The aged writer puts down his most recent rejection slip and says, “Enough. I have pursued this endeavour for too long. I was told that rejection is a necessary rite of passage for a writer, but this is ridiculous – 50 rejection letters! I am 75 years old. For the last 10 years, since retirement, I’ve indulged in creative writing, caving in to that suppressed childhood urge only when I was safe on the Canada Pension Plan, because, ‘writers did not make any real money.’ But 50 rejections? I’m tired.”
This writer has been prolific during the last 10 years. The accumulated flotsam—of multiple careers, multiple marriages and children, of living in multiple homes and locations, and of having multiple jobs—has given him the grist to churn into his writing. He has written novels, short stories and poems during this span. But the dexterity of sentences, the intensity of emotions, his passion, have all been expended on other pursuits in the years prior to retirement, when he was doing everything else but write. And what he has written is tepid, tame, civilized and boring – like him. And he now realizes that it is too late: too late to excite publishers, too late to get an agent to respond to his query letter, too late to look dashing and intriguing on TV or in a newspaper photograph, too late to build his platform of ardent fans, too late to make the world realize that he has attained wisdom.
There are many writers like this old man living in our world of narrowed publishing outlets and mushrooming media channels. Many of these orphaned writers have formed tribes of lawless, self•published renegades in the tradition of Henry Miller, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, shamelessly self•promoting themselves in a fragmented media universe, reaching millions with their hype yet selling less than a 100 copies of their book apiece. They blog, twitter, webcast and podcast, and fume at their luckier counterparts who write to a tried and true formula and sell millions of copies while refusing to look into their souls. And there are others like him who sigh, and keep plugging away, until their hands no longer move on the keyboard and their brains muddle up the scenes and characters, and finally, even the sentences; at best they spit out a memoir, to be vanity published and circulated among immediate family and friends, leaving a feeble stain of presence on the world before departing it.
But back to our senior citizen writer, who sighs and accepts his fate. He chose comfort over doing the right thing and now pays the price. He therefore writes a final letter to his progeny, advising them that they should never suppress their true calling, whatever that may be. He urges them to pursue vocation over vacation, calling over career, martyrdom over money, to live happily within though impoverished without. He seals the letter and places it alongside his will – his only legacy and lesson to the world. Then he burns his novels, short stories and poems, because they have come too late and missed the bus. He hopes that perhaps he will get another chance in another life, when he will start young. He sits back and feels the yoke lifted, the responsibility taken away. Now, he can enjoy what’s left of his golden years, and embrace comfort without guilt.