Martha Southgate has posted a great article over at The Millions about the literary/publishing community’s relative ageist (my term, not hers) focus on young writers – awards for writers under 35, the New Yorker’s “25 Under 40,” etc.
I’m no old man. I’m on the quick slide to 30, the age at which, I’ve kind of decided, things change. Since I started taking my own writing seriously – I was about 26 – I was already aware of many authors who were my age or younger when they published their first, second, or later books. Ben Percy, for example, published The Language of Elk at 26 and had been published in The Paris Review and had won a Pushcart Prize. 26! Now, at 32, he has two more books – a novel and a short story collection – and a third out this fall. Tea Obreht published The Tiger’s Wife to superstar-making acclaim at only 25. Okay, so I started late and I’m not destined to become some hot new star of the literary world or anything, but my point is that – duh – age starts to catch up with a man.
Martha is certainly correct that many writers really hit their strides in the middle or late into their careers. Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer at 74. But. This age thing is certainly shadowing me, taunting me. If there’s potential to be realized, it’s better to find it now rather than later.
This is not all to say that I can’t write after I turn 30, that I can’t produce better stuff as I get older, but, certainly, I’m not getting any younger…