Monday, January 19, 2009

Late Bloomers

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article titled “Late Bloomers” for the New Yorker last year. It was based on work for his book “Outliers” and compared two kinds of creative genius. There are two styles of going about achieving a work of art, he wrote. In the first, a person sees their project fully formed in their mind and sets forth, often at a young age, to achieve it quickly and entirely. The other is much more experimental and time consuming. We (yes, this one is me) thrash about, putting together one version and then another of whatever it is we mean to create; we fail, we fling the last draft into a tree, we beat ourselves up, we get a new idea, we try again. Every time, we are filled with hope that this time we will get it right. Mostly, we don’t. We despair. But we can’t stop working at it. We keep trying. And eventually some of us do get it absolutely, gorgeously right.

There is no guarantee that I will be one to eventually bloom. There is no guarantee that my book will be published someday, or that I will publish some other book instead. But Gladwell’s article gave me a renewed sense of hope. It was nice, in the first place, to recognize myself in a methodology occasionally witnessed to produce great art. I thought myself simply neurotic, insecure and slightly deranged; well, then, so was Cezanne, and look what he managed to do? But even more helpful was an understanding of the bottom line when it comes to achieving success as a late bloomer—persistence. All of that trying and flailing takes time, and also, it counts as practice. The key is not giving up (also one of messages in Bradbury and his write-three-million-words-and-gain-mastery theory, perhaps). Gladwell’s article was also, of course, the inspiration for this blog.

Deep inside, I believe that my book will be published. It might be in ten or twenty years, but someday, I feel that it will be published. I believe this partly because I can’t stand the thought of it not being published, but also because I know that I am self-abusive enough to carry on long past any reason. Allow me to live long enough; allow me to steal enough hours from my children and husband; allow me to demure from other hobbies I might otherwise take up, like guitar-playing or surfing or scrapbooking (well, probably I’d never take up scrapbooking); and I will produce something worth publishing in a book-like object. Trust me.

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