. Once again, I'm pulled back into the well of endless thankfulness for my writing group and the perspective they give me.

This year is going to hold so much for me, some expected like the birth of my first child, and I am sure some of it will be completely unexpected. I know I want to keep pushing and get my book out there, but I also know that if that doesn't happen for the next few years, I'll be okay. I'm lucky. I have a full life that keeps me busy and engaged. I have family and friends who love and support me. And I have a passion for writing that can't be tamped out no matter that. So here's to 31, and everything it's going to bring me, and to all the years ahead and what I still have to accomplish.

Celebrating 31 at the Magic Kingdom

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