Jeff’s Pep Talk: All Hail the Late Bloomers!Posted: August 7, 2019
All Hail the Late Bloomers!
By Jeff Bowles
The first Wednesday of every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.
It’s a forgone conclusion water never boils when you watch it. As aphorisms go, it’s kind of true, I guess. I know that in my own life, there have been times I’ve wanted something so bad, have focused on it so intensely, that it was almost no surprise I ended up with nada in the end. Do you feel that way about your writing career? Stuck? Unappreciated? Have you felt that way now for years or even decades?
It’s pretty rare for an aspiring author to strike gold on her or his first time out. Most writers accept this as fact, but I often wonder how many of us have internalized it. Stories of the ubiquitous wunderkind abound. It stirs our imaginations, the young upstart genius who, in earnest, works diligently to produce that one perfect novel and who, after a little effort, lands themselves a literary agent, then a book deal, then a movie deal, then…
But what about folks who don’t achieve much until they get a bit older? What about the late bloomer, who works just as hard as that young upstart, but for whom success has been slow in coming?
For a lot of people on the outside looking in, a writer’s inability to move the proverbial ball forward is often a sign of poor motivation, or worse, a lack of true talent. Unfortunately, the megastars have tainted the pool in this regard. For one, writers who achieve success while young tend to be tragically nonchalant about publishing and what it really takes for the vast majority of their peers to reach the same level. Selling yet another novel or short story is no big deal for them, and in my experience, more than a few of them fail to see the struggle the rest of us face. I don’t mean to call anyone out, of course. It’s just that perspectives shift wildly depending on who you talk to.
I don’t know about you, but I like to believe in a little thing called fate. Sometimes the things we want most just aren’t right for us, and it’s only after the fact, after we’ve struggled to attain them, that we realize we were perhaps meant for greener pastures. Whatever comes my way in life, I can’t actually argue with the cards I’ve been dealt, and neither can you. You can try, I suppose. Let me know in the comments section below how that’s worked out for you. Yeah, maybe it’s taking you longer to reach your goals than it took others. We can try to control things, buy self-help books, attend seminars about producing more commercially viable writing, but the reality of the situation is that thousands upon thousands of really talented folks struggle on a daily basis to be heard. It doesn’t mean we have to hate what we do. In fact, in can empower us to enjoy it even more.
There’s some solace to take if you’re perhaps getting on in life and are wondering if you should pack your silly writing dream up and focus on more worthwhile goals. Feeling dejected, rejected, and abused is not an age or experience thing. We all know what it’s like. The good news is that many of the most talented and successful authors you’ve ever heard of didn’t get their careers rolling until later in life. Bram Stoker, for example, didn’t publish his first story until the age of forty-three. And William S. Burroughs, the author of Naked Lunch, didn’t find the strength to take his writing seriously until the tragic death of his wife.
Luckily, you don’t need tragedy to learn the same lesson he did. It’s never too late. Not ever. You can’t predict when or where lighting will strike, and if you choose to quit, you won’t see all your effort pay off. It can’t be denied, there is something special about that wunderkind model. I wanted to be that guy. I’m sure more than a few of you did, too. But there’s also something to be said for experience, wisdom, patience, and dare I say it, deliberate and well-measured progress (also perhaps known as SLOOOOOOW progress).
So maybe you didn’t write a book until your kids were grown, your spouse had asked for a divorce, you lost your job, or whatever else you’ve been through in life. Isn’t it safe to say you’ve experienced things you and only you can write about? A treasure trove of experience, actually. And maybe you’ve read a few good books along the way, too.
We never know how much something means to us until we no longer have it. Never assume anything when it comes to this fate business. And don’t beat up that dead horse in your own mind. No, success is not a window that closes after a set time. Enjoy the work, love the craft, keep producing, and never stop dreaming. And I mean, it could be worse, right? You may have never started writing at all. Trust me on this one, folks, the world would be a far less magical place if you had.
Until next month!
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