I took seven years to complete my BA. I was about five years older than all the other cadets when I did my official journalism training, taking a pay cut just for fun. I got my first gig on telly at 35 – when most women are giving up the screen. And I only found my “dharma” – what I’m doing now – a few years back, in my late 30s. I’ve been behind the 8-ball the whole way.
And, yep, I’ve fretted that a whole bunch of ships had left the dock without me. I guess, then, I’ve always looked out for tales of successful creatives who also took the long route.
I’ve written about how Leonard Cohen took more than 5 years to write ‘Hallelujah’.
And Bruce Springsteen 6 months to write one of my favourite songs ever, Born to Run.
Ira Glass’ career as a journalist only flourished after 17 years.
Recently I learned Kate Grenville did 22 drafts of Secret River. (When I ask her about it, she says: “Good things take time!”)
And Mark Twain fiddled and despaired and revised and gave up on “Huckleberry Finn” so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete.
Bram Stoker wrote Dracula at 50, George Eliot put Middlemarch out at 52.
William S Burroughs published his first book at 39, Raymond Chandler (one of my faves) at 51.
The list is a long one.
As I’ve said before, being great takes time.
But here’s another great theory, put forward in an article by Malcolm Gladwell.
He flags this: late bloomers tend to be experimenters. This is the creation style.
This means, he writes, they repeat themselves, painting the same subject many times, and gradually changing its treatment in an experimental process of trial and error. They consider the production of a painting as a process of searching, in which they aim to discover the image in the course of making it. Experimental artists build their skills gradually over the course of their careers, improving their work slowly over long periods. These artists are perfectionists and are typically plagued by frustration.
So they bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.
Nice, don’t you think? I totally relate. I’m a tweaker, a fretter, a layerer. When I write a book it takes me 2934238 times longer than I think it should. But I do trust now that this is my creation style. And I’m now glad of it.
Are you a late creative bloomer yourself?