About a decade ago (actually, almost exactly a decade ago), I set out to do something I thought was, at the time, completely impossible: I wanted to write a novel. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know what about, and I didn’t really know what it would take to accomplish such a thing, but I knew then that, as I grew out of my twenties, that I wanted to have written a book before I turned 30.
Amazingly, I actually achieved this unthinkable goal. In the summer of 2014, just before my 30th birthday, The Redemption of Erâth: Consolation was released on the world. Still in my naivety about the publishing world, I chose to release it through a vanity press, and whilst this is something I regret to this day (I lost a lot of money with those creeps), it nonetheless helped my accomplish my dream of becoming a published author by the age of 30.
Now, ten years later, as I approach the age of 40, I wonder what I’ve missed. Not in terms of writing – I’ve since written two follow-ups to The Redemption of Erâth and two further contemporary YA novels (five novels in total in ten years), but rather in terms of getting them out there, read by people, and into public knowledge. In essence, my books are a commercial flop; I may like them, and a handful of people have otherwise read them, but outside of that I sell perhaps one or two copies a year to actual paying readers.
And this isn’t even a big deal – I never really went into this thinking I was going to be the next Brandon Sanderson, or J.K. Rowling. Instead, I worry that as I age, my accomplishments mean less and less. Writing a book before you’re thirty sounds impressive; doing the same thing by forty, or fifty, makes you wonder what you’ve been doing with your life.
I think I’m entering a kind of mid-life crisis, where I doubt my ability to succeed at pretty much anything. Ten years ago, things seemed all-too-possible, given enough time; now, they seem utterly impossible, facing the fact that, slowly but surely, my time is running out.
And there are things that I think seem doable as a younger adult that seem just overwhelming and pointless at a later age. I think the biggest flaw of youth is that it really does seem like you have forever to make things happen; if you don’t get your book signed this year, there’s always next year, or the year after that. But soon, the years are gone, and there’s little time left for anything.
I realize that I’m really not that old yet, but I’m starting to feel it, both physically (I’ve been bed-ridden for the past week with an injured back), mentally (I’m forgetting things at an unprecedented rate), and emotionally (I just feel exhausted all the time). And all of this together puts into perspective what I’ve been trying to achieve for over ten years with The Redemption of Erâth. Even if I actually manage to finish the series, it will never be recognized, and will never take off. I’ll never see a film adaptation, or even a Netflix series based on it, and it makes me wonder what the point of it all is.
That being said, as I’ve gotten older I’ve better come to terms with my own need for validation, and money and fame isn’t it; what I really like is for someone to tell me they really enjoyed my story. Just one person at a time. I don’t need critic reviews or box office hits; I just need a few people to read my work and say they connected with it.
At the end of the day, time will go marching on, and I will continue writing The Redemption of Erâth – even if there are large gaps of time between releases. One day the series will be complete, and then … well, then I guess I can retire. Or just die. Who knows.
In any case, the thing I’ve learned the most over the years is that youth foolishly believes anything is possible, and that things will always go exactly as planned. Writing taught me this, to an extent; when you’re writing away, and the characters do something they weren’t supposed to, and you realize your whole meticulously-planned plot is shot to hell, you learn to just go with the flow.
So here’s to another decade of going with the flow, and hoping The Redemption of Erâth one day sees its final word written.