I recently started writing a novel again.

It's my third try! I've actually completed the first drafts of two before this - one I wrote about 8 years ago, the other I wrote 4 years ago. (Apparently I get the urge every four years, lol.)

I ended up discarding both of them, unhappy with their cores by the time I had finished. They just didn't feel like they were salvageable at a macro level.

My hope is that, quite literally, the third time is the charm. We'll see if that ends up being the case. I've changed my strategy a bit, outlining the entire plot before I started writing. This has been a great help, but the reality is that I still feel apprehensive whenever I pull the manuscript up to plug away at it after the end of my work day.

That apprehension stems from the feeling that I "missed my chance" at creating a piece of long-term work like this one as I get older. Yes, I do realize how silly that initially looks when I type it out. But I don't think it's entirely strange to feel this way either. I feel like the online world has expedited my fear of being inadequate as a creative. I can open a tab on any device and see incredible works of art of every kind by people that are nearly a decade younger than me.

Worlds By Porter Robinson Album Art
Porter Robinson made worlds when he was 21.

I am starting to think that maybe, potentially, possibly, this is not very good for my brain.

And so I try to remember a fact that I learned a few years ago, and have now written down on a sticky note above my computer so that I don't forget:

Did you know that Toni Morrison got her first book published when she was 39?

The Bluest Eye.

She then wrote Beloved, the one you've probably heard of, when she was 51 years old.

51 years old!

I am very much trying to emblazon this fact into every neuron bouncing around in my prefrontal cortex. Toni Morrison is and was a literary giant, someone I have been impacted by since I read Beloved when I was a junior in high school. It's important for me - and I think you, too - to hold on to the fact she was first published when she was 39. I think it's so easy now to believe that if you don't do some cool, Toby Fox-shit before you turn 30 then you're washed and washed out. The internet trends young - hell, I've been told by Twitter randos that I'm too old to be using Discord, and I've been using Discord since it first released!

Cover art for Toni Morrison's Beloved

It doesn't help that I've been dealing with some too-early anxiety about my own mortality salience, and the fact that this will all stop some day. I'm still working through it, but yeah, it does scare me.

But despite all of that, in 23 years I'll be the same age Toni Morrison was when she published a book that got a pulitzer prize. Actually, I'm pretty sure she got two of them for it.

And I'm not saying that you should aspire to be famous or anything like that. I don't think that's very healthy from a creative perspective either. What I am saying is that even if I'm not happy with the novel I'm writing now, there's always the next one. And the next one. And the next one!

Your age is a culmination of your experiences, your philosophies, your growth, your tastes. And all of it becomes the flames with which you form your own art. You can literally only get better with time.

Your work is Beloved - if not now, then eventually.