Never Too Late?

I have spent much of my life not really planning anything, never focusing on the future. True, I was generally “looking forward,” but the path ahead was swathed in fog and fecklessness. Some might say this is why we have four kids, LOL. From 1974 to 1983, a new little Robinson was welcomed into the world every 2-3 years, and it was all I could do to manage the present and the laundry. Matching socks were an unusual occurrence.

Speaking of unusual, at the age of 83, Al Pacino has become a father again. Ditto for Robert DeNiro, at a sprightly 79. The Lord in his wisdom made motherhood a young woman’s matter, but fathers can be as ancient as Methuselah. I wonder if Al and Bob are pitching in and changing nappies. I am not quite as old as they, but still would not want to deal with dirty diapers again. Been there, definitely done that.

There are some advantages to growing older. I say “no” more often, and am more careful about what I choose to do. But there is also a sharper sense to not fritter away time or treasure. I’m cognizant that “looking forward” in my usual vague way might have limitations.

At this point, what am I waiting for? I’d better do what needs to be done. I have two completed books that are still looking for a home. I would hate to go to my Maker with them stuck on the hard drive, and the third one in the series is not going to finish itself.

Cartoonist William Steig started to write kids’ books at the age of 61, and went on to publish over 30 before he died at 95. Grandma Moses began to paint seriously at 78. She died at 101, with over 1500 works to her credit. The late Frank McCourt was 66 when his first book came out; Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65. Clearly, there’s no age limit to creativity.

But it’s true the words are getting a little more difficult to extract. The days of knocking out a book in three or four months—or even six—seem to be over. When my agent first signed me, she asked if I could write two books a year. I said yes, but might have to answer the question differently today, even if I have the luxury of unfettered time. I may not have a day job or referee squabbles or step on Legos at home anymore, but sometimes it’s hard to sit at the keyboard and ignore the bombardment from the outside world.

It can be…depressing. Draining. Almost dystopian, a veritable upside-down where every day is opposite day and truth is pretty tenuous. I do know how lucky I am that I’m not fleeing bombs or facing starvation. Or prison. But the 24/7 news cycle’s insanity and ignorance contaminate my delicate sensibilities. There are days when I identify with Jane Austen’s Mrs. Bennet and her famous nerves, and feel the need to take to my bed.

I’m easily distracted anyway. Recently, I stumbled across some information about the Farmington Historic District, and down the rabbit hole I went. Procrastinators R Us. Our house is within the area listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1878 for Rev. Jonas Burnham, a minister and school principal, who tutored students to prepare them for college right up until a few days before he died at 91. The youngest of 9 children, he was a cabin boy in the War of 1812. After beating the British, he graduated from Bowdoin and taught in schools and academies throughout the state for 7 decades.

After an almost 50-year marriage, he was widowed…but within a year, he married again, the rascal. His much, much, much younger (52 years younger, to be exact) second wife Mary Lovina presented him with a brand-new new daughter in their brand-new house. Jonas was 80. So, he and Al and Bob are all members of the Doddering Dads’ Club.

Let’s hear it for making every day count! Age is just a number, right? Are you a planner in life/writing, or are you going with the flow? What do you want to do before it’s too late?




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19 Responses to Never Too Late?

  1. David Plimpton says:

    There’s no easy answer, but as one ages (I’m 82), I notice I don’t think as clearly, my memory fades, and I have become more of a procrastinator.

    Anything one can do to keep your mind and body active, and avoid the natural depression which may accompany aging, will help. Walking, Tai Chi, social interaction, writing (which I do daily with e-mail contact, a dream diary and writing short stories), and practicing mindfulness, has helped.

    Though I’ve always wanted to stay well-informed, I have started to avoid all news except the local news, as it is increasing depressing, especially on the national and world stage.

    Also, in our culture, we have become conditioned to have a continuous tsunami of images, news, e-mail, texts and fundraising requests cascade though our lives. I have started to unsubscribe from almost all email. I don’t do Twitter.

    I also recommend planning for retirement living as one ages and becomes infirm. Don’t wait till the last moment!

    Some thoughts: have to plan

  2. John Lovell says:


  3. kaitcarson says:

    LOL – someone once told me that writers don’t have much to say of any interest or find their true voices until they are at least 65. That’s my story-I’m sticking to it. I’ve never been much of a planner. Life is an adventure and seeing what it presents is part of the fun. On the plus side of the leger, I’m uber organized. It helps.

  4. John Clark says:

    At 75, every day has the potential to become an unfettered mental adventure…The physical possibilities…not so much.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Yeah, one knee is fake and the other should be. “Unfettered mental adventure”…I like that attitude!

  5. Alice says:

    You have given all of us words of wisdom to ponder:
    “There are some advantages to growing older. I say “no” more often, and am more careful about what I choose to do. But there is also a sharper sense to not fritter away time or treasure. I’m cognizant that “looking forward” in my usual vague way might have limitations.”
    I’m almost 84 and I thank you.

  6. I can very much relate to this. Still have books in the drawer and I don’t want to leave them there when I depart. Am very distracted by the political climate and have developed the awful habit of taking refuse on eBay where I can imagine buying shoes. And just this morning, I was talking the man who has managed my blueberry fields for many years, wisely taking them organic and making them much more profitable, and he says he’s retiring. National parks to visit. Fish to catch. This chat and your post remind me that I should be more diligent about planning going forward or the clock will run out. The new mantra I am trying on is “Just say yes.” Not to telemarketers or scammers, tho.


    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      I like to think I’m being more discerning with my commitments, but maybe I’m just getting lazy, LOL. But time really is flying. Time to get on the plane. With lots of new shoes. 😉

  7. p.s. forgot to add that our mother published her first mystery, The Maine Mulch Murder, at 83, so for those procrastinators…it’s not too late.


  8. Tom Burns says:

    I’m 70 (71 next week) and I’ve written a mystery series of 7 books and I’m working on the 8th. I’ve also got two standalones. I started writing at 65 and had to self-publish because I didn’t have time for the agent nonsense. Point is, I was able to achieve a lifelong dream even if my books aren’t for sale in the bookstores (but you’ll find them on Amazon). I’ve got nearly 20,000 copies out there in the world. So it’s never too late.

    • maggierobinsonwriter says:

      Way to go, Tom! I was first published at 62, so I know anything’s possible! (and happy birthday!)

  9. Diane M says:

    Oh Maggie – and Tom – and Kate and all the others – thank you, thank you, thank you! Really needed to hear these thoughts today.

  10. landinglane says:

    Thank you for this inspirational post! Just what I needed as summer winds down and I prepare, at age 73, to get my three-book mystery series ready either to go in search of a publisher or to be self-published on Amazon. (Number four is half-drafted and waiting for family vacation frenzy to give way to autumnal down time!). Anyway, your thoughtful post was such a boost (even though it’s taken me forever to respond!). Katherine

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