It’s never too late to start something
In a Paris Review interview, writer Ursula le Guin tells how her mother became a published writer late in life:
My mother had always wanted to write. She told me this only after she’d started writing. She waited until she got the kids out of the house, until she was free of responsibility for anybody except her husband. Very typical of her generation. She was in her fifties when she started writing…”
Le Guin reveals how her mother and her were working at the same time to get published:
She beat me to it! Which is cool. Because I was late and slow. A slow learner. But not as late as her. I love to tell her story because people—particularly women—need to hear that you can start late.”
People need to hear that you can start late.
I love that line.
When I was 34, and done with being a research psychologist, Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, wrote me this beautiful line in a letter, “You’re at a magic age when you have enough experience and skill to make writing worthwhile.”
He gave me permission to start. He said the time was ripe. And so I began.
Some mid-lifers seem really old. Not chronologically, but in terms of elasticity and adaptability. For many, the cream of their creativity is poured into choosing tap fittings.
That’s capitalism and its need for bigger, better and brighter.
“People need to hear that you can start late.”
X-genners grew up bombarded by advertising and spent their formative adult years watching home reno shows (and later, home reno play offs).
A friend recently told me she cried watching a contestant lose a cooking show.
We make money, we spend it on our houses, then we immerse ourselves in the visual anaesthesia of the reality TV show.
A waste of human potential.
Mostly, people don’t begin new pursuits later in life because they don’t think to.
No one expects them to.
No one ever says, “Hey, what new skill are you learning this week? What have you made this month?”
We need to be asking each other these questions. If for no other reason than to begin creating the expectation that people will be making something, people will be learning a new skill – no matter what their age.
To get you thinking about how you’re going to spend your nights and weekends during the second part of your life, here’s a list of famous people who started late:
Monet didn’t really begin painting until the death of his wife when he was in his forties. He’d done some bits and pieces but his signature style didn’t fortify until the second half of his life. He painted his iconic work, Nymphéas, during the final 30 or so years of his life.
Morrison published her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in her forties. In 1993, she won the Nobel Prize in literature.
Film director Ang Lee hung at home as a stay-at-home dad for six years after he graduated from film school. His first film The Wedding Banquet was screened in Taiwan when he was 38. The film attracted the attention of global audiences. Since then he has gone on to make hit films such as Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain. And guess what? He also has an Academy Award. His wife encouraged him not to give up. Seems she had some smarts.
This American-French artist and sculptor is best known for her large spider sculpture, Maman, which she did not make until she was in her late seventies. The sculpture gave her the nickname Spiderwoman.
Her first novel wasn’t published until she was forty.
He invented the character Mr Magoo, but didn’t write his first book until he was in his 90s!
Bocelli played in piano bars to pay his way through law school and practised law until his mid thirties, when he started going to auditions and winning competitions. He was 35 when he released his first album.