Late Bloomers

For those of you who didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night, David Seidler won for original screenplay for “The King’s Speech” at the 83rd Academy Awards on Sunday night.  He’s seventy-three years old.

He began his speech with a wry statement:  “My father always said to me I’d be a late bloomer.”  He went on to say that he believed he was the oldest person to receive that particular Oscar, and hoped the record would be broken early and often.*

This smacked me right upside my forty-and-a-half-year old head.

See, several of the little  anxieties that swarm around and bite my ears when I’m trying to get into the writing zone are the ones that tell me I’m not writing fast enough, didn’t start early enough, haven’t been published yet, I’ve only got a few decades left, I’ve wasted all this time . . .

This is all patently untrue:  Betsy Lerner might rightly call me a bleeder**, but I do get there in the end, and usually well under deadline.  When in my right mind, I don’t consider thirty-three years of writing practice—and thirty-seven of reading—wasted time.   This is the point in my life when I have something to say and, just maybe, the ability to say it.   And if I follow my parent’s example, I won’t be middle-aged until I’m eighty, if then.***

I know this.  I do.

But I still have a tendency to hyperventilate like the White Rabbit trapped in a hamster wheel  when I read about all these talented infants authors on the 20 under 40 list.  When I read in The Guardian or the New York Time—or PW, occasionally—that younger writers have promise and older writers have an imminent expiration date.  Remembering the writing instructor who informed me that I was starting five years later than I should be^ and realizing it’s been four years since I took her workshop—

Breathe, breathe.

It helps to know about Mr. Seidler.

It helps to know that plenty of authors debuted after, some well after, forty:  Paul Harding, Belva Plain, Stina Hergin (who was 90), Annie Proulx, Sue Monk Kidd, James Michener (there’s a writer who hit 57 running), Richard Adams, Raymond Chandler, for pity’s sake, and a couple more bestseller lists full of etceteras.

It also helps to remember that late bloomers do, in fact, bloom.

Of course, finishing up my current chapter wouldn’t hurt.  I believe I’ll try that next.


* Mr. Seidler was a childhood stutterer, and he closed his speech by dedicating his award to all the stutterers in the world who finally had a voice.  I’m sure the video is on the Oscar website.

**Forest for the Trees.  If you write, read it.

***You know what my parents did on their vacation in Hawaii?  They went up a volcanic mountain and rode zip-lines down.  I’ve yet to see the photos (Dad?  Please send some, soon, so I can post proof), but I’d believe it anyway.  For anyone keeping score, Dad’s going to be 79 this year and Mom’s going to be 73.

^No, I don’t know what her reasoning was, though marketability might have been on her mind.


16 thoughts on “Late Bloomers

  1. Ziplining?! Freakin’ ziplining?!
    Sarah, this puts you so far ahead of the curve, I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s not what they did, it’s that it even occurred to them to do it. Amazing.

    Sometimes it helps me to think, it doesn’t matter when you started or how many books you’ve written. It only takes the one really good one.

    We’re just skipping ahead to the really good one. The other books that we weren’t ready to write would have been crap anyway. Just skipping the crap, that’s all.

  2. Your parents are the hippest septuagenarians I’ve ever heard of! Talk about inspiration.

    I hear everything you’re saying. I’ve felt it in many forms through the years. As you know, I actively shut out the noise. I literally throw out anything that makes me feel inferior. Even if that something lives in the next apartment. Poof! It’s gone. I may see it, I may even have to talk to it, but it becomes unworthy of any deep thought because (and here’s the crux of the matter) the person who is trying to tell you what to do, how to do it, or whether it even has the chance of getting done doesn’t know anything! Remember, the light is in you. Everything else is just wasted energy.

  3. He also gave a wonderful speech at the Baftas. Compared to him – we are TODDLERS!

    And you as a librarian must also know the children’s book Leo the Late Bloomer.

    Your parents are amazing. My mother is another late bloomer – she had her first novel published at 68 and is self publishing her second right now at 77.

  4. Thank you for this post.
    Most of the communities I still hang on cater to writers younger than me, and I’m only 23. Often times the kids I end up talking to make me feel incredibly old and awkward. I didn’t start taking an interest in writing until I was thirteen and I didn’t get serious about it until I was eighteen. And I’m stuck in these online communities with people who claim to have been writing since they were in grade school. *GULP*
    But you know what, I know how to turn a critique into a conversation rather than an argument and I’ve just finished my first novel, so I’ve got it going on.
    Let’s both work on our blooming.

  5. Yes, I heard that Oscar speech and wanted to bear-hug the man.

    If it makes you feel any better, I’ll turn (gulp) 50 in October. I was only nine when I decided I was going to be an author. But I didn’t get around to writing that first book for another 30 years. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

    Guess all we can do is keep at it, one word at a time, right?

    • And experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want . . . but I’m starting to understand that sometimes that’s for the best.

      Ah, maturity . . .

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