Did you read this advice column by Roxane Gay in the New York Times? The one that says this:
The older I get, the more I have to say and the better I am able to express myself. There is no age limit to finding artistic success. Sometimes it happens at 22 and sometimes it happens at 72 and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. No, you are not too old to have a writing career, no matter your age.
I did read it, and then forgot it completely (I haven’t been online much the past couple weeks). And then one of our listeners sent it to me again, and reminded me that I wanted to write about it.
In the conversations Meghan and I have – on the podcast but especially off – we often talk about feeling like we have started late, or that particular nostalgia-for-what-never-was feeling (there must be a German word for that) of reading about a writer who is 22 and accomplished and amazing. That feeling that makes you feel like it’s not worth trying.
Which, of course, logically: what?? First of all, we aren’t old. Second, if it took me 70 years to tell a really good story, that would also be okay. But a lot of celebrity writing culture glorifies the young writers. Every year, it seems, an entire generation of new writers is born, at age 20-whatever, and they are breathlessly hailed as the “new [insert famous writer here, like Nabokov or Roth or whoever].”
(By the way, that is also completely okay. It’s awesome if you figure out what you want to say and how to say it when you’re 20-whatever, and I love being in awe of so many talented people.)
One part I liked of the column was this: “The writing world was passing me by.” Because that’s what it does feel like, right? That there is a writing world, and they don’t even know you want to get in, and if they did, they’d completely laugh in your face.
That’s why I especially liked her advice, which was to measure your success in a way that doesn’t depend on other people, on the people in the writing world (we could call it a writing bubble):
Sometimes, success is getting a handful of words you don’t totally hate on the page. Sometimes success is working a full-time job to support your family and raising your kids and finding a way, over several years, to write and finish a novel.
Let’s all just chant her last line to ourselves and each other every day this year:
You are not a late bloomer. You are already blooming.