Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Late Bloomer Mary Wesley
British novelist Mary Wesley (1912-2002) once quipped, "Sixty should be the time to start something new, not put your feet up."
Following her own advice, she published her first book in her 70s. Over the next 20 years she wrote nine more, eventually selling upward of 3 million copies.
Wesley's success, however, was far from sudden. A classic late bloomer, she spent most of her adult life attempting without success to establish herself as a writer. As journalist Rebecca Seal notes in a review of Wesley's official biography (see cover, above), "It was almost as though she needed to live through her 'wild' life in order to hone the material in her books."
In a wonderful New Yorker article recently mentioned on this blog (Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity?), Malcolm Gladwell asserts that late bloomers tend to be experimental. Quoting University of Chicago economist David Galeson, Gladwell says, “Their goals are imprecise so their procedure is tentative and incremental.”
In other words, Gladwell argues that the Wesleys of the world "bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition."