Santa Claus writing with quill

Older Is Wiser – Why It’s True


Having published my first novel in my fifties, I guess you could call me a late bloomer when it comes to novel writing. Or more accurately, novel publishing, as I’ve been writing novels seriously for over ten years.

Writing is something that people often don’t pursue until later in life, for a variety of reasons – work, study, family commitments, travel – just life in general. Some don’t even discover a desire for it until then, while others, like myself, have always had a passion for writing but never had the courage, support or self-belief to pursue it at a younger age.

I’m not sure that I really like the term late bloomer – it makes you sound as if you’re a bit slow, someone that people would cast pitying glances at and whisper, ‘She’s a late bloomer, you know,’ as if it’s some defect that nature has cruelly bestowed upon you, like not growing breasts till you’re seventeen.

But I can cheer myself up with the fact that I’m in good company – many famous writers didn’t publish their first books until they were over 50. Here’s a list of just a few and the age at which they published their first novels.

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, 65, the first book in the  Little House on the Prairie series
  • Richard Adams, 52, Watership Down
  • Helen Hoover Santmeyer, 88, And Ladies Of The Club
  • Annie Proulx 57, Postcards
  • Dorothea Tanning, 93, Chasm: A Week-end
  • Norman McLean, 74, A River Runs Through It.
  • Frank McCourt, 66, Angela’s Ashes
  • Dick King-Smith, 56, The Fox Busters (went on to write Babe)
  • Penelope Fitzgerald, 60, The Golden Child (won Booker prize two years later for Offshore.)

On her blog Later Bloomers (note the subtle but significant difference in meaning between later bloomer and late bloomer) Debra Eve explains that the adage that you get wiser as you get older is true, especially when it comes to intellectual capacity. It all comes down to myelin, the greyish looking matter that insulates and protects the neurons in our brain. When we practise a task, ie when we make mistakes and correct them, we’re teaching our neurons to fire more optimally, which results in more myelin developing to protect them.

Debra also says that according to Dr. George Bartzokis, a UCLA neuropsychiatrist, people grow wiser as they grow older because ‘their circuits are fully insulated and instantly available to them; they can do very complicated processing on many levels, which is really what wisdom is…Complex tasks like ruling countries or writing novels – these are most often better done by people who have built the most myelin.’

So there you have it. I have an excellent excuse if anyone asks me why I didn’t publish my novels earlier. I’ve been building up my myelin.


Are you a late bloomer? If so, why?  I’d love you to share your story in the comments below.




About the Author Robin Storey

Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.

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  • Debra Eve says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Robin! The more research I do, the more I’m starting to think that my blog might be redundant, at least where writers are concerned. Anyone who publishes before age 30 is an exception, not the norm. P.S. Just posted your story on Maggie to my Facebook page. That’s where I want to be at 60!

    • robin says:

      Thanks for your comment, Debra, I enjoy your blog and definitely don’t think it’s redundant. I think there are a lot of would-be writers in their fifties and sixties and older who just need some encouragement and support to start. And yes, Maggie is a good role model for us all!

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