Today I am 38. I notice as I get older that I also get more relaxed about revealing my age, rather than more uneasy about it. Being a young Druid (back when I was indeed a young Druid) I worried that my lack of years would undermine my credibility. As a younger person my lack of age often seemed to be an issue in terms of getting taken seriously. The more middle aged I become, the more years I stack up, the less I feel like I know anything but at the same time the less it bothers me. I am no longer a bright(ish) young thing with something to prove, and haven’t been that for a while, and it probably makes me a good deal easier to be around.
What has this cycle of the seasons taught me? It’s been a year of incredible change in terms of my work life, my home life (chiefly buying the flat), how I feel about my creativity, how I feel about myself. I’m a long way from the person I was this time a year ago. More together, more in control, more confident. I hold my head up more. I have adopted a revised version of the wiccan rede that goes ‘do no harm but take no shit’. I am trying to work out how to be frolicksome, not least because I like the word. I want room in my life to be frolicksome as well as maudlin, depending on need.
Birthdays are a time that invite looking back, and looking forward. Where am I? What have I done? Where am I going? I’ve done a lot of work recently in making peace with my past – not being ok with it, because there are many things in my history that I am never going to be ok with. But I can accept them as part of the path that has brought me to here. I like where I am and so I cannot regret the journey. Any step missed may have cost me something that has turned out to be precious.
I have no idea where I am going. Right now I probably have less sense of direction than at any time previously. It’s not the same as feeling lost or uncertain, more a shift in style. There are things I am choosing to do because I think they are the right things to do, and that the reasons for doing them are good. I will accept the consequences, regardless of how those serve me. I will speak out and be an activist, and if things do get darker and more repressive, (and they could) I will take the consequences. I will not be frightened into silence, or passive acceptance.
In my creative life, it is my intention to throw all the time and energy I can at doing the best and most original work I am capable of. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it isn’t. The book industry is not driven by the desire to publish the best and most original work people are capable of. It’s about making money, and in turn making money is about giving people what it is supposed that they want, which tends to mean more of the same. My audio short stories, webcomic and novel (Fast Food at the centre of the world) over at http://www.nerdbong.com are getting plenty of hits, this blog has plenty of followers. There are enough of you who like the things I do to make it worth doing, and I have a day job that means the writing I do is not obliged to pay the bills.
So, I re-dedicate myself to art for art’s sake. I rededicate myself to striving towards innovation, originality, deep thinking, wordcraft, and the very best that I can do as an author. I re-dedicate to making stories for people who, like me, want to be taken somewhere they haven’t been before. I re-affirm my belief that the right story can change the world, and that these are the stories I want to be writing. If the only way to do that is give my work away and pay the bills by other means, that is how I will be doing it.
I accept that I am choosing a path that makes it even more unlikely (and it was pretty unlikely to begin with) that I could ever become rich or famous as a consequence of what I do. I am choosing a path that means I probably won’t ever earn a viable living as an author. But the thing is, I am utterly shit at doing the commercially orientated work, I lack the skills, the discipline and the drive to make that succeed, and I would rather be me as I am, than suffer trying to be something I am not. At first, coming to terms with this was a distressing process but the more time I spend with it, the more I realise that I would rather be a bit arty and totally invested in my work, than do something designed primarily to sell, and whenever there is a choice to make I will be doing the former and accepting that I cannot have the latter.