By the time he was my age, Gustave Flaubert was decades past his peak with Madame Bovary. By the time Hemingway was 54, he was pretty much done. And by the time Shakespeare was as old as I am, he’d been dead a couple of years.
It’s hard to look at facts like these and not get a little depressed. I mean, sure, I didn’t even start writing until I was in my thirties, and didn’t really get into novels until my forties, but…damn! Adding fuel to the fire, a quick search for “writers who started late in life” does not generate a list of late-blooming literary giants.
My mind quickly comes up with all sorts of justifications and explanations as to why so-and-so succeeded early in life and I have not—financial support from others, an early start in the craft, etc., etc.—but it’s all nonsense. As my father once wisely told me, there’s always going to be someone richer, smarter, or more talented than I am. Getting down on myself for not being a genius, for not getting that Nobel Prize for Literature, is silly. More than that, it’s counter-productive.
I don’t write to be famous. I don’t write for immortality. Crap, I don’t even write to make it into the “Who’s Who in American Literature.”
I write because I like it. Because I love it. And that’ll do.