Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

No Regrets

NOTE: This post is actually not about EBP’s upcoming anthology, Winter Regrets, which is due out on 2/28, details forthcoming.
I don’t follow everyone who follows me, nor do I automatically track commenters back to their own blogs to comment on their posts. “Follow me, I’ll follow you” is a song title (bastardized, I’ll admit), not a practice. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. The simple truth is, there are too many blogs, too many people, and not enough hours in the day for all of it.
I do, however, explore the blog’s follower list from time-to-time. I check out profiles and blogs. Sometimes I’ll follow those blogs, sometimes I pop in on a regular basis without following, sometimes I comment, sometimes I don’t.
On Monday, having the day off, I had some extra time and poked around the list, where I found what was then a roughly week-old post from B.A. Wilson, the most recent follower of this blog (except maybe for that anonymous guy, you know who you are). This particular post really resonated with me. It mirrored in many ways my own journey. B.A. writes, 
This is where writing begins, which leaves me wondering about the twenty-seven year gap that grew between my initial desire to write and tell stories and the time at which I let myself write. Yes, I said let myself write, because I wanted to write a novel for many, many years before I actually sat down and typed my first words.
A long time ago, I wrote about the first time I knew I wanted to write. I was on fire the rest of that year and part of the next, and was even partnering up with a friend of mine. We were going to write books for the ages! We had notebooks! And then….it sort of faded away, lost, I guess, in whatever kids get lost in in middle school.
Later, B.A. adds, 
“I’ve floated through degrees and career paths. Every single step of the way, I always asked myself: What’s next? What do you really want to do with your life? Every single time, I answered, “I want to write.” Then I quickly shoved that idea down as being ridiculous and irrational, and I dug around for something that might work out as second best.”
And again, I found myself nodding along. While I haven’t exactly floated through many career paths, several times I found myself unhappy with where I was and facing a decision—stay with this job, or look for a new one? And asking myself if I was happy. Writing was the thing that nibbled away at my brain. Writing was one of those things I always enjoyed, whether it was press releases, curriculum guides, brochure copy. Like B.A., however, I never really gave in to those urges.
But something else she said struck me: “I wish I could rewind now and start sooner. I can only imagine what I would have learned, in the last ten years alone, that would have helped me be a much stronger writer today.”
Regret is a powerful, and destructive emotion (is it really an emotion, by the way? I’m not sure). If we give in to regret, it can be as paralyzing as the fears that often keep us from acting in the first place. There is no room for regret. On occasion, I think this way, too. “What if I had started writing in college? What if I had started sooner? What if I had spent those hours on the train writing instead of reading or sleeping? What if I hadn’t played so much Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft, or spent less time at the bar, or, or, or…?”
But it’s too late for any of that. I’m here, now, with stories in my head and some degree of writing ability. This is what I have. And I also believe that the years spent not writing is just as valuable as anything. During the *cough*thirty-odd*cough* years between that first explosion of “I want to write!” and when I sat down and started seriously writing, I’ve had experiences. These experiences have shaped who I am and how I think.  
There is no room for regret–I’ve got another book to write.

7 Responses

  1. I agree to a point. I wish I had played with writing sooner, thinking like B.A. that I could have learned so much about the craft sooner.

    But, you know, I was raising a family–6 kids. And my time constraints were such while I was doing that and working full time and dealing with a husband with health issues that I think I'd have been terribly frustrated if I'd tried writing sooner. So, yeah. I might have thought I was sorry, but upon reflection, I'm not. 😀

  2. When I started writing, I only had the day job to contend with. I can't imagine contending with a day job AND raising my family. I'd have lost my mind by now, I'm sure! So…no regrets. Writing came to me at a time I could enjoy it. And boy, do I enjoy it!

  3. Remembering a regret to further yourself is okay, to let you it boggle you down is not. Like Walt Disney said "Keep moving forward…" You just keep striving and writing JeffO.

  4. "And I also believe that the years spent not writing is just as valuable as anything."
    I agree. I'm a different person now, I know a lot more, so I have different things to say in my novels. Experience is never wasted.

  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I think what Jemi said here was really on target: "we do things when we're really deep-down ready." I guess for whatever reason, I was just never really 'deep down ready.'

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