Out of Time

It always feels like I’m running late, that I have missed my opportunities, that if I don’t succeed right now, I never will.

Every novel that comes out makes me think, by the time mine is done, will the world have passed it by? “Sorry, but we’ve had too many of these lately. If only you’d sent us something a year ago.”

Every time a writer friend gets a book out or signs an agent, I’m happy for them, and yet also feel like someone has taken my spot. That by the time I finish my book (again) I will send it out into the world and the world will say “Gosh! If only we’d seen this a year ago.”

My novel talks about race and culture, but I worry that it does so in ways that are too specific to my generation of children of immigrants, and so perhaps it is already too late for this book, since everyone has moved on and what I wrote is now a strange sort of historical artifact.

An agent turned me down because there were so many other great South Asian writers who’d put out amazing and award-winning books recently. (To be fair, I now see that my book wasn’t ready.) Did I miss a period in time when you could be South Asian and put out something that was pretty okay? There are so many marginalized writers putting out amazing work these days–will the marketplace look at mind and say, “Sorry, but we have filled our quota. You have missed your chance.”

I’m over 40, so I’ll never be one of those “Top 40 under 40!” writers, also known as young whippersnappers. Will they say I’m too old to have a promising career?

I have a young child, and so I live in fear that I will become one of those women who had a lot of potential but never did anything with it after becoming a mother–it’s easy to see how that happens in these early childrearing years.

If only I could get the mostly-done-but-not-quite novel out now, and then I would never have to worry about never doing it.

I can tell myself over and over that this sense that I have missed my chance is bullshit, but the feeling doesn’t fade. Which in turn leads to more struggle on the novel, because if I have already missed my chance, why bother? And if I have not, well, I must rush and get it perfect NOW or else I will miss it. Forever. What a waste of potential. No pressure.

I grow old …. I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

And would it have been worth it, after all,

And in short, I was afraid.

I guess there’s nothing for it except to disturb the universe.

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One Day

One day, I will not be afraid. One day, I’ll be successful. One day, I will write a beautifully crafted novel in three drafts. One day, I’ll be able to justify the time I spend on this endeavour in a way that no one can question, including me. One day, it will not take so much time. One day, I will have a reason for writing that doesn’t sound pretentious or selfish or like something other people would laugh at. One day, I will not feel like a fraud. One day, I will believe I am a writer all the time. One day, I will not be surprised and puzzled when other people think of me as a writer. One day, I will sit at my desk to write and not be tempted to check Facebook first. One day, I won’t have doubts. One day, I’ll have more publication credits than my nemesis. One day, I won’t feel like I am wasting time. One day, I won’t feel like the opportunities have passed me by. One day, this won’t take so long.

One day, this will be easy.

That’s what it all comes down to, really. Why isn’t this easy? And then convincing yourself that if you make the next milestone, you get this one story published, you finish the draft, you get an agent, you win a contest–if you can do that, afterwards, it will be easy. That particular one thing is the only thing stopping you.

But eventually, you get past the one thing, and it’s still not easy. It’s still hard. Not coal mining-hard, but harder than you can admit to most people. You still have no idea what you’re doing or if any of it is working. You still have no idea if this is worthwhile in any concrete sense. You use up huge reserves on this giant act of faith that is just doing it, and then afterwards you wonder why it’s always so daunting to start.

This is your hobby, your dream, your profession, that one thing that satisfies your soul and makes you feel like your you-est self, and you keep shying away from doing it, and then kicking yourself, because it’s not easy. You chastise yourself for complaining that it’s not easy since it’s not coal mining.

But you know it’s not easy. You talk with other writers about how it’s not easy. Even for the ones that make it look easy. But somehow you think it should be different for you. That it’s supposed to be easy for you, and you get worn down because it isn’t easy.

You scorn the people who think it’s easy–they aren’t writers–and yet, you wish it wasn’t so damn hard all the time. Or worse, not all the time. Because those days when it goes well trick you into thinking that maybe on all those other days you did something wrong.

You start thinking, one day, I can quit. I will do this one thing, and I am done. Forever. I would like to do easier things. At least when I clean the floor, at the end of the day I will have a clean floor.

In your heart of hearts, you know you can quit right now. You don’t have to wait for one day. One day can be today. And maybe you do, for a little while.

And then one day you think, I had something. Maybe it could really be something. One day.