Today is my birthday.
At around 2:00am this morning, I turned officially 35 years old, thus entering, as someone at work (helpfully!) pointed out, whole new age demographic on surveys.
In my mind, though, it actually happened about six months ago, back in June.
I always make the point of pre-aging myself. This is both to smooth the transition from one year to the next and to prevent subsequently mis-aging my myself, similar to how people often continue to write the old year for months after New Year’s.
Today is also the day I’m supposed to have the draft of my novel-in-progress completed.
That, on the other hand, didn’t happen.
I’ve already decided to forgive myself for that. It was a self-imposed deadline in any case, so the only person I’m really letting down is myself. But I refuse to feel let down.
In writing, as in all aspects of life, one only gets out of it what s/he’s put in. I can honestly say I’ve put a lot of effort and heart into my WIP, and have worked away on it, if not speedily, than with dogged consistency. I’ve been no slouch, so if it’s going to take me longer than I thought to get ‘er done, well, such is life.
The only truly downside is that I’d originally planned to share my novel’s opening on my birthday.
I can’t do that now because my opening is a bit of a mess at present: “Too slow”; “Too much exposition”; “Nothing happened”; “No story problem or question has been presented” was the nearly unanimous response of my writing group. And they’re right.
I’ve worked on it a bit – rewriting a bit there, taking notes there – but ultimately put it aside in favour of continuing to move the unfinished story forward. I’d honestly believed my self-imposed deadline to finish my novel was generous, and that I’d have had plenty of time to go back and finish revising the beginning by now.
Since I was wrong about that, I’ll just have to share something different.
I present to you…
In Chinese culture, my understanding is that on your birthday, you are the one who gives presents to loved ones. I find this an interesting sentiment – quite foreign to North American customs, yet not without a certain amount of logic.
After all, what did I really do on the day of my birth that’s worth celebrating? My mother did all the work in delivering me, as did my father contribute in creating me, and various others play a role in loving me and teaching me and helping me grow.
If I think about it, countless people have played a role in my becoming the person I am today who are worthy of recognition with a gift.
As a writer, one of the best gifts I have to offer is that of my writing, which is imbued with so much of being. And so, in lieu of a novel excerpt, I’m sharing some more of my angsty old poetry, reworked.
Which is actually not all that different from sharing part of my novel, for even in my prose, I bear poetic considerations in mind: the rhythm of the words; how they sound alongside each other; the images they conjure through figurative language, etc.
No wonder I’m such a slow writer.
All poems have two meanings, and mine are no different in that regard. Here are three poems for autumn as the days get shorter and colder, and the trees are shedding their leaves.
Happy birthday to me. And thank you.
Storm of the Century
You weren’t forecasted, or even foretold –
Elders, for once, didn’t feel you in their bones;
Farmers didn’t throw you down in the almanac like an oracle’s bones or stones,
Nor pick up any warning from the restive lows and restless lines
Leading back to the barn hours too early.
You blew in like you owned the place –
A parade held in your own honour:
Wheat whipping its arms in affection for you;
Shutters crashing and smashing applause
While paint flaked from panes and walls
Into confetti, ribbons, and long, ragged banners sharp enough to slice skin,
Etched with your name in red.
The weather vane tried to follow you,
Pointing over here, over there,
Vainly on a course you never meant to share.
You tore down walls like an artisan, like divine retribution,
Like nothing – nothing ever prepared for, or felt before
Leaves rustle for silence
As the wind rakes secrets through branches
Like fingers through unkempt hair;
The careless gesture of a man well-loved his whole life,
And unused to guarding his words.
Autumn rasps and roughens
After the warmer caress of summer and spring,
Yet still holds just enough tenderness
To raise a flush in one whose true colours are usually
Too subtle to be discerned.
Related post: The Mountains Became My Muse