“To thine own self be true,” Polonius tells children in Hamlet, “and it must follow, as the night the day, thou cans’t not then be false to any man.”
The problem with this advice, of course, is that Polonius is as false a man as exists in all of literature, a consummate politician whose eye is always on the main chance, who’s willing to prostitute his daughter if it means wining a bigger role in the government of Denmark.
Still, if you take his advice as it exists on the surface, it’s good counsel.
One of the reasons it took me so long to really start writing was that I was embarrassed by what I wanted to write: romance. Tawdry, pulpy, emotionally adolescent romance.
When I told people that, they’d say, “You can do better than that. You’re smarter than that.”
But when I tried to write other genres, my heart wasn’t in it, and my efforts went nowhere. The fact is, I love the sunny optimism of a genre where the promise of happy ever after is implicit. I love stories that feature people who manage to change in fundamental ways that make their lives better.
One of the lovely things about growing older is you come to realize that, regardless of where you graduated in your high school class or how high your SAT scores were, you’re actually not that smart. By the time you turn sixty, you have a history that makes it clear you’re really just a step up from a pet rock.
So, to every writer out there who’s yet to achieve the lofty status of sexagenarianism, I say give yourself a bye and just assume you’re dumb enough to write whatever takes your fancy.
Live like you’re sixty and write what you want.