Life Imitates Art

Wild Queen of the Andes bromeliads don’t flower until they’re 80-100 years old.

Good fiction starts as late in its protagonist’s life as it could and still do the story justice. I think I’m approaching that time: the essential challenge, the seminal moment, the definitive days. For which story? There’s opportunity in more than one part of my life and I have my preferred order of abundance, but as we all know things happen as they do and not always as we’d like them to. We can, and should, influence events but can’t always control them. I’ll just leave that cryptic bit of obfuscation there. For these blog entries let’s concentrate on professional pursuits, shall we? 

I received the Emerging Artist Grant 3 years ago. I was and am in my forties. As I said at the time, I’m emerging slowly (my first published fiction piece came out over 20 years ago and my academic writing in the 90s.) Why so long? Because writing is hard? I take a lot of time to gestate my work? I pursued a satisfying career in civil rights law/social psychology/economic system engineering? No. 

This is just how it went for me. I do not recommend it. If you have a faster, surer, more direct route. By all means, take it. Take it and be grateful for it. Because if you don’t, one day you’ll have absolutely no patience left. No patience for waiting for the right moment, convincing anyone of anything, or even for your lack of patience.* Which is to say I have nothing left in me but agency.

As such, the the ensuing action should unfold in as few scenes as possible, just as it does in a good story.

*Don’t mistake lack of patience for lack of kindness. There’s no excuse for unkindness (if you run into a Class A, I’ll let you figure out what that A stands for, you can kindly tell/show them the error of their ways).

Tenea D. Johnson 


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