I know I’m prejudiced, but I don’t think it helps to be a huge success early in life. Too much struggling to keep up the good work, too many people saying (cf, Woody Allen) that they liked the earlier funnier stuff better, too much of a sense that life is a long, slow dwindling of glory.

Look at John Irving (still most famous for The World According to Garp) or Martin Amis (Money) or Jay McInerney (Bright Lights Big City).  What you really want in a career is a nice slow burn, a steady development so that (like, say, Hilary Mantel) you write your great novel late-ish, when your mind is clear, you don’t believe your own press, and you’re less likely to blow the profits on cocaine and stupid clothes.

Of course you can get it wrong in the other direction, like Van Gogh, and (despite wondrous talent) only achieve recognition after you’re dead. This also shows poor planning.

When my husband worked in Nepal, he says he remembers watching, bemused, as huge, musclebound climbers powered past him at great speed through the astonishingly beautiful Himalayan foothills, looking neither left nor right, eyes locked on the summit of Everest.

The journey is the destination. Worth remembering.

14

17 thoughts on “Fifty-four

  1. Kathryn Evans 6 years ago

    OH THANK YOU! You have given meaning to my writing life…..

  2. bookwitch 6 years ago

    Never heard of (some of) them.

  3. maryom 6 years ago

    Not sure why age would stop anyone blowing the money on stupid things – or have I watched too much AbFab?

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Don’t people get a bit jaded about the power of toys to buy happiness as they get older? I suppose some do and some don’t….

  4. Mariam Vossough 6 years ago

    Note to self: Must try to remember this on the dark days.

  5. Nick Cross 6 years ago

    Meg, you continue to inspire us all SO much. Keep it up!

  6. Tiny 6 years ago

    Meg, thank you so much for your so true and comforting words

  7. Philip Ardagh 6 years ago

    Famously, when someone said to Joseph Heller, “You haven’t written anything as good since CATCH-22,” he replied: “Who has?” If he’d lived his writing life backwards, he’d have died a much happier man.

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Great answer. And so true.

  8. Sophie Blackall 6 years ago

    I’m all for the journey. In fact, I want to take as long as possible about it. Louise Bourgeois is my model. First major show in her 70s. Incidentally, when did you start smoking a pipe? Happy Birthday!
    xxx

  9. Michelle 6 years ago

    Hope is not lost, then. Thank you.

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Fraid so.

  10. Susan S. 6 years ago

    Happy birthday – you deserve an even better one for taking time to encourage those of us still accumulating enough glory to allow dwindling.

  11. raych 6 years ago

    Better early than never, I always say.

    Also, happy birthday.

    Also, I covet your embedded comment system.

  12. Catdownunder 6 years ago

    “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour” (R L Stevenson) – sounds as if you would concur (and I have to agree).

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