Page Lambert, in Connecting People with Nature, challenges recent opinions that writers over 40 have a slim chance of writing anything of substance. “Writers Over 40 Rock,” she counters. Now that I am over 40, and 50, and 60, and Yes, 70, I thought I might weigh in. My 71 year old musings follow.
Why Can’t We?
To those who say We Can’t, I have a two-word answer: Norman Maclean. A River Runs Through It, his first book, appeared when he was 74. Beyond that, the question leads down three paths:
Why Don’t We?
1. So many writers are searching for their identity. In our autumn years, we may have found ourselves, discovered peace in that place, and lost our raging angst.
2. There is a quiescence, a satiety, that comes with a long life well lived. The Waylon Jennings ballad, A Couple More Years, captures this with: “You’re headin’ somewhere, but I’ve been to somewhere, and found it was nowhere at all.” At least not somewhere we need to revisit.
3. After 40 we may find ourselves at some pinnacle of power, some apex of authority, or just plain overworked because we are especially experienced and competent. Who has time to write while imprisoned by our careers?
Why Should We?
1. We are unique. No one else walked in our footsteps, saw life as we did. And we are important. What we saw, what we thought has value. Might there be a hunger for what we alone can write?
2. Who else can capture the essence of what once was, to burnish it as memoir, and offer it as roots to those who will succeed us?
3. Our words provide sea anchors in the headlong rush of impetuous cultural change.
Why Must We?
1. Because our mind, the central component of successful aging, needs the exercise. Given the choice, we all would have our minds outlast our bodies. Other than learning a new language, becoming a writer may be the next best strategy.
2. Or just because there is a story inside that needs to find its wings.