Today I turn 60 years old. And I feel like I have hardly begun.
Yes, I have been an award-winning journalist, teacher, union president, Board of Education vice president, actor, producer, and director, but mostly, I’ve been a writer.
I’ve written press releases, news articles, columns, editorials, plays, comic books, sketch comedy, stand-up routines, screenplays, short stories, novellas, and novels. And I produced, performed, or published most of them.
And yet, as I turn 60, I feel like I am just now approaching the starting line. Everything else has been training, a warm up for the main event.
I realize today that I am a work in progress.
After six decades I am finally concentrating on writing as my job. As I approached 60, I dared to ask, “What if?” What if I finally dedicated my professional energies to writing? What would I do? What would satisfy me?
I forced myself to take my time and consider the possibilities before answering. And I arrived at two answers.
First, I wanted to take full professional responsibility for the four novels I have published independently. They have already earned awards and some solid reviews from a small audience of readers. Nothing more needed to be done there beyond promotion to keep them in the buying public’s eye. I found I disagreed.
While all four had been written, rewritten, proofread, corrected, beta read, rewritten some more, then proofread and corrected again before they were published. But I played with the idea that maybe they could be better if traditionally published, so I did some research. You know what I learned? Traditional publishing wants nothing to do with independently published works (the vast majority of the time).
A couple of my writing heroes have suggested that any novel that has been rewritten more than 30 percent can be considered a new work. I wanted that to be true for me. I needed it to be true for me. But I just can’t get there. I rewrote about 60 percent of two of the novels. They changed dramatically, expanding the story while trimming fat of the prose, developing antagonists better, and overall improving the work. According to the sage advice I received, these should be new books, right? Maybe, but to me they are essentially the same story told better.
So these novels seem fated to remain independently published. As a result, I have to guarantee they are the best possible work I can produce. So, with 60 breathing down my neck, I hired professional editors and took the final step to assure quality. Now I have three of those four novels ready to return to market. All three will be available, renewed, refreshed, better written, developed, and executed than before, in my 60th year.
See? Work in progress.
I have also begun my second path, traditional publishing. During the Covid years, I was published traditionally for the first time in a long while. Flash fiction. Author interviews. Short stories. All published and serving as indication this path is not necessarily closed to geezers.
I have three more pieces coming out so far this year, a pop culture essay and two short stories. And more work has been submitted. Further, I just finished the most daring bit of writing I have ever taken on, a crime horror story told in free form verse. It, too, will be beta read, edited, and then sent to market.
Work in progress. At 60.
Next up is finishing an all-ages thriller that is about 75 percent done (the rest is loosely planned). This will be beta read, professionally edited, and sent to market, as will more short stories, etc.
I am aware that 60 usually signals a winding down, but I feel more alive than ever, more vibrantly unfinished and worthy of effort than I have for years.
It is great being a work in progress.