This week I turn 52. Oh. My. God. Okay, it’s not totally ancient, but the scary thing is, I find myself wrestling with the same questions that haunted me at sixteen: who am I, and what the hell am I doing with my life?
Only back then, my joints were suppler and I had no gray hair.
And now, I’ve gone and signed up for a Lambda Literary retreat in LA, where I’ll be in a workshop with Young Adult fiction writers from all over the country, who will no doubt be more hip, cool and connected than myself. Not to mention younger.
Meanwhile, the rejections roll in with comments from my agent or editors like: you might want to make the language a bit more contemporary, or it’s just a tad too quiet for my taste, or better add a few cell phones because historical fiction doesn’t sell well. And then there are the ones who lavish praise on my writing, while sub-textual clues leak in around the edges. Stunning writing, they say, only, not sure how to market it, not clear where it fits, maybe, if it were just a little less queer-themed…
The constant conundrum that dogs my writing is its inability to fit “the formula.” So, I try to comfort myself that a lot of great books struggled to fit in their own time. And the truth is—the friggin’ formula is forever changing!
Just like us. No matter our age. Our lives catapult forward at lightening speed, while we’re dozing in the back of the plane, feeling like we’re not even moving, and whittling away our lives wondering when well get there, and if we’ll ever “fit in.”
Ultimately, adolescence is about growing up, figuring out who you are, what you want, and taking responsibility for your life and our choices. In our first adolescence, we gain experience and glean wisdom. In our second, if we’re lucky, we stop gazing out the window, searching the clouds for answers. We learn to look inside, to stop chasing moving targets, and we stop trying so damn desperately to fit in.
Recently, while bemoaning a recent rejection with a colleague, the lyrics from a popular ‘70’s song popped into my head. You learned your lesson well…you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself. Later that day, I was humming in my head when I remembered the greatest advice one writer ever gave another: write the books you want to read.
So how does an aging YA writer survive another boomer birthday? One book at a time, baby! And may we all grow older, with grace and wisdom, writing the books we want to read! Living the lives we want to lead!