Here’s to the Ladies Who Create, Everybody Cheer: Late-life creativity is receiving new attention in the art and publishing world
Life and creativity don’t end after you fly out of your 20s, grudgingly enter your 30s, and then there are the terrible 40s. Life goes on, and, for women, it has been a long, rough slog, from creating children to creating literature and artwork.
No one would have blamed them if they had walked away from their creativity after those pats on the head and condescending comments about their art and “the great American novel.” But determination has its merits.
It didn’t stop them. The women forged on and created their works in anonymity. How many were never recognized? We’ll never know. Who is looking for them now? We are left to wonder.
Stop with the “under 30” nonsense
The headlines in the magazines and on the Internet blast out calls to read lists of the “30 under 30” or the “30 under 40,” and you have to wonder. As you sit there reading that, what are you thinking? Are you saying that it’s all over for you? Do you feel like you should’ve succeeded earlier? Do you believe you are worthless as a creator?
Push all that stuff into the garbage can of your mind, grind it up and turn it into something positive. They’re making sneakers out of old tires, aren’t they? I’m not saying you’re a sneaker or an old tire, but you see what I mean.
Everything can be re-purposed. Rejection may be the time to repurpose everything that has happened in your life, and all that is coursing through your mind.
Yes, there are role models for us out there. Another question you’re probably asking is whether or not we need role models at our age. Perhaps not role models, but women who have marked out a path that may be helpful for you.
Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can learn from what others have done. You don’t need to read all of those “Here’s how I made $1000 a month by working at writing full-time” articles or the ones that will tell you how to squeeze your writing into every 15-minute break you get during your day.
All of that is to get you to read the article so that they can get some money from your wish to find the Golden Fleece for yourself. Yes, I suppose you could say it’s a form of fleecing.
They’re trying to make money off your wish to begin writing and to garner some success at it. Are you going to fall for that? Take a look at what other women have done. Look at what they did to get themselves noticed. Write it down and chart a path using those guideposts.
Who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer
What is your creative passion? If it’s a graphic artist or a painter, perhaps you should look at the life of Cuban-born artist Carmen Herrera who is now 104 years old. Striving to have her art accepted, she was rejected by dealer after dealer until a friend decided she needed a one-woman show.
The show was the break for which she prayed, and she sold her first painting at the age of 89. How many men or women would hope to be a success at that point in their lives?
Some might be shocked, as an 80-something friend once said to me, “I never expected to live this long.” We don’t know how many years we have, but what we do know is that we can use every single one of them.
Another artist who had been a set designer for theater groups, 93-year-old Zilia Sanchez, began painting later in her life, but her work was rarely shown outside of her native Puerto Rico. In 2018, someone decided there should be a show for Latina artists, and that was her late-in-life break. She is now a 93-year-old success.
A third example of late-life accomplishment is Aboriginal artist, Sally Gabori, who gave birth to 11 children and helped raise others in her community. Her skills were in traditional weaving and other craft techniques.
Gabori began painting at 80-years-old when she was introduced to the materials at an arts center in her community. In 2005, great success finally came. The paintings she produced are now in the National Gallery of Australia, where they hang as a tribute to this woman’s ability and determination.
And, of course, we must not forget Grandma Moses. A successful painter whose works now sell for millions in art galleries, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, was a housekeeper from age 12 and received her first sketching materials from a wealthy employer.
Arthritis, later in life, after the birth of her ten children, turned her creative attention from embroidery to oil paints. The rest is art history.
One shining example for writers
Any writer who needs an illustration of how it’s possible to go from living on social welfare benefits to becoming the first billionaire author in the world need look no further than J.K. Rowling. Not only has she become a billionaire from her successful Harry Potter stories, but she also writes crime fiction under the name Robert Galbraith. And, yes, J. K. Rowling was a pragmatic choice because she knew young boys might not be drawn to her books if a woman authored them.
Rowling is a person, not just an author that all of us can respect highly. Much of the billion-dollar fortune she amassed through the sales of her Harry Potter books was given to charity. However, Rowling remains one of the wealthiest women in the world, even after giving away a large portion of her fortune. But was she an instant success?
The writing years for Rowling were tough ones. She may have suffered domestic abuse, her mother died of MS, she was raising a child, getting a divorce, and trying to makes ends meet.
Twelve publishers rejected her manuscript. Finally, it was accepted by one because a young family member, who read the first chapter of the Potter book, demanded more to read. Rowling, by this time, was 32 and had worked on the book for seven years before being published. To date, she has sold 500 million copies of the books.
The single most salient point in the Rowling story is her determination to write, be published, and never give up. Once published and financially secure, she has branched out into film, TV, and philanthropy.
The take-away point from all of these women’s stories is that success, if it comes, often requires a love of what they were doing, a bit of unexpected luck, and determination to keep creating.
If you create for yourself because you love it and don’t do it because you want to become famous or rich, you will never be disappointed. Should success come knocking at your door, welcome it but keep the love alive.