So Far, So Good
By Gary D. Wilson

When I first considered a career in writing, conventional wisdom held that I would need to finish most of what I wanted to by the time I was thirty or thirty-five at most.  After that, writers were thought to lose what Faulkner called “the fire in the belly” that drove creativity.  Thinking changed, however, with more research on when creative peaks occur.  Experts found that creativity lasts far longer than originally believed—into one’s 50s or 60s and even beyond.

My professional trajectory is a case in point.  Although I had published fiction in literary magazines for years, I didn’t publish my first book, a novel, until 2007, when I was 63.  I published my second novel eight years later, in 2015—you can do the math.

I then had a fallow period in terms of book publishing, followed by the pandemic, which for many writers, proved to be a difficult stretch.  People complained that they were so stressed they couldn’t focus and got little done.  But the opposite was true for me.  I tend to be hermetic anyway, and everything being closed or restricted only reinforced the solitude that I relished. 

Those years were personally quite fruitful.  I put together a prize-winning collection of short stories—published in 2022—and finished a third novel scheduled for publication in March 2024, soon after my 80th birthday.

I’m thrilled with my successes, although I also believe it’s fair for someone to ask, why at this point in your life do you keep writing—or doing anything, for that matter?  When is enough enough? 

The simple answer is a flippant, why not?  I still get lots of enjoyment out of the creative process and, sometimes, even the result of my efforts.  I’m reasonably good at what I do, at least judging from people’s reactions.  I’m not rich nor famous and I doubt they’re seeking favor, so I take what they say at face value.  All that said, why shouldn’t I keep doing what I’m doing?

On a deeper level, writing is an important part of my identity.  As I’ve often told people who ask, writing is something I so far can’t not do. 

But many things can affect that.  There’s your physical health for instance.  Are you just too miserable to think of anything else?  Are you mentally capable of carrying on?  Do you have the overall energy—the oomph—to do what you want?  What’s your attitude toward life in general?  Is it positive, negative, indifferent?  Do you see a future for yourself?

I do so far.  I have at least one more collection of short stories in mind and maybe even another novel. 

I’m alive and active and engaged in something I love and, fortunately, with someone I love.  What more can you ask for?

As Yogi Berra once famously said, when asked what he thought the chances were of the Mets winning the 1973 National League pennant race, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Well said and, as usual with Yogi, simply profound.

About the Author

Gary D. Wilson is the author of the novels Sing, Ronnie Blue and Getting Right and the short story collection For Those Who Favor Fire which won the Book of the Year Award (2024) from the Chicago Writer’s Association.  His third novel, The Narrow Window, is scheduled for release March 1, 2024.  He lives in Chicago.


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