Lisa Congdon started drawing when she was 31 years old. She started her career as an illustrator at 40. She started writing regularly at 42. She published her first book at 44. She got married at 45.
Today, she’s 48 years old, and her eighth book will be published in 2018.
We often think that we need to start most things when we’re young—especially anything that’s considered a skill or craft. We think we need to start writing or singing or painting or playing piano or penning poetry or sculpting at a certain age. We assume we’re too old to learn new tricks. We assume it’s simply too late to begin, again.
Artist Beatrice Wood created some of her most complicated sculptural work in her 90s. That’s also when she published her autobiography, I Shock Myself. She worked almost every single day until her death at 105.
Writer and editor Stephanie Young left publishing to attend medical school at 53 years old. Today, at 60, she’s applying to residency programs.
Aborigine artist Minnie Pwerle picked up a paintbrush when she was almost 80 years old. From then on, she’d wake up at dawn and paint all day. She became one of the most celebrated indigenous artists in Australia.
For almost 35 years Paola Gianturco had a successful career in marketing and corporate communications. She became a photojournalist at 55. Today, she’s the author of five books, including Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon, and she’s working on her sixth.
These inspiring examples come from Congdon’s new book A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Living Extraordinary Lives. They remind us that we can start creating at any age. We can begin, again, and again, and again. They remind us that every moment is a new moment. Or, in the words of Emily Dickinson (which Congdon features in the book), “We turn not older with years, but new every day.”
What subjects or skills resonate with you? What are you curious about? What have you always wanted to try? What would you regret not doing?
One of my favorite quotes about creating and aging comes from the ever-wise Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. She notes that many of her students tell her: “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano / act / paint / write a decent play?” She says, “Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don’t.”
Time moves on regardless what we do. It moves on whether we start writing our memoir or not. It moves on whether we start learning about photography or not. It moves on whether we explore a new subject or whether we start making new things or not.
Time moves on—faster and faster it seems the older we get. So why not enjoy ourselves, why not explore and experiment, why not engage our imagination in the process?