The Writing Life: Aged like wine

“Spend time with the page. Be thoughtful about what you need to develop as a writer and move forward by finding ways to meet those needs. (…) You’re not the only one coming to writing after a rich and significant life experience elsewhere.  Use the knowledge and the insights you’ve gained to inform your fiction and your process and to navigate terrain that is always changing.”

– Brandi Reissenweber on older “new” writers, The Writer, August 2014, p. 8.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who become artists when they’re older. My paternal grandfather, a mining engineer, took up stained glass art in his seventies. He liked birds and flowers, so that’s what he designed. I wonder if he liked to draw when he was young, but it never occurred to me to ask him.

When I was little, my girlfriends and I all read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. She didn’t start writing until midlife. The stories that made her famous in her old age were stories of her childhood.

My favorite childhood book – until I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and then it was a tie – was Watership Down. Richard Adams was a 50-something civil servant.

I remember reading Raymond Chandler’s essay “The Simple Art of Murder” and learning that he started writing fiction because he needed to make a little extra money, so he started studying pulp fiction and writing his own short stories when he was in his mid-40s.

It occurs to me, too, that a lot of good writers – ones I read now – didn’t hit their stride until they were older. With the changes in publishing now, I wonder if some of them would have gotten the opportunity to start a career based on their early works.