By Alex Raley
I recently made a trip with folks who kept referring to me as “sir.” Most of the people were well past fifty years. This was a simple gesture of courtesy on their part, but it spoke volumes to me. Am I really a fossil as my grandsons delight in calling me? Am I beyond elderly? Is my fatigue due to aging and not carousing? I do know that in recent years I have begun to think of my life as having a stopping point, though that may be twenty years from now or it could be tomorrow. Such a thought never occurred to me thirty years ago. I was too busy with career and family, too busy with life.
What has all this to do with writing? This new view of life has given me a new perspective on writing. I no longer write because I think my writing is publishable. Writing is just a natural process, like breathing, sleeping, eating, thinking, talking and all the other things we do routinely. This does not mean that I will stop submitting things for possible publication. It means the rejects will be less important.
Age has also given me a unique view on publishing. With all my years of reading, I have come to know that publishing is more accident, or whom you know, than a sign of quality. I have just finished reading Super by Jim Lehrer. On his or her worst day, any one in our workshop writes as well, or better, than that novel. The real story of the novel barely would make a short story, and the remainder of the book is filled with interesting stuff, but not for a novel. One can only surmise that Lehrer can get something published on his name alone.
In spite of these thoughts of age, I still know that the unexpected does happen. In a recent prayer-breakfast speech, Randall Wallace, script writer, director and producer, told the story of his being near bankruptcy. After some soul-searching, he wrote Braveheart. Though I don’t expect to write a Braveheart, I will keep my eye open for the unexpected. Who knows what may lurk around the corner even for a fossil.
In the meantime, I will enjoy the youngsters who stand to offer me a seat on the Newark Airport bus transfer from Terminal C to Terminal A, the young man who offers to help me lug my wife’s carryon up a stair at Tel Aviv, and the many persons who ask, “How are you doing?” as we trudge over Masada. Maybe there is a story or a poem somewhere in all that solicitation.
My advice to you is to keep writing and submitting, but to relax and enjoy what you do. Fossilization creeps up on you.