On Longevity and Starting Late

 

traveling wilburys
Edited picture courtesy of @nealbrennan on Twitter

Some of you may have seen the above picture courtesy of a tweet from comedian Neal Brennan that came with the accompanying text:

Was talking with friend about how impossibly old the Traveling Wilburys seemed when they released their music in 1988. I’ve listed their ages at the time. For some perspective, three of them are no longer alive. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.

While his last comment does make a good point, I thought instead about where those artists were in their career at that point in 1988.

Bob Dylan, at 47: 25 studio albums, 4 live albums.
Jeff Lynne, at 41: 11 studio albums, half a soundtrack, and 1 live album under the ELO moniker
Tom Petty, at 37: 7 studio albums with the Heartbreakers
Roy Orbison, at 52: 23 studio albums and countless singles
George Harrison, at 45: 12 studio albums and numerous singles with the Beatles, 11 studio albums and 1 live album

At the time their “Handle with Care” single came out, all five had had careers since the 70s, a few since the 60s.  This was a sort of older-generation supergroup brought together for the fun of it, all five having worked with at least one other member in the past on solo work.

Now that I’ve hit Dylan’s listed age this year, the fact that my own output is limited to three self-published novels and an anthology entry probably should make me feel like I’ve been wasting all my time to get to this point.  But interestingly, I’m not.  I’ve already made peace with having started my professional writing career late.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of, really.  To be honest, it’s hard as fuck to write a novel, a good novel, a professional-level novel, all while dealing with Real Life, Day Jobs, Families, and Other Responsibilities.  Pretty much all five Wilburys started out their musical careers at a young age and went pro in their early twenties.  Not all of us are able to dedicate all that time.

At 47, I’m happy where I am.  I worked my ass off over the last three decades to learn the craft, make all the mistakes and be the best writer I can be.  I’m glad I took that route using a minimal number of projects rather than trying to write hundreds of stories that may not see the light of day.  It made me the kind of writer I am, and it helped me develop my personal style.

And now that I’m at this point, I can see a much clearer future, where I can face future projects and not feel as though I’m stabbing in the dark.  I know what I’m working towards.  And because of that, I’ve cut down on my turnaround time considerably.  I could conceivably release a book a year if I wanted.  [I’m quite sure I’ll have those seasons of writing an epic similar to the trilogy that’ll eat up a good couple of years, but I’m thinking those are going to be exception and not the rule.]

So yeah…I’m fine with being 47 and being right at the beginning of my career instead of somewhere in the middle of it.  It means I’ve got a lot more to look forward to.

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