February 18, 2011

Calling All "Late Bloomers"

“Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity – doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.”From the article “Late Bloomers” by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

A few years ago, I stumbled upon an article from The New Yorker about “Late Bloomers”. It focused on the obsession we (society) has with equating genius to youth, and the stigma society gives to people who don’t hit their “prime” until later in life (you know… like mid-twenties).

The article struck a very true and deep chord in me.

I am the antithesis of society’s highly sought after and nauseatingly worshiped Young Genius…

I am a Late Bloomer.

I know what you’re thinking: “You think you’re a genius?” Actually, yes. Laugh all you want, but I think we are all geniuses in some way, however, I’m afraid many people don’t look hard enough to find it in themselves.

Or maybe you’re thinking: “You’re only 31.” And yes, I am only 31, but unfortunately I know I have many many years of struggle and frustration still ahead of me.

How do I know this? Because I’m not there yet… and I really only feel I am at the very edge of finding out where there even is.

I have always felt I am meant for something more. More than my day job, more than what teaching could give me, even more than the sum of Hatch Boutique and all the innovative and original ideas I come up with on a daily basis. (Just ask Dustin, I pretty much come up with a new invention every week).

This something that I know in my heart of hearts I am meant for is an odd and disconcerting feeling that I’ve always had… and truthfully I don’t know if I’m the only one on the planet that has this feeling or not. (If I’m not, please let me know, it’ll make me feel so much better.)

It sits on my shoulder daily, this something, whispering in my ear that “You’re meant for more than this.”

Most of the time I flick him off my shoulder, tell him to “shut it” and move on. But that damn little voice is always there… taunting me.

Damn Taunt-Master 2000.

So what is this more I am talking about?

Hmmm… the calming, serene and peaceful answer to that puzzling question would be…


(Thus, I am being driven crazy by the little man on my shoulder who henceforth will be called… Shai)

I mean I honestly don’t know. Can you imagine not knowing what you are supposed to do in this life, however constantly knowing for certain that it isn’t what you are currently doing? It’s intensely unsettling.

Maybe you do know.

It’s like that branch just out of reach, which would help you climb to the tallest heights of the most exquisite tree in the world hosting the most spectacular views…

Except.  You.  Just.  Can’t… Quite… Reach… It…

No matter how hard you try, or how far you stretch yourself… you just can’t reach it.  So you must wait until you grow a little more, before you get to see those spectacular views.

The only thing I am sure of is that this something will most likely involve children, The Arts, and helping people.

But besides that… I’m pretty much at a loss for what that or more actually is.

I’m assuming this sounds completely and utterly ludacris to many of you. And I’d also assume those of you who don’t get this feeling or sentiment, probably never will… because you’ve probably bloomed already, you aren’t Late Bloomers.

Therefore, I’m not speaking your language.

Here’s our language: We’re a rundown, aggravated, muddle of a bunch… because we are constantly feeling misunderstood and mocked by society.

Or maybe that's just me.

Do I have any Late Bloomer friends out there picking up what I’m putting down!?

Bueller.  Bueller....

Alright, to get back to this article this whole blog is supposed to be based on…

The article’s theme is contingent on proving you don’t have to peek young, as society thinks, to be some sort of prodigy. It’s main focus is on the idea that blooming late can produces genius just as much as blooming early has, it’s just a matter of how these people get there that is different.

The real focus of the article is on Ben Fountain’s journey to “genius”.

Ben is an author who had a breakthrough book with “Brief Encounters” in 2006 at the age of 48.

(Side Note: In this article, the label “genius” is only given to those “artists” who are accepted and embraced by society… therefore selling a lot and making a lot of money. This bothersome, underlying theme will be addressed with a whole other blog on a whole other day.)

Now, I have no clue who this Fountain pen guy is, I have never read his book, I don’t really intend to, and that really isn’t even the point anyway.

The point is his story.

Not the story he wrote, but the story he lived.

Paraphrased from the article:

“Ben Fountain was an associate in the real-estate practice at the Dallas offices of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, just a few years out of law school, when he decided he wanted to write fiction. His literary training consisted of a handful of creative-writing classes in college. He had tried to write when he came home at night from work, but usually he was too tired to do much. He decided to quit his job.

“I was tremendously apprehensive,” Fountain recalls. “I felt like I’d stepped off a cliff and I didn’t know if the parachute was going to open. Nobody wants to waste their life, and I was doing well at the practice of law. I could have had a good career. And my parents were very proud of me—my dad was so proud of me. . . . It was crazy.”

He began his new life on a February morning—a Monday. He sat down at his kitchen table at 7:30 A.M. Every day, he would write until lunchtime. Then he would lie down on the floor for twenty minutes to rest his mind. Then he would return to work for a few more hours.

His first story was about a stockbroker who uses inside information and crosses a moral line. It was sixty pages long and took him three months to write. When he finished that story, he went back to work and wrote another—and then another.

In his first year, Fountain sold two stories. He gained confidence. He wrote a novel. He decided it wasn’t very good, and he ended up putting it in a drawer. Then came what he describes as his dark period, when he adjusted his expectations and started again. He got a short story published in Harper’s. A New York literary agent saw it and signed him up. He put together a collection of short stories titled “Brief Encounters with Che Guevara,” and Ecco, a HarperCollins imprint, published it. The reviews were sensational.

Ben Fountain’s rise sounds like a familiar story: the young man from the provinces suddenly takes the literary world by storm. But Ben Fountain’s success was far from sudden. He quit his job at Akin, Gump in 1988. For every story he published in those early years, he had at least thirty rejections. The novel that he put away in a drawer took him four years. The dark period lasted for the entire second half of the nineteen-nineties. His breakthrough with “Brief Encounters” came in 2006, eighteen years after he first sat down to write at his kitchen table. The “young” writer from the provinces took the literary world by storm at the age of forty-eight.”

The article goes on to compare young “geniuses” with those who found their “genius” later in life.

David Galenson, an economist from the University of Chicago, studied this phenomenon to find the reason some people peak young, while some peak later in life.

What he found was that the younger genius is:

“Conceptual” – in the sense that they start with a clear idea of where they want to go…. But late bloomers tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental,” Galenson writes in “Old Masters and Young Geniuses, “ and he goes on:

The imprecision of their goals means that these artists rarely feel they have succeeded, and their careers are consequently often dominated by the pursuit of a single objective. These artists repeat themselves, painting the same subject many times, and gradually changing its treatment in an experimental process of trial and error. Each work leads to the next, and none is generally privileged over others, so experimental painters rarely make specific preparatory sketches or plans for a painting. They consider the production of a painting as a process of searching, in which they aim to discover the image in the course of making it; they typically believe that learning is a more important goal than making finished paintings. Experimental artists build their skills gradually over the course of their careers, improving their work slowly over long periods. These artists are perfectionists and are typically plagued by frustration at their inability to achieve their goal.”

Even if I had had my doubts, after I read that… I was positive I was a Late Bloomer.

You see… I have ideas upon ideas, and I start and stop and start and stop those ideas frequently. Most of the time I get frustrated with whatever I’m trying to create, and ditch it… only to come back to it at some point. Always with the feeling that for some reason (which I can’t quite put my finger on) I can’t complete that project right now because I’m not “ready”.

The article continued to speak to me:

“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 help but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents?”

After reading this, you may be thinking “Why would you ever admit to being a Late Bloomer?” (I always assume I know what you’re thinking, don’t I!?)

My answer to that would be because that’s who I am. And I don’t see anything wrong with being who I am…. Even if it’s not exactly ideal, to most.

Not to mention, I think our society today has gone overboard with the “Young Genius” phenomenon!

You may think I'm just becoming ornery, but hear me out...

Off the top of my head, I could easily name 10 or more actors/singers who "bloomed" as children, and I’m sure you could to.

Take Justin Bieber for example.

This kid was interested in music at a young age, and somehow got connected with Usher (another Young Genius), and voila! He’s a 16 year old with a film called “Never say Never”, about his lengthy and strenuous journey to stardom…. At 16!!!


What is little Bieber teaching our children?

Never say never, and if you try really hard, and don’t give up on your dreams, you’ll be successful by the time your 16!? I mean come on!

That’s just setting them up to believe they’re failures if they haven’t peaked by 16.

Not only is our society focuses on youth, but we are focused on “I want it and I want it NOW!”. No one is ever allowed to slowly “grow” their craft. You must master it right away if you want to succeed (by society's standards, at least).

I may as well just jump off a cliff now… because that’s not how us late bloomers work!

Reality… please.

We aren’t all born prodigies…

“More happily endowed and more integral personalities have been able to express themselves harmoniously from the very first. But such rich, complex, and conflicting natures… require a long period of fermentation.”

(Yes, I am like wine. Yummmm.)

Back to the story…

Fountain’s success (as well as the success of all the Late Bloomers in the article) would never have been realized without the enormous support each of these “geniuses” had in their lives.

Because, let's face it.  It's easy to believe in someone who is young and instantly shows their potential... but it's a little harder to continue believing... year after year with no results.

In my life, this has been the most challenging and elusive part of the whole something I feel I am destined for.

It is not always easy to find people who believe in you. I mean truly, truly believe in you, enough to trust your extremely odd and seemily “crazy” instincts. And especially when their’s really no “proof” of your “genius” (yet), or you have little or nothing to show from your efforts.

I mean, it really does require some kind of blind faith.

Plus, it's not enough to just "believe" in your "Late Bloomer"... you also have to express your belief in them!  You see, support will only keep them from falling, but the "Late Bloomer" really needs encouragement and praise to grow!

Luckily, after realizing who my true supporters were, and resolving to not give a shit about what certain people think about how I'm handling my life…

I think I am well on my way to finding my something.

This is the final lesson of the late bloomer: his or her success is highly contingent on the efforts of others.

If you are the type of creative mind that starts without a plan, and has to experiment and learn by doing, you need someone to see you through the long and difficult time it takes for your art to reach its true level.

Late bloomers’ stories are invariably love stories, and this may be why we have such difficulty with them. We’d like to think that mundane matters like loyalty, steadfastness, and the willingness to keep writing checks to support what looks like failure have nothing to do with something as rarefied as genius. But sometimes genius is anything but rarefied; sometimes it’s just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen table.”

So for all you other Late Bloomers out there... keep trudging on!  We will get there... we will.  When it's our time.

♥ This is my love letter to those of you who continue to believe in me and stick by me… you know who you are! I will forever be grateful for your faith in me! ♥

CLICK HERE to read the full article.

~ Stephanie Alicia

P.S. If you enjoyed this blog, or found it helpful in any way... please share this post with everyone you know! Take a minute to comment below, post on Facebook, Twitter... or email out to your friends and family! Please and Thank You! :)


  1. I'm sticking by ya sister. Always. You may be a late bloomer, but whether you know it or not... you've been blooming along the way. Takes time to be fabulous and in charge of your own destiny. I envy you. You're doing what you love.

  2. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim... ~Dory