I recently discovered a new favorite writer. Beautiful writers elicit two reactions in me:
1. I get so happy that in our increasingly more disturbing world, there are still people out there that have the talent and take the time to create such beautifully told stories.
2. I despair slightly that I will never be as good a writer as they are.
Probably another one of those twenty-something writer prodigies, too, I thought to myself. And then I read more about Laini Taylor and found out this:
She finished writing her first book at age 35.
I can’t tell you how happy this information made me.
Lately I’ve been suffering from something that could be loosely termed as a third-life crisis. Like a quarter-life crisis, just five years later. Because I haven’t published a book yet, because it feels like everyone at my new job is a fresh-faced recent college grad, take your pick.
Also, there’s the internet. I feel like I’m constantly being bombarded by those lists. You know the ones: “30 Things You Should Have Done By The Time You Turn 30” or “30 People Under 30 Making More Money Than You Ever Will”.
I hate these lists.
1. They’re designed to make you feel crappy. If you’re under 30—you’d better hurry up and get this stuff done or else your life is a failure! If you’re over 30—look at how little you’ve done with your life compared to these uber successful people!
2. They highlight the exceptions—not the rules. In the same way watching TV can make you feel like all women are beautiful, skinny, and with this kind of hair, reading only success stories can make you feel like all people are successful when they’re young—except you.
3. WHY DOES IT MATTER?
I mean, yes, it’s impressive when someone young achieves something that others have spent years working on. And most of all, achieving success at what you want to do at a young age generally provides you with the resources to continue doing it. And I think that’s what gets me the most; that I still have to have a day job. Even though it’s one I actually like now, I still can’t spend several hours a day writing my novel, which means I’m not getting the practice, which means I’m that much further away from my eventual goal of becoming a traditionally-published novelist.
But it’s important to remember that when you read a really great book–that this book, with a few exceptions, probably would not have been possible had this person who wrote it not toiled away for however long. Or in other words stop comparing your works in progress to other people’s finished drafts. (I need to tattoo this on myself, apparently.)
I think one of the most important articles I’ve ever read in life is this one by Malcolm Gladwell, on late bloomers. You really should read it, but in case you’re lazy, it talks about two writers–one who achieved success at nineteen, the other at forty-eight–and Picasso and Cezanne, who had a similar discrepancy. It’s widely agreed-upon that Picasso did his best work in his twenties, while Cezanne’s best are judged to be the ones he did in his seventies.
I like this article because it doesn’t judge. Of course there are different ways to be creative in this world. If everyone followed the same path, can you imagine how boring the output would be? There would be no more art.
I know I’m edging more and more toward the late-bloomer camp–and I really need to learn to be okay with that. I like the work. I like the hours I spend toiling away at word-smithing. My biggest problem is that I don’t have time to do more of it. It’s only when I start listening to those silly “30 under 30 lists”, start comparing myself with others, that I lose sight of all of this.
In closing: stop writing 30 under 30 articles. And stop reading them. You do you, in your own time, and let me do me in mine.
Image found here