Writers at every age…
Harry Bernstein started writing his famous memoir The Invisible Wall when he was ninety-three. The book was published when Mr. Bernstein was ninety-six years old. The Invisible Wall became a huge success. Not to rest on his laurels, Bernstein followed up his late-blooming success with several more books including The Dream and The Golden Willow.
As impressive as Harry Bernstein’s late-in-life writing success is, he is not alone. There are actually many writers whose first book was published after the age of sixty. For example, Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes, was published when McCourt was sixty-six years old. He wrote the book after retiring from his job as a high school teacher. Angela’s Ashes has sold over 10 million copies.
Another late-blooming author is Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was sixty-five years old when her first Little House children’s book was published. She went on to write seven more books in the series, and won five Newberry Honors for exceptional Children’s literature. Wilder’s books were also made into the popular TV series Little House on the Prairie starring Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon.
Harry Bernstein, Frank McCourt and Laura Ingalls Wilder are just a few of many late-blooming authors. So one can’t help but wonder, is being older actually be an advantage when writing a book? I think so. In particular, I believe older writers have two significant advantages over their younger selves.
First, older writers have the opportunity to integrate their extensive life experiences into their work. For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder draws on her experiences living on a farm for her fictional children’s books: while, Frank McCourt recounts what it is like growing up poor in Ireland in his memoir. Each author’s ability to use the details of their life experience to make their prose ring true is critical to their literary success.
Along, with experience, getting older often also provides greater perspective on past events. Harry Bernstein noted how important obtaining distance and perspective from the events in his childhood were to creating his masterpiece, The Invisible Wall:
“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book… It just could not have been done even when I was 10 years younger. I wasn’t ready.”
— Harry Bernstein
With increasing age, we often develop perspective and insight into challenging life experiences. When older writers integrate this perspective into their work the results are often tremendous.
If you are interested in writing an article or a book, do not refrain from the endeavor because you feel too old. Rather, know that those extra years have provided you with the experience, insight and perspective that can help you create your best work.
J.M. Orend is author of the book Successful Late Bloomers which takes a look at late-in-life achievement. She is also a magazine writer, blogger and artist. Her website can be found at www.jmorend.com.