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Taking Your Time

…by Prill Boyle
“Sixty should be the time to start something new, not put your feet up,” British novelist Mary Wesley (1912-2002) once quipped.

Following her own advice, she published her first book in her 70s. Over the next 20 years she wrote nine more, eventually selling upward of 3 million copies.

Wesley\’s success, however, was far from sudden. A classic late bloomer, she spent most of her adult life attempting without success to establish herself as a writer. As journalist Rebecca Seal notes in a review of Wesley\’s official biography, “It was almost as though she needed to live through her \’wild\’ life in order to hone the material in her books.”

Harry Bernstein, who published his first book at age 96, and Adele Lerner, who had her first art show at 101, feel much the same way about their achievements. “If I had not lived until I was 90,” Bernstein tells New York Times reporter Motoko Rich, “I would not have been able to write this book. . . It just could not have been done even when I was 10 years younger. I wasn\’t ready.”

Lerner echoes Bernstein. “What can I tell you? I\’m a late bloomer,” she says. “I learn at my own pace. I feel that it\’s never too late. If you don\’t know something, go and try to learn it every day until it comes to you.”

After looking closely at the phenomenon of late blooming, Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell asserts that late bloomers tend to be experimental. Quoting University of Chicago economist David Galeson in a recent New Yorker article (“Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genius with Precocity?”), Gladwell states: “Their goals are imprecise so their procedure is tentative and incremental.”

In other words, Gladwell argues that the Wesleys, Bernsteins and Lerners of the world “bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.”

Reassuring words for late bloomers everywhere!

Prill Boyle is the author of Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women (Emmis Books, 2004). To read more inspiring stories, tips, and anecdotes, go to Prilll\’s blog at defyinggravitynow.blogspot.com.

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