Paula’s Post #64 – According to a recent study announced by scientists at the prestigious Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, age 72 is now the new 30.
I swear, it is true. I read it in the newspaper.
Seriously, I am not making this up just to assuage my guilt over another week… Gone! Another week without this 5writer committing sufficient authorial anatomical pressure in the form of pen to paper and seat to chair.
According to the renowned Max Planck Institute’s findings, modern medicine has so substantially increased life expectancy in the last 200 years, evolutionarily, today’s 72-year-old is now on par, in terms of mortality, with his (or her) 30-year-old forebears.
Now, to my mind, this is a very good thing. For I fear I may need this small scintilla of hope, shimmering on the horizon, this shining beacon to console me, to assure me that when I finally do find the time to sit down and write, I shall not be ‘too late’.
I do not want to be ‘too late’
Of course, this Tigger is an incurable optimist and that helps. Perhaps part of my attitude comes from now spending winters in the greater Palm Springs area. You try spending a couple of weeks in the desert and you too will soon become convinced that a fountain of youth must burble forth from the dry, parched California landscape, populating my little town of La Quinta with lively, vibrant, active, creative seniors.
Octogenarian rollarbladers whiz by on the street, waving but not stopping. Septuagenarian cyclists, resplendent in rainbow-hued spandex, lounge in cafe chairs, sipping decaf lattes, resting their quadriceps and their $2000 bicycles for the return leg of their 40 mile morning jaunt. When you think about it, it takes a fair dash of optimism to drop a couple of grand on a bicycle at the age of 70 or 80, but these guys aren’t worried, they feel time is on their side.
One thing I love about living in the desert is how comparatively young it can make you feel.
Case in point: this past Saturday morning, while enjoying a lazy start to the day and our second cups of coffee, the phone rang: Tyler at the pro shop, calling to remind my dear husband he’d signed up for a senior men’s golf event affectionately known as ‘The Old Geezer‘ tournament.
They were teeing off in five minutes.
Well, perhaps not surprisingly, my ‘Old Geezer’ had forgotten he’d even signed up for this event. But he made it, dashing out the door still buckling his belt, shoelaces untied, hat askew.
Eligibility for this esteemed event?
Players must be 65 years of age by the day of the tournament – 75 if playing in the ‘super senior’ category. In case you’re wondering, my lovely husband barely made the cut, but not so his playing partner, a spry 86 year old who sent my husband home with a spring in his step and the realization life wasn’t over, not just yet. He still has a few years left to perfect his golf game. Or his tennis game. Or even to start a new career or even, dare say, to write the great American or Canadian novel. When you’re 66 and swapping stories with guys old enough to be your Dad, you can start feeling pretty youthful.
In yesterday’s post, my 5writer colleague Silk compared writing to that most gruelling of Winter Olympic sports, Skiathalon, a marathon requiring stamina and fortitude. As Silk pointed out, writing (and getting published) requires similar determination.
Sure, we’ve all heard tales of young phenom authors landing six figure book deals. Just look at self-publishing sensation Amanda Hocking, recently profiled in the New York Times:
By the time she was 17, Hocking had completed her first novel, “Dreams I Can’t Remember,” which she sent to every agent she could find through Google and “Writer’s Market.” All of them — “about 50,” she said — rejected her, mostly with form letters. Today she doesn’t think the agents made a mistake, and blames her query letter as much as the work itself. “I was whiny and depressed and thought life was going to be handed to me.”
But as the profile in The Times shows, Hocking didn’t give up, she persevered.
She started treating writing like a job, perusing bookshelves and studying the industry to see what exactly was getting published. Romance, a given. But Hocking, a fantasy reader, added trolls to the mix, mostly because no one else was doing it.
Still, she got rejected. Finally, she turned to self-publishing, selling at the outset what seemed at the time an amazing five books a day. Five people who wanted to buy her book, every single day.
Yet soon, that number topped 9000.
A day! Every single day.
That’s when St. Martin’s Press came calling, offering the 26-year-old 2 million dollars for her next four books.
But my point is you don’t have to be 26, like Hocking, to become a successful first time author. Writing is both for the young, and for the very young at heart.
So, without further ado, my not really in any order, ‘List of the Day’:
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, 51
His first novel was published when Chandler was 51, after years of apprenticeship writing for pulp magazines. (Oh, and if you’re interested, you can check out BaumanRareBooks.com where a first edition, still in it’s original dust jacket, is offered for a cool $19,000 (which I suspect may have been more than the advance offered to Chandler).
Annie Proulx, Postcards, 57
A journalist who penned short stories in her early career, Proulx’s first novel Postcards, was published when she was 57. She followed it, a year later, with her Pulitzer Prize winning sophomore effort, The Shipping News.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, LIttle House in the BIg Woods, 64
The first in the wildly popular Little House on the Prairies series arose like the phoenix from the ashes when the stock market crash of 1929 wiped out the Wilder family assets. In 1930, Wilder asked her daughter’s opinion about an autobiographical manuscript she had written about her pioneering childhood, at the time bearing the not quite so catchy title “When Grandma was a LIttle Girl’, wondering if she might be able to sell her little story and make some money to support the family. Sales of her books since first published in 1932? 60 million copies, worldwide.
Think those are isolated instances? How about:
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty, 57
Karen Blixen as Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa, 50
Richard Adams, Watership Down, 52
Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes, 66
And my personal favourite?
Lorna Page, A Dangerous Weakness, 93
In a 2008 piece, the UK Telegraph highlighted the decision of then 93-year-old author Lorna Page to use the proceeds from the sale of her debut thriller, A Dangerous Weakness to assist her friends by buying a five bedroom house for £310,000 after securing a significant advance for her thriller. According to the Telegraph, the independent nonagenarian widow said she simply wanted to help her friends enjoy the last few years of their lives in a sociable environment. Sort of like a ‘Golden Girls’ house for elderly writers and other creative types.
You know how much I love that idea.
So, look back at these ages. Think about when success may strike and remember dear 5writer colleagues: 72 is indeed the new 30.
It is okay to take a ‘time out’, even for extended periods of time. We are, as Silk so aptly pointed out, engaged in an endurance race. As far as I am concerned, that race need not go just to the swift.
My schedule for this week:
Sunday – (day before yesterday) I showed 2 homes to clients – followed by 18 holes of golf with clients. Ate chips and drank beer and forgot to eat dinner. Fell asleep over iPad. Missed Downton Abbey.
Monday – (yesterday) showed 5 homes to clients, followed by 1.5 hours of tennis practice chasing down lobs, followed by a quick trip out to preview another new community, before scurrying through something like 11 model homes, followed by dinner with my house guests, followed by drafting this blog post (mostly) without falling asleep.
Tuesday (today) – 1:02:46 am – push ‘publish’ on blog post. Then I’ve a rare ‘free’ morning scheduled, time to fulfill my other roles of general contractor, travel agent, IT specialist, and dog wrangler, followed by another 18 holes of golf with clients while said clients try out the second golf course here in La Quinta, followed by drinks with said clients, inevitably followed by short, whispered Unitarianish prayers beseeching said clients to actually buy a house instead of just looking at houses. If I’m lucky, in the evening I may even get to watch Downton Abbey and catch up on all the pre-recorded episodes I’ve missed.
Wednesday – I’ll once again be seeking ‘The Thrill of Victory’ pounding out volleys and lobs with the ‘Over 55’ Ladies 3.0 Senior Tennis Team. Followed by dinner with the house guests. Followed by icing my Achilles tendons, tennis elbow and wrists, before reading night.
Thursday – Writing Day (I hope) followed by dinner with friends
Friday – Writing Day (I hope) followed by a special birthday dinner for my husband’s sister and her friends.
Saturday – Housework (or so my long-suffering husband hopes).
Of course, my schedule most certainly will be turned on its head before the week is out. If I’m lucky, more clients may start unexpectedly falling from the sky, just like the subjects of the Weather Girls hit single: “It’s Raining Men”.
Only for me, my dream is that “It’s Raining Buyers”.
In the end, I don’t really mind if I stick to my schedule or not. I’m meeting so many interesting characters, I could fill the pages of a hundred scribbler notebooks. And I’m pretty sure that one day, I’ll look back on this time and vividly recall what pain, tenacity, hope, fear, greed, pride, vanity, humility and embarrassment feel like, because I’ll have experienced all those emotions in a single week.
Nay, a single hour – and that’s just on the tennis court.
Until then, I’m just going to remember I’ve got time on my side.
I just hope my fabulous 5writer colleagues hold similar sentiments. Because I don’t want any of us to stop writing, even if we’re not yet published by the ripe young age of 93.