Author Brenda Havens, former journalist, recently published three children’s stories. She reflects on finding passion in the golden years—writing from the heart, rather than worrying about productivity.
Are you an older writer? The person waiting until retirement years to pursue this dream? Or maybe you have several decades of life left, but see yourself working full time into eternity in order to keep the bills paid.
You might simply be a Type A—someone driven to constant action, bored with leisure time. Determined to use every minute producing SOMETHING until the day you die.
And that’s the thing. Producing. Measuring. Getting so much done. Before we die. In reading a blog today by richly talented author Beth Kephart, I found her quoting Andrew Solomon in The New Yorker:
“But Rilke is correct in that we must all write as though eternity lay before us. Enjoy the flexibility that span of eternity offers.”
I looked up Rilke. He’s become my new best friend. He encouraged the young poet that he mentored:
“…there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!”
(Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)
Rilke is representing both the young and the old here, isn’t he? To the young, he says, let your art unfold as it will. To himself, as an older person, he says, well, let your art unfold as though you have eternity before you.
For me, the current struggle is, how hard do I want to work, to learn to write good fiction? My fiction-honing is not coming easily, and I can’t say I’m enjoying the work of it, so much. I love writing poetry. Children’s stories roll off my MSWord tongue. Nonfiction is a breeze. It’s that short story that I tussle with, and the novel that so many of my buddies are working on is way out there for me.
My friend Linda –high school friend, my age, very wise woman—called me in the middle of writing this blog. I told her what I’m writing about. She said, “I vote for relaxing. Don’t take another class. Don’t make yourself write what you don’t want to. Write what you’re good at, write what you enjoy. You’ve already proven yourself.”
She’s so right. I’m going to stretch my arms, smile up at the sun, and let eternity roll its creative breath through me. Who knows what I’ll write, but I’m going to enjoy the journey.
Brenda Havens, after working in journalism and education, spends much of her time learning and trying the craft of creative writing. She has published three children’s stories at thestoryshack.com and alfiedog.com. Brenda served as co-chair of The Write Stuff conference, GLVWG’s annual event. In other moments, she travels with her husband and grandson, reads, teaches and cuddles with Spanky–a very affectionate Chihuahua.