Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Not my story

What would make you quit writing? Age? Infirmity? Lack of what you consider success? Boredom? Something else?

by Dietrich


To put it another way, I’m planning for the long haul, so I tell myself the best is yet to come. And that’s easy to do when I think of the many greats who did their best work late in life — take George Orwell and Nineteen-Eighty-Four. Okay, he was on his deathbed, but he was around long enough to see his masterpiece published and rise to critical acclaim.

In spite of a wealth of talent, Cormac McCarthy saw little success from his early writing. In fact he was sixty before All the Pretty Horses, the start of his border trilogy, hit it big. Margaret Atwood wrote The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, when she nearing eighty. Philip Roth was seventy-seven when he penned Nemesis. And Agatha Christie had already turned eighty-five when Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case hit the shelves.

There have been many other late-bloomers over the years, take Toni Morrison, Henry Miller, Raymond Chandler. And many others who stretched out prolific and long careers: Norman Mailer, Ray Bradbury and Leo Tolstoy each wrote for nearly sixty years. Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, and Agatha Christie were at it for over fifty year.  

Science tells us that there’s no correlation between age and creativity. So, while retaining ones marbles is a good thing for any of us, it’s also reassuring to consider that a wealth of life experience can serve us well, meaning the older we get, the more of it there is to draw on.

It’s good that writing a novel doesn’t require the physical stamina of a marathon athlete, and lucky for some of us couch potatoes, there’s no heavy lifting involved. Not to say that writing is easy, or to imply that anybody can do it well enough to get an agent to commit that writer’s number to speed dial. In fact, thinking it’s a piece of cake — figuring the first draft is perfect and ready to send out, that the editor has it all wrong, or to have illusions of an immediate Rowling kind of $uccess — could lead to such a writer packing it in early. A thick skin and a realistic attitude go a long way to overcome setbacks, bad reviews and critique, and how about those pesky rejection notes.

As for boredom — not a chance. As long as the wheels keep turning, and the ideas keep coming, why worry about ticking clocks? I plan to keep on; no quitting on account of age, infirmity, or boredom. That just ain’t my story.


Brenda Chapman said...

Such a comforting post - so great to have reinforced that one can write until ... well, death :-)

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Brenda.

Charlotte Kenning said...

Just reading this post reminds me 'I will never be bored in my retirement'. I see some authors/books in your list, which I was supposed to read for some course a long time ago. When one is young and restless, there seems to be 'no time for reading', for school that is. Thank you also for the reminder that as a 'veteran of life', there is so much to offer others. Although I was previously a 'non-fiction' lover, Dietrich, you have turned my focus onto the fun of reading in fiction. Thank you.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thank you, Charlotte.