Ripening Writers

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
George Eliot

When I heard someone say that the noted economist peter Drucker wrote half of his 39 books after the age of 65, it prompted me to revisit a wonderfully inspiring idea: Many writers ripen and deepen their work as they age and stay creatively engaged virtually all their lives. Isn’t that one of the glorious gifts that writing brings us?

Spurred on by this thought, I googled, “Writers who remained active late in life” — not the most graceful phrase, I know, but it did the job quite nicely. I turned up an impressive number of these intrepid scriveners and thought I’d profile a few, just to remind us all that the pen is mightier than pharmaceuticals!

Nirad C. Chaudhuri served in the Indian army and chronicled his life and times in three books. The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian was published when the author was 54; Thy Hand, Great Anarch! followed at 90; and at age 100, he completed the trilogy with Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse. Critics adore these books for the insight they provide into Indian politics and culture during and after Britain’s rule.

Laura Ingalls Wilder had no formal training, but she was a keen observer and had lived a rich and colorful life. She was 65 when she published her first novel, Little House in the Big Woods, and 68 when her most famous and beloved work, Little House on the Prairie, was published. Over the next 20 years, she wrote three more books, all of which were published after her death at 90. Today, her stories are still adored in 40 languages.

And here’s a writer close to my heart and hand: Peter Mark Roget was almost 70 when he was forced to retire from the Royal Society, London’s scientific association. By then, he had published many medical and scientific papers, some of which were penned for the fledgling Encyclopedia Britannica. Instead of drinking tea and snoozing after he retired, Peter turned his restless, fertile brain to a subject that had fascinated him in his youth: A system for ordering language. He envisioned a guide in which similar words were classified together for easy reference. The first edition of Roget’s Thesaurus appeared when Peter was 73 and he oversaw each revision until he passed away at 90.

I hope you find these little snippets as inspiring and motivating as I do. If you have any ripening writers to add to this list, please let me know. Write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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2 Responses to Ripening Writers

  1. Karin, I got to thinking that really: a more mature writer can be a better writer in that they have a lifetime of experiences behind them to write about. A good writer is a keen observer, as you say, and only an older person who has learned to look behind himself is able to really see…
    Recently I read a memoir by a man named Harry Bernstein called the Invisible Wall, about growing up in a British mill town, on a street that housed jewish people on one side and Christians on the other. His sister had a love affair with a Christian and it went from there. The most remarkable thing about the book was that Harry wrote it when he was 96. See his obituary here:

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. I totally agree! Writers with a lot of life behind them bring so much heart and soul to their stories. My playwrighting mentor once said that no one can really write a play worth seeing until after they’ve turned 40! I’ve heard about the Invisible Wall — it sounds like an amazing book. Thanks for reminding me about it and Harry. Incredible to think that he wrote his story at 96. What a heroic undertaking.

      Write on, Karin

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