Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Will Forty Years Do?

I've written before on this blog about how I admire the works of Thomas Carlyle. How I entered into the Carlyle labyrinth is a long story. I've read less of his words than I wish I had, and those that I have read aren't really representative of his entire writing career. So far my reading of Carlyle has been mostly concentrated on his early writings, those before his first truly original book-length work, Sartor Resartus.

Part of this is a book I downloaded, the first volume of the love letters of Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh Carlyle. This volume covers from when they first met in 1821 to sometime in 1824, still two years before they married. I'm currently reading in early 1824, having only 53 pages left to read (some of those being an appendix of some length).

In a book with the name of love letters you would not expect to find inspiration for writing, unless it were something for a romance or a romantic relationship within another book. But in a letter that Thomas wrote to Jane on January 8, 1824, I found some inspiration. Here's what Carlyle wrote.

Life is not so short as that amounts to: I believe no literary man ever spent the fiftieth part of his time or attention upon literature. Cowper was near his grand climacteric before he began to write at all. Think of what forty years of diligence will do, if you employ them well! I swear to you there is no danger: you want only a little experience to give you confidence in your own powers.

I'm less than two months away from turning 62. I didn't start writing creatively until I was 49, almost 50. Carlyle was not yet 30 when he wrote this. He could realistically expect to be writing for 40 years. Can I?
Forty years from age 50 is age 90. I could still be around then. Statistics say that's unlikely, but not impossible.

Or say I only had 30 years, taking me to age 80. That's certainly possible. Eighteen more years of writing from where I am now, fourteen of those after retirement from the day job. It's an appealing proposition.

I tend to want success now, with success defined as having readers. Not readers who are friends and family (not that I don't want them), but readers who are strangers, who found me because someone else who's a stranger to me recommended my books or stories.

I'm finding a few of those strangers. My total book sales are up to 249 (of twelve titles), and I don't think very many of these were sold to family, a few more to friends. Someone is finding my books, about five per month.

So I suppose now is not the time to give up. Most days I want to. Success seems quite unlikely, regardless of how many ideas I pour out and craft. Ah, but I won't give up just yet. I'll hope for forty more years to do this. If that's too much to ask for, I'll take the eighteen and see what I can do. At two books a year, and maybe another four stories a year, I could have 120 items available for sale by the time I hit 80.

For now I'll be content to shoot for that, quietly, one item at a time.

1 comment:

vero said...

Continue to plod away. Don't focus on time or sales. Time will pass. Sales will come. Keep your heart, mind and soul in the work.