If Age Brings Wisdom...

And I'm not actually saying it does, but if age brings wisdom, how come these days I feel I got nuthin'?

I'm working the short stories (AGAIN), without much break between them, and at varying levels of "work," from "what was I thinking?" to "is this ready to send somewhere?"

I am discovering some very very VERY disturbing things.

If you were to name Santa's reindeer after my characters, there'd be Robert, Robert, Robert, James, Jason (formerly James), Jim, Cass, and Carla. I'm tempted to name somebody Rudolph, just to do it.

Plus I was looking through notes I've made for stories to come. They feature yet another Robert and another James.

But wait, there's more: All these people drink a lot of coffee and talk. A lot. If my short stories were ever to inspire a drinking game, you'd need to watch out for the "drinking coffee" scenes.


There are a lot of advantages to being an ahem "mature" writer. Except that I'm discovering that I'm mature only in years, in select experiences writing for other people, and in non-writing life (moving, jobs, family illness and death). And although I know there's no "there" there -- no writer is done developing, or so I imagine -- I'm still on the "developing" side when it comes to fiction and personal essays.

So yes, the years bring advantages. I certainly feel freer to write about families -- the fights and silences, the inexplicable traditions -- because I know my own parents won't be reading the stories to find themselves.

Yet sometimes I feel my characters have the same failings they would have had if I'd been writing fiction as an undergraduate student -- only the details are different. Back then, they'd have experienced heartache and hookups, intoxication (booze and independence), bad decisions and their aftermath, insistent Peter Pan syndrome, and death once removed (e.g. grandparents, accidents).

Currently, my characters enjoy drinking coffee and talking. Which is understandable, given that that's basically what my days comprise (plus a little bleeding over a keyboard). I have actually resorted to listing activities regular people might undertake in a day, just to get my characters up from that darn table. Picking up the dry cleaning, taking the dog to the vet, making supper, vacuuming -- like that.

Although I bumble along through life reacting badly and doing extremely stupid and futile things, I am reluctant to let these Roberts and Jameses and Jims and Jasons, these people who have consented to spend time with me (some of whom I actually like), do the same. That's not really fair, to them or to me. I'll have to let them be unsafe, irresponsible, and just plain wrong.

I have also checked the database of popular names, keyed to specific years, on the Social Security website for new names. Hello, Michael and John and Edward.

Sure, they'll probably keep drinking coffee. But Rob Jam Michael may also stomp off in a huff, right into the middle of a snowstorm. Maybe even -- gasp -- without gloves. Crazy. Irresponsible. You go, Michael.

ETA: See, I even knew this before, about my characters and all their coffee drinking.