|Even Maurice Sendak wasn't sure the best was yet to come.|
When Maurice Sendak was 33 years old (before "Where the Wild Things Are" was published), he wrote to his editor, Ursula Nordstrom at Harper & Row, about his self doubts as a writer. The Paris Review Daily: "Advice to a Young Illustrator" publishes her response. My favorite part:
"33 is still young for an artist with your potentialities. I mean, you may not do your deepest, fullest, richest work until you are in your forties. You are growing and getting better all the time."
It is so fitting that this came from Tamara, who I met at Bread Loaf Writers Conference where we were matched as roommates last summer. Although she's a gorgeous blonde novelist from Wyoming and I'm a black haired, city-slicking, non-fiction writer from the Bronx, we had so much in common because we're both so much in the middle. In the middle of raising children, living up to our responsibilities, finding our voices. We envied, in a way, both the younger and the older writers in our midst for the time and energy they can give to their art, for being able to sleep through the night and think their own thoughts. But at the same time, we know that while being in demand by children and bosses can be exhausting, it also brings a range of emotion and experience, that is precious fuel. It forces us to focus, in the slices of time that we have, on the stories that most want to be told.
I, for one, didn't start writing in my own voice until I was close to forty. It took that long to know who I was and what I needed to say. As for Tamara, I see how deep, full and rich her work is through her blog, Writer, Cogitator, Recovering Ranch Girl. Her observations, in words and pictures, always make me take a moment to take it in. Both of us, I think, are developing eyes and ears for the striking, the idiosyncratic, the sublime. It takes time to do that, to grow, as a person and an artist, and we're luxuriating in it, every spare minute we can. Maybe our forties will bring our fullest work, how exciting that would be! I can't wait to see.