I came across this quote, in a collection of “harsh but true” thoughts on writing by famous authors:
Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home.
I suppose this doesn’t apply to me.
(The first things I thought of when I woke up this morning was “I’m in the middle of my life.” “I’m middle-aged.” “My life is half over.” “My mother is much closer tot he end of my life than I am.” “I should call her today.”)
Surely, Paul Theroux would not consider me a “young person” who ought to “leave home.” My window for that opportunity came (and went) two and a half decades ago.
But at nineteen, I didn’t want to write. I wanted to study philosophy and drink beer and have sex. (Disclosure: I was exceptionally good at two of those.) At nineteen, the thought of writing anything creative had never crossed my mind. And in my defense, I had only been on the planet for nineteen years — and I had no memory of several of these — and I had nothing worth writing about. The best I could have cobbled together, at that time, would have been a story about a college sophomore who when she wasn’t reading Kant and Plato was drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon or having sex on the roofs of apartment buildings.
Not a real page turner.
So now that I’m right in the middle of my life* I seem to think I have something worth saying, and potentially interesting to others. Though I can’t help but believe my mother would be so much better at this than me. She’s got an extra twenty-four years of experience.
Plus, I can’t leave home. Who would make vegan cake with fig jam and honey frosting for the children?
*This presumes my death at 88. The average life expectancy for women in the US is 81. I’m adding ten years for my lifestyle choices of being nearly vegan and practicing yoga 5-6 times a week. I’m subtracting three years for my occasional slip into comfortable vices.