In Praise of Late Bloomers

For those of us who are in our 40s and are constantly reminded that creativity is best suited and served for by those younger than us (see Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 List), here’s a reminder that just because you’re 45 and you still haven’t published that novel (or, worse yet, finished it) doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

In Praise of Late Bloomers

The history of literature is rife with so-called “late bloomers,” writers who had the desire and the inklination to write, but never had a major work published until they turned 40 or later. Charles Bukowski didn’t publish his first novel, “Post Office,” until he was 51. Toni Morrison was nearly 40 when her first novel was published. You get the idea.

We tend to romanticize this notion that youth is a requirement for producing major works of art, and while that may be the case in, say, music or visual art, it doesn’t lend itself that well to literature. Sure, you can write a great novel when you’re 25. But you can also write a masterpiece when you’re 50.

For more inspiration, there’s Bloom, “…for writers and artists of all ages and stages, for anyone who believes that the artistic journey is, and should be, as particular and unique as each one of us; that there is no prescribed beeline to literary achievement.”

I, for one, need to be reminded of this every day, and remember that it will never be too late for me to achieve what I want to achieve as a writer.

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16 thoughts on “In Praise of Late Bloomers

  1. I have never believed that great art was accomplished most by younger artists. Even as a young kid, I knew the value of age, wisdom and experience. The richer your life experience, the more experiences you have, the more insight you gain – all of these are what allow older people – let’s go with older meaning anyone over 35 – to create some of the most amazing works of art, including music and visual art, and literature.
    I know there are lists of talented people who have created some amazing things before they turned 30 or whatever but this to me doesn’t mean anyone over 30 or 35 cannot do the same. Whenever I do start to think about age, I need no more than to spend time with my 17 year old son and his friends to be reminded of the benefits of age and experience. I do not envy them their youth. I especially do not envy them their insecurities, their uncertainties, or the struggle that is to come when they step out into the world as adults this summer.

    • When I think of creative types who succeeded early in their lives, I see many who shone brightly when they were young, only to crumble to the pressures to having to replicate their successes immediately. Some more seasoning with age and wisdom would have done them wonders, no?

  2. What good timing this is!! I’ve only recently acknowledged my deep desire to succeed as a writer – never believed I could, until recently. And yes, I’ve been fretting that I’m late in the game.

    Thanks for the perspective!

  3. I finished my first novel when I was 22. I got an agent but the novel wasn’t published. It took ten years to finish my 2nd. New agent. That novel also didn’t sell. On my 40th birthday, I finished my 3rd novel. That was October 2012. New agent (after 7 months of querying and 75 passes).

    March 2013: Two book deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. My first (third) novel, THE ASHES OF FIERY WEATHER, will be published in fall 2015.

    Never quit.

  4. Thank you for this, nice post! It’s true, I never thought of myself as a writer, but when I was approaching 50 something snapped in me and it started happening. Combination of confidence-of-age, luck and a ‘life’s too short NOT to go for it’ mindset. In the last four years I’ve had around 30 poems in magazines, published a poetry pamphlet, and written three commissioned non-fiction books. So keep at it, I say!

  5. I always saw myself as someone who wrote, but not a “writer.” But, like you, something was sparked when I turned 40 and I decided to just go for it. I’ve had several works published since, but the point is, either I had to just do it, or let it go and move on to something else. So, yes, keep at it!

  6. Nice to read ya Gus! I agree, I have to remind myself this too, that it’s okay if I haven’t achieved all my goals just yet…I’ve got tons of time and..writing I think only gets better with age! It’s like a fine wine or a Cougar. haha.

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