On the Death of a Genius

A writer friend texted me the news this morning.

Immediately I wished I was in a courtyard with wand-wielders. As a poor substitute, I watched a scene from Half-Blood Prince and made this.

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This afternoon I was swiping through old photos of me (which my aunt texted a few weeks ago).

I guess with Alan Rickman’s death, I’m getting all “I open at the close”—trying to decide how to live more truly to my child self. The silly, creative girl who didn’t limit herself, didn’t compare herself to others, didn’t fear failure:

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Rickman didn’t get his big break until his forties. He gave us almost thirty years of brilliance—of character immersion so great, people are mourning not only him, but also the various fictional characters he loaned his soul to.

On Tolkien’s birthday, I posted about how long it took him to find success. Earlier this week, I retweeted this from Saladin Ahmed (though I usually don’t share tweets with cursing) because it felt relevant to what I’ve been feeling and reading this year thus far:

I’d like to think I’ve got time, but what if not? What am I doing that will leave a legacy? How am I moving toward my creative goals?

As a student, I always gave myself this deadline age of thirty-three. I’d tell myself, nobody was more influential than Jesus, and he didn’t start recruiting disciples until he was thirty-three. Why expect I’ll make a difference before thirty?

Well, some people do. Some people find fame as teenagers.

But those people aren’t me. And maybe they aren’t you.

So what do we do? We acknowledge that no two paths to success are the same, and those paths can often change. We acknowledge that there is no “right way” or “right time” to do creative things—just the way that makes most sense to who we are and what season we’re in.

We each have obstacles in our lives. The point is not giving up. That’s why we read stories. Characters can’t control their inciting incident, but they can decide how they will move forward. Either way, they’re active:

“Folk seem to have been just landed in [aventures], usually—their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on—and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end.”

(Sam to Frodo, The Two Towers)

Maybe you need more experience or training before you can move forward. Maybe you are a caretaker; someone is dependent upon you. Maybe you have a job that leaves you overworked or exhausted, but you need the income. Maybe you need time for self-care.

But maybe you need to distinguish between what is necessary and what is important, and prioritize accordingly.

So where are you standing right now, en route to your creative goals? What stands in your way? What can you do about those obstacles? How can you work around or despite them? Comment below.

3 thoughts on “On the Death of a Genius

  1. Alexandrina Brant says:

    Reblogged this on Miss Alexandrina and commented:
    On Write, Edit, Repeat, Lara aptly talks about how not everybody finds success at an early age, even if, like Rickman, they become celebrated legends by their work. Keep going, keep the mind from making comparisons, and aim for your best contribution to the world, regardless of when that may be. Purpose will come.

  2. Leigh says:

    Hi Lara, I’m telling you where I am because you asked and because it’s bothering me. I’ve finished the first draft and took structural notes for each chapter. The final chapters need a lot of work and I’ll be able to deliver that effort someday. But, for now, I’m having a burnout. I’m mad because I never thought I would get burnt out and I see how much more I have to go. It feels endless. Still, I understand that not all of it is going to come in one fell swoop, that it takes time to make good things. Writing this helped. This obstacle won’t be in my way for much longer. Thank you 🙂

    • Lara says:

      Happy to listen! It DOES take time to make good things. Think about all you’ve already done (a first draft! You wrote a whole book! You took structural notes to make it better!) and celebrate those accomplishments. Doing so will give you a bit of a breather and impel you to work for that next celebration 🙂

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