by Vicraj Gill
Journalist, editor, and author Margo Hammond has a great blog called Creative Late Bloomers, inspired by the example of her mother LaVerne Hammond, who started a career as a newspaper columnist at 86. The blog spotlights individuals who achieved creative success after 50: novelists, journalists, theater performers, dancers, and more. There’s even a shout-out to the Post-40 Bloomers series at The Millions that spawned Bloom.
Bloom’s founding editor Sonya Chung sat down last month for an interview with Marni Berger at The Days of Yore. (And while you’re at it, you can also take a look at an interview there with poet Mary Jo Bang, recently featured at Bloom.) Chung talks about the challenges of writing her first novel, Long for this World, including a “dramatic plunge” into uncharted financial waters. She also describes the process of starting Post-40 Bloomers and Bloom. Finally, she advises anxious, aspiring authors that “actually writing well, writing something of value, writing something that is in fact literature, that’s the hardest part. Invest as much energy as you can there.”
But what happens when you find you absolutely can’t follow this advice? For example, Hugo Lindgren, editor of the New York Times Magazine, spent years stuck in cycles he describes as “serial daydreaming,” beginning projects in a fervor and then abandoning them just as quickly, hobbled by the “big fear” of not being good enough. Ultimately, Lindgren finds comfort in an aphorism coined by Pixar co-founder John Lasseter that doubles as his article’s title: “Be Wrong as Fast as You Can.” “Mistakes are an inevitable part of the creative process,” Lindgren writes, “so get right down to it and start making them.”
More advice on following through comes from a speech that novelist Jeffrey Eugenides gave to last year’s Whiting Award winners. The advice originally comes from Christopher Hitchens, who picked it up from Nadine Gordimer. “A serious person should try to write posthumously,” Hitchens said, “as if the usual constraints—of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and, perhaps especially, intellectual opinion—did not operate.” These things, Eugenides argues, will hinder writers, and keep their work from being complete or truly meaningful. Over at The Millions, Todd Hasak-Lowy challenges Eugenides’s counsel, acknowledging the writer’s need to engage the world around him: “first write like you’re dead and then do whatever you can to bring this writing to as many readers as possible without, paradoxically, draining it of its miraculous life.”
The Millions also brings us a list of their most anticipated books of 2013, which includes work from several Bloomers, including On the Floor, a new novel by Aifric Campbell, whose first book The Semantics of Murder was published after a 13-year-career as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. The long-awaited Your Name Here by Helen DeWitt is also expected to hit the shelves sometime this year.
Novelist Ayana Mathis, whom we mentioned in last month’s roundup, sat down with Oprah recently to share the advice given her by another Bloomer, Marilynne Robinson, also part of our recent feature on “The Long Gap.” Writer Roxane Gay also chimes in with some “Gentle Reminders About Writing,” including a provocative question: “Do you want to be known for writing a lot or for writing well?” And finally, some news we were particularly excited to hear: the judges for Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize for emerging writers have given this year’s award to 75-year-old Natsuko Kuroda for her book “ab Sango.” Kuroda is the oldest author to receive the prize in its nearly 80-year history.