Creativity, Old Age and The Art of Lastingness

I recently read a fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times about creativity, artists, old age, the art of lastingness and the domination of youth in today’s culture.

Nicholas Delbanco’s new book, Lastingness: The Art of Old Age, profiles “great geniuses in the fields of visual art, literature, and music-Monet, Verdi, O’Keeffe, Yeats, among others – searching for the answers to why some artists’ work diminishes with age, while others’ reaches its peak.” I found this article challenging and thought-provoking. I hope you will to…

Why do some artists improve with age?  Why do others peak too young?

I’ve been writing for over twenty year’s and this month, I’ll be closer to fifty than ever before. I certainly hope my writing is improving with age, but there’s no guarantee. I once had a literary agent tell me, “Nobody under 40 years old knows anything.” I was 32 and shocked at his words.

Now that I’m 47, I can see how right he was. There are works we create and stories we tell at young ages that do not have the depth of life experience and wisdom that can come with age. Here, lastingness and endurance are key.

Delbanco’s new book illustrates a number of important points and raises more than a few key questions about art, old age, and creativity:

1. ‘Lastingness’ refers to “creating at a high artistic level deep into the arc of life.”

2. How do artist’s find a way to stay relevant while remaining true to the artistic impulse?

3. Past achievements, Delbanco suggests, matter little.

4. “Creativity in the present is the ever-pressing issue for aging artists in a youth-centric culture.”

5. Of most interest to Delbanco, are the writers and artists “who create at a high level of quality over the span of a lifetime — the marathoners, not the sprinters.”

With more and more Baby Boomers approaching retirement and looking to pursue creative endeavors, this is a book worth reading. There are many lessons for the young, old, and those approaching middle-age like moi. I meet more and more people with a hankering to create. To finish that book. Start oil painting. Play music again. Dance. Maybe if we keep creating, we’ll live a little longer. After all, we are Imago Dei, made in the image of God. We are made to create.

Hopefully, our best work is in the days ahead. What are your thoughts?

(click here to read the L.A. Times article Nicholas Delbanco ponders the art of lastingness – Los Angeles Times)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Ty Mattson

    Hey Joey! Cool post. Nick was my English professor at Michigan – Great writer and a great teacher!

    • http://www.joeyo.org Joey O’Connor

      Hey Ty,
      Great hearing from you. Too cool…what a small word. I thought this article was fascinating and I look forward to reading his book. I’ve heard great things about your branding/design agency…keep up the great work!

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  • PatWKirk

    I see that this post is a year old but will respond anyway. He’s forty (gasp) eight now. Me? My cry is “oh to be fifty again” or even sixty. I feel I’m more creative than ever before. I have time now. And, I know I can’t do anything any sooner. And I better not wait much later.

    • http://www.joeyo.org Joey O’Connor

      Thanks for your post Pat…it made me laugh because I feel like I need at least 40 more years to do everything I’d love to do! I still feel like I’m sixteen…and yes, I’ll be 48 next month! Did you see my post on Dan Wallin, the 82 year old sound engineer? Amazing…keep at it…the world needs your next creative contribution!

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