Like many writers, I was deeply affected by Amber Sparks’ recent post at Big Other. It made me realise that I am anxious, seriously fucking anxious, and I was so scared to admit it that I didn’t even realise that admitting it was an option.
But Amber is not afraid to say these things, and so I will not be afraid either. Here is why I am anxious.
I have to do everything now now now while I am young and shiny because that is all I have. I have my youth, I have my shininess, and that’s it. When I am older I will be just like everyone else, except not quite as good. And that makes me anxious, not only because I have to do everything now now now but also because I’m almost 27 and that’s not even that young. It’s not old, obviously, but it’s not young enough to be newsworthy.
If I were a willowy, elfin 17 year-old my age would be marketable. I’d be on the cover of Poets & Writers no matter how mediocre my book was, just because holy shit, a 17-year old novelist. But I am not willowy and I am not a teenager. A 27 year-old is not marketable unless the book is amazing, and I am scared that it is not amazing and I am not young and so it’s just not quite enough, in terms of book or in terms of me.
I should be concentrating on writing the lushest, cleanest, densest, truthfulest, bad-assiest stories I can possibly write. But I am scared of taking years to do that and then discovering that the stories are shit. I am scared of being old and just okay, because it’s easier to be young and just okay. For a young writer, it’s enough to have potential because you’ve got plenty of time to get better until it’s not only potential but an actual solid finished thing. Sometimes it feels like having people say ‘she’s done so much, and so young!’ is all I have. All I can have, so I’d better make the most of it and write MORE NOW FASTER.
I am impatient.
I don’t want to be left behind.
I don’t want to waste this relative youth, this sole thing I have.
I thought I would publish a novel by 20 but that didn’t happen, and then I thought 25 but that didn’t happen either, and then I think, well, 30 is okay. I’ll still be young if I publish at 30. Even 35, that’s still young. In the writing world, anyone under 40 is young.
I am focusing on the wrong thing.
So here it is. I am saying it. I am anxious that youth and shine is all I have. And that, let me tell you, is fucking terrifying.
I’m not writing this for reassurances. I’m writing it because Amber’s honesty inspired me and made me want to be honest too. I’m writing it because I know some writers fear they’re too old, they’re running out of time, they’re not shiny and lithe enough.Â I’m writing it in the hope that other people are anxious about their own youth too, that they fear it’s all they have. I’m writing it because we’re all anxious, and I think it’s important to admit it.