Thursday, July 7, 2016
The Middle Stage of Writing and Life
I could have also called this post 'The Three Tenses of Writing and Life.'
The elderly folk (my parents' generation) get to look back at their lives with a nostalgic, past tense sort of feeling. When we converse with them, they may say, 'This is what I did with my life before I retired.' Living out your twilight years in peace sounds like a relaxing and comfortable place to be, like the athlete who has given an event his all, so he can now sit back and watch the other competitors. The artist has completed his masterpiece, and the author has finished the book into which she has poured so much time and effort. I imagine old age might be a bit like the contentment I've experienced when I've finished writing a book and the final proofs have arrived back from the publisher. I can check through them at a more leisurely pace than the drive which spurred me to work on the project. I've given this my best shot, and here's what I came up with.
The younger folk (my kids' generation) are charged with energy. When we're in our teens to early twenties, we approach life with a future tense, 'This is what I plan to do with my life' sort of feeling. We apply for courses at University, we wonder if chance encounters may be potential marriage partners, we consider the pros and cons of different career paths, pondering which may suit us. This is akin to the initial excitement of planning a book, writing out plot outlines, and daydreaming about possible events. It's all ahead of us, and we're so excited about what it may end up looking like. Yet at this stage, if the rough drafts don't come together quite as we hoped, it's no big deal to just shrug it off and get on with something else. We consider we have time enough to spare.
But how about those of us who others refer to as middle aged? Our kids are becoming young adults, we assume our careers 'should' hopefully be well underway, because people are depending on us, and we're showing some signs of age. What about us? We may feel we haven't really lived long enough to earn the right to say, 'Look what I've done with my life' yet. There are still many years ahead of us to be filled. It's like a manuscript that's only halfway through. Yet if it looks a bit average and trite so far, we feel we've gone too far now to scrap this project and start from scratch. We reach a stage when we ask ourselves what would be the point anyway?
We're told that 90 years seems to be a good innings for a person, and know full well we've clocked 45 or so already. If we were on a boat, we've lost sight of the horizon behind us, but the land ahead still seems hazy. In terms of writing a book, we've passed the point of no return, and if it's looking a bit random and dog-eared, that's sort of terrifying. Sometimes I feel as if I'm arriving at the same stage in my life that I've so often found myself in my book plans. The middle of anything is like a present tense sort of place in the most nerve-wracking sense of the word, when it's only guesswork whether or not things are happening exactly as we hope for.
For anyone who feels you are nearing the halfway point of anything, I think we need to remember to draw on faith and trust here more than ever before. We shouldn't lose sight of the impetus that drove us forward in the first place, even when it seems ages ago. And even though we may begin to doubt that it'll look exactly the way we imagined by the time we get to the end, we can encourage ourselves with the thought that surprises are one of the spices of life, and in retrospect, what we're stressing over now may look even better than we imagined.
Perhaps the middle stage of anything should be the time when we need the most encouragement to keep moving, because we're doing a great job, yet those at the beginning and end sometimes seem to be the ones who get the most accolades, support and congratulations. Anyone who's just plodding along in the middle has been at it for so long, we may get overlooked. But hey, I want to tell you to keep your chins up, and remind you that anything worthwhile needs your dedication for as long as it takes.
Image Courtesy of Pixabay