Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Better late than never
This article made me feel rather ashamed of myself. Author Phyllis Whitney, who died last month, didn't start writing until she was 40, but sold more than 50 million copies of her romance and mystery novels, and wrote 76 books in her lifetime. I've read some of them and they're rather good. She did live to be 104 though. Apparently, she didn't eat sugar and took 86 vitamins and minerals a day, so maybe that's something I should look into.
Before she succeeded as a novelist, she wrote articles, short stories, textbooks, worked in a children's library, and as an editor and taught junior fiction writing at New York University. There was a woman who Got On With It, I thought. I felt guilty just reading about her. No procrastainating for Phyllis. I bet she never found herself with a nice swathe of writing time on her hands and decided to re-grout the tiles in the bathroom instead. The figures speak for themselves, methinks.
It proves the point, though, that's it's never too late. Well, clearly it is at some point, but you get my drift. Mary Wesley didn't take up writing until she was 70, and was incredibly successful. Catherine Cookson started writing aged 11 but was 44 before she got her big break. Mind you, I think if I started training as a plumber (I'm obsessed with plumbers, I'm sure I've mentioned them on here before) aged 11, and didn't quality until my mid-forties I'd be pretty peeved. Not to mention broke.
That's the bugger (and beauty) of writing, I suppose. It's not a trade that can be taught over a two-year period. Or can it? Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree here, but it seems to me it's mostly the Other Thing. The Thing that simmers away for years, putting down roots and taking shape and disguising itself as a desire to work in an office, or to pull pints or clean houses, and takes second place to everything else, until it can no longer Be Denied. Then, to be annoying, you realise it's harder than you thought, and wish you'd knuckled down properly years ago, instead of fannying around with Other Stuff. Maybe that was the apprenticeship, though. Ooh, I'm getting all existential now.
I think I'll pop down to Boots and see if they do a vitamin that will unleash my genius in the next two weeks. 70 is still a long way off, believe it or not, and I don't think I can wait that long.