Thursday, November 10, 2011

Over the Hill and Far Away

English novelist John Galsworthy was nearly thirty before he published anything. This is what the blurb on the back of his book The Man of Property tells us. The implication is clear: writers get old early.

Great works, the books that changed your life, were probably written by reasonably young authors.

Harper Lee was 33 when To Kill a Mocking Bird was published. J.D. Salinger was 31 when Catcher in the Rye was published.

I could go on.

I have heard authors say that they felt pressure to publish before they turned 33. Jesus was 33 when he died, you see, and if one man can save humanity for all eternity in 33 years, then another should be able to knock out a great book.

There is more to it than that, of course. We humans tend to be on fire with new ideas when we are in our teens. We are idealistic and alive. This fire is already starting to cool in our twenties. We are cooling but we are learning and we are full of ambition. We began to gather the intellectual tools we will need if we are to succeed.

In our late twenties we stare into the embers of our dying passions. We stir these embers trying to encourage a fresh flame. We become driven; time is running out; we feel our uniqueness slipping away. We spend many a sleepless night trying to work out how we will share our passion with the world.

This is make-or-break time. This is the time for foolish risks. This is the time when he (or she) who dares wins.

This is the time when we humans are most likely to have the combination of passion, motivation and drive that leads to the creation of great novels. These things also give the young writer the pluck to believe that their work should be published. Sometimes they are right.

If one reaches their mid-thirties and still hasn’t been published – well – there’s always the garden, isn’t there?

C.S. Lewis was in his fifties when The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe was published.

There is still hope for me.

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