Be vewwy vewwy quiet. I’m wistening cwosewy fow the sweet sweet voice of inspiwation.
When we were kids, my brother was considered something of a math prodigy. He skipped the 9th grade to attend the Illinois Math and Science Academy and taught at the University of Illinois before he even finished his BA. While he was in college, he told me, laughingly, Paul Erdős’s statement about mathematicians being machines that turn coffee into theorems.
My brother went on to earn advanced degrees from some of the most prestigious schools in the world. On a recent visit, I mentioned that quote to him and he laughed, this time a little bitterly. He said that most mathematicians do their best work before they’re 25, and that if you haven’t had any brilliant and original thoughts in the field before 30, you’re not likely to, ever. It’s like your brain has lost same particular aspect of plasticity that allows it to uncover new truths about numbers.
That’s never been so of writers. It’s the rare author who has both a mastery of craft as well as an interesting story to tell before 30. Maybe authors don’t hit their stride until 40. It’s not at all unusual to come across an extremely talented person who didn’t even start writing until they had retired in their 60s. So age is actually an asset in this field. And I keep telling myself that. It’s not only the facility with words and the understanding of how to structure sentences, chapters, paragraphs, and stories. It’s also the vast increase in life experience: fodder to create stories. And this increases exponentially. I don’t only gain the experience of my own life. I also get the experiences of all the people I talk to, and all the characters in books I read and videos I watch.
There’s absolutely no reason for a person to feel as if they haven’t achieved enough. In the creative arts, your masterwork can still be in the future.
Today was a rough one for me; I had to report for jury duty at 7:30 a.m. and that sort of thing always throws me off course in a thousand ways. But inspiration came nonetheless. You just have to force yourself to open to it. Although I believe in participatory democracy and the right to a trial by a jury of ones peers, the actual process of serving the legal system in this way is oppressive. Getting up early, going through a metal detector, being forced to sit in a room full of strangers waiting for your number to be called, getting questioned by strangers and forced to conform to their mode of speech and behavior, listening to a nonstop stream of dialog inside a windowless room for 7 hours a day, having this all supersede whatever it is that you’ve chosen to do with your life. Plus, the judge cracked a misogynistic joke and made fun of a potential juror’s accent.
Basically, I didn’t want to do it, and when I was excused it felt as if I myself had been released from a kind of prison. The trial was going to be a minimum of 3 weeks! Ain’t nobody got time for that. I was planning of forcing myself to open to the possibility of jury duty. But it was just too much, and instead I was born anew into the early spring sunlight and opened myself to joy and inspiration and found this comic.