I Feel Too Young to Write a Novel
"And it hurries to live and it hastens to feel." - Prince Vyazemsky, "The Snow"
I keep feeling like a 21-year old should not write a novel. How can I? "Write about what you know." Are two decades and one year enough to know something? Louisa May Alcott wrote through Jo March, when the character was my age, "I don't know anything!" I started being introspective before fourteen, but is just seven years enough time to gain knowledge in the world, enough to write? Especially as my understanding was developing (and still is). My experience is narrow, my imagination high, my passion broad - and blinding, maybe. Youth is intense, idealism exists... The world is the world in my head.
What can I write from this?
A book I'm working on right now is called "Marian and Roland". I started stitching it when I was fourteen. Even though I probably only wrote a paragraph of it on an old computer, the story grew like St. Brighid's cloak when she spread it on the ground. There's no real storyline, but the myth, the archetype of it, has stretched out over the hills of my mind. This one story (along with one or two others) has sort of incorporated a lot of what I thought, and a lot of who I was, during my teenage years - and all my woods-dreams. Big lofty goal to try to write it down now, eh? The characters were my dream-playmates and I played with Roland and his brothers as much as I did with my real neighbor boys, I'm shamed to say. But "Marian and Roland" is the little I know - and a lot of my imagination.
Maybe the world wants ignorant, passionate, strong writers - youths with their tenderness and dreams, their little bitternesses and young jadedness, their dark sins, their vividness and pathos, their silliness, their young imagined constructs of the world, their infant sweentness and vulnerability and bravery to be naked and a baby before the world in writing.
Maybe literature wants to see this, even just to laugh at the young ones or to study with clinical curiosity the youths' hearts - that they themselves once had. (For "passions...are the property of youth, and anyone who expects to feel their thrill throughout his life is a fool" [Lermontov, "A Hero of Our Time"].)
In my stories, at 21, I present the reality that I know, and also what I want - really, really want and long for - reality to be.
Perhaps only the young writers have the knack of showing their tottering (though what they consider blazing and raw) perception of reality...and also their heart's keenest cries for how they want the world to be and believe it can be, against all hope. It's silly, but where WOULD we be without the baby's idealism? And I know this is a Romanticized view of youth, that equates age with innocence (the 19th century began to see us as angels, whereas the Puritans had seen us as adults stuffed into miniature bodies), but she's walking the closest to Eden, because she's young. She hasn't gone far; she sees it still on the horizon. She cries for it. And maybe, if they aren't too doubled over in laughter, the grown-ups, who have walked further away than she has, and lost the Sight of Eden (or call it "the Sentiment" of Eden), might have their minds stirred in memory and their hearts warmed with reassurance that it is still there.
Do not let the world look down on thee because of thy youth.
And it hurries to live and it hastens to feel.
Sometimes I want to run away from myself. Or I want to cover my ears and put my head down, until the stream of my heart quiets and finally stills.
"Tranquil rivers often begin as waterfalls, but no river leaps and foams all the way to the sea" ("A Hero of Our Time").
"As much fun as I had at your age," my grandmother confided to me seriously, "I wouldn't re-live it for the world."
"I'm glad I'm old now, in some ways," said my mother happily, "I'm not as anxious as I was in my 20s and 30s. Life seems easier... but really, I think I'VE just mellowed out."
After I turned 21, Dad listened to a tirade of me being distraught. I couldn't find answers, I didn't understand anything. I was lost. He didn't offer answers or solutions. He just gave me sympathy, which is what I want most from those who have already climbed the steep hill: "It's really hard at your age. I understand; I know; I was there. Everything is intense." And then he did one of his laugh things that brought everything down to scale for me - and minimized the craggy mountains. I feel bad for youths who don't have this said to them to comfort them and relieve them and make them smile.
I don't know. Sometimes I feel really stable and mature. Grounded and centered. Tranquil and phlegmatic. Other times I hate the numbers "two" "one" and feel hunted, haunted, hampered, hemmed in, by them. What weak fragile numbers. I'm so young! Where's my power? My world-conquering Alexander empowerment? I feel unable to deal with the stresses of the world or too small to grapple with its galactical questions.
I do feel life intensely. Everything IS big. Rejection is felt keenly. My self-image is as delicate as a junior high girl's sometime. Passions and impulses are grandiose. (I woke up in the middle of the night and said, "I'll buy a ticket to Rome again!") My heart feels pulled by an invisible rope attached to my chest toward "Adventure!" Questions of "Why do we exist?" and "What is life's meaning?" are 50-foot-drop-from-a-bridge-worthy. (No... not really, but enough to make your soul scream!) Intellectual confusions, tumbled thoughts, churning doubts - enormous. Conflicts about life and how to be are life-and-death situations, battle-worthy, desperate, like my existence hinges on them.
Whew. Exhausting. I can't wait to be a fat calm housewife in a bathrobe looking back at her tempestuous youth and patting her girlish ardors on the head.