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."

Reassuring words.


  1. Anonymous10:07 AM

    How inspiring is that? I often wonder who I will be as I reach those mature ages and frequently ask myself, What will I know that I don't know now?

    It's exciting to know between now and then there is still so much to experience.

  2. Inspiring indeed! Every time I feel hope slipping away, or feel like I am deluding myself...I will think of Mary Wesley.

    Thanks for this encouraging article.

  3. I feel the way both of you do. Going around the country interviewing so many vibrant 60, 70, 80-plus year olds has shifted my perspective on aging. ...And Gladwell's wonderfully provocative article has altered my perspective on my creative process as well.