When we were kids, my brother was considered something of a math prodigy. He skipped the 9th grade to attend the Illinois Math and Science Academy and taught at the University of Illinois before he even finished his BA. While he was in college, he told me, laughingly, Paul Erdős’s statement about mathematicians being machines that turn coffee into theorems.
My brother went on to earn advanced degrees from some of the most prestigious schools in the world. On a recent visit, I mentioned that quote to him and he laughed, this time a little bitterly. He said that most mathematicians do their best work before they’re 25, and that if you haven’t had any brilliant and original thoughts in the field before 30, you’re not likely to, ever. It’s like your brain has lost same particular aspect of plasticity that allows it to uncover new truths about numbers.
That’s never been so of writers. It’s the rare author who has both a mastery of craft as well as an interesting story to tell before 30. Maybe authors don’t hit their stride until 40. It’s not at all unusual to come across an extremely talented person who didn’t even start writing until they had retired in their 60s. So age is actually an asset in this field. And I keep telling myself that. It’s not only the facility with words and the understanding of how to structure sentences, chapters, paragraphs, and stories. It’s also the vast increase in life experience: fodder to create stories. And this increases exponentially. I don’t only gain the experience of my own life. I also get the experiences of all the people I talk to, and all the characters in books I read and videos I watch.
There’s absolutely no reason for a person to feel as if they haven’t achieved enough. In the creative arts, your masterwork can still be in the future.
Funny comic. Comforting and of course true commentary on writing later in life. Thanks.