I was thinking last night about my childhood. Eighth grade, specifically, the year of Trapper Keepers, sneakers with velcro instead of shoestrings, and the erasable Bic pen. Good times.
I wrote back then, too, little snippets of scenes and stories that took my fancy and petered off as I lost interest. Nothing finished. Nothing terribly noteworthy.
My teacher Mr. Freidline gave us a writing assignment: what will you be doing when you're 30?
I told him I couldn't complete such an assignment because I didn't expect to be alive at 30. I think I annoyed him with that response (otherwise, except for one incident with a bug collection, we got along famously). I don't remember what I wrote for the assignment. A complete fabrication, no doubt.
I honestly didn't expect the world to be around by the time I was 30. Yet, here it is, eight years after the fact, and shows every indication of continuing for a while.
I wonder what my life would be like if I'd actually finished stories back then. If I'd sought publication when I was 15 and attending conferences, or 19 and writing continually in college, or even 21, when I "officially" finished my first book (that was Past Ties, but it wouldn't qualify as finished to me today because I left too many loose ends that I planned to address in the sequel Present Tense).
In The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle (one of my favorite books ever), the author tells us unicorns don't feel regret. A useful lack for an immortal creature. Eternity wishing you had chosen differently would be hell.
I've tried to live my life that way. Not by trying to experience everything, but by deciding not to regret the choices I make along the way. No point in regretting what cannot be changed.
I don't consider the intervening 20+ years between me then and me now wasted. I am a different person than that fourteen year old. I hope my writing has improved and my stories have gained depth and wisdom.
God is teaching me the journey is as important as the destination. Each step builds on the one before and prepares the way for the next. Taking the steps, even in my plodding, turtle way, is what matters. Persistence provides payoff.
It is not a regret, necessarily, but I do hope I have time to write more books. Now that I have a taste of the joy of completion as well as the agony of creation, I find I like it. I'd like to do more of it.
In the hopes that the world continues, I will continue, as well, without regret and with my eyes focused on the goal of completion, one story at a time.