Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell May Have Saved My Sanity

Mr. Gladwell's fascinating article about prodigies vs. all the rest of us (Late Bloomers - Why do we equate genius with precocity? in the October 10 New Yorker) made me feel a whole lot better about myself as a writer - or whatever it is I am. I'm certainly NOT a prodigy, and I'm not yet sure if I'm a "late bloomer." My great grandfather was a late bloomer, as noted in a New Yorker "talk story" from 1939. I'm not 75... yet... so perhaps there's hope.

Excerpts from Mr. Gladwell's article that really hit home:

The freshness, exuberance, and energy of youth did little for Cézanne. He was a late bloomer—and for some reason in our accounting of genius and creativity we have forgotten to make sense of the Cézannes of the world.

...late bloomers bloom late because they simply aren’t much good until late in their careers.

On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all.

Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.

Whenever we find a late bloomer, we can’t but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents. But we also have to acccept that there’s nothing we can do about it. How can we ever know which of the failures will end up blooming?
Odd coincidence: Art News, in a quote I've ransacked my files looking for (and have not yet located), called O.A. Renne the American Cézanne.

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