Bjorgvin Benediktsson

@bbenediktsson

Are You Too Old to Be Creative? No, Here’s Why.

Natalie McIntyre was in her late twenties and had returned to Ohio from Beverly Hills. Back to her mother, and possibly wondering whether it was worth it to keep chasing the dream.

Why waste all this time following a passion that may never stop and wait for her to catch up?

Yet, a persuasive figure from L.A. convinced her to give the dream one last shot.

I would imagine that her decision may have left her friends and family perplexed at her persistence. Some friends may never understand the mind of an artist. They are content with their careers as pencil pushers and paper shufflers, not realizing the need of an artist to create. Some of them may have wondered why she would bother enduring the heartbreak all over again.

But as Wayne Gretzky would say,

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

A few years later, here she was, at age 31 with a Grammy award for Best Female Vocal Pop Performance, and nominations for both “song of the year” and “record of the year.” Her album, On How Life Is, had reached triple platinum in the US and she would go on to collaborate with the likes of Fatboy Slim, John Frusciante and Erykah Badu, as well as appearing in films such as Training Day and Spiderman.

Not bad for an artist from Ohio that refused to give up on the dream.

Now, you may not know a Natalie McIntyre, but I’m sure you’ve heard of Macy Gray, the soul pop singer with the breakout hit “I Try” that played incessantly across the globe in 1999. Today, it has over 84 million plays on Spotify, so don’t let the last-century release date fool you into thinking people aren’t still listening.

The signature raspiness of her voice is instantly recognizable. It’s one of the qualities that make her stand out. Yet, it never occurred to her that she could sing because she thought her voice sounded funny. Funny how out-of-touch self-doubt can be sometimes.

Now, you may think, “…sure, Macy Gray made it big because she had all the time in the world. She was young and didn’t have the responsibilities that you have. I don’t have time to dream like her. I’m too old to start creating something new.”

And you know what? If that’s what you think, you’re absolutely right.

In the words of Henry Ford:

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The problem isn’t the dream you’re chasing. The problem is you.

The easiest decisions you can make is to stand by and do nothing. Daydreaming about success is WAY easier than the daily struggle for the dream. Visualizing is effortless. All you have to do is close your eyes and ta-da! You’re a superstar now.

Being a superstar? Not as easy.

So what if you changed your “can’t” to a “can.” What if you worked just a little bit harder on that “one idea” instead of letting the next episode autoplay on Netflix?

Let’s tweak that quote to suit your argument above:

“Whether you think you’re too young, or think you’re too old, you’re right.”

It’s such an easy escape to say that because you’re a certain age, you can’t do a certain thing. Now…if you’re 12, maybe you’re a bit too young. Bonus points for reading. Keep working on your dream. You literally have your entire life in front of you.

But the more common thing is to say, “I’m too old.”

That’s as much of a cop-out excuse than anything else. You’re as old as you are right now and that’s always going to be the case. The only thing you can change is what you’re going to do about it.

Alan Rickman got his breakout role as an actor at age 36. Robert Frost didn’t publish a collection of poems until age 39. Dr. Seuss was in his late 40’s when he gained achieved success with his children’s books. Colonel Sanders created Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62.

It doesn’t matter how old you are. It only matters what you decide to do now. Also, don’t think that you need to be a worldwide smash success. Creating for creativity’s sake is the reward. Making a living and being happy with what you do every day is more than most people ever achieve. Everything else that may come your way after that is extra.

Let me end this article by telling you a story about my friend, Gary Mackender, bandleader of The Carnivaleros from Tucson.

He’s been a musician and visual artist for years. He’s opened up for Muddy Waters. He’s toured across the country. He’s an accomplished drummer who’s been on multiple albums. The Arizona Blues Hall of Fame inducted him as a member in 2002. Not a bad career as a musician if you ask me.

Now, he plays the accordion and sings as the frontman of the Carnivaleros. And…here’s the interesting part…he didn’t start writing lyrics until age 50! He didn’t think 50 was too old to acquire a new skill to widen his musical talents. So why should you think you’re too old to start anything?

Imagine if at age 50, he would’ve thought,

“nah…I’m too old. Better keep pushing these papers around until I croak.”

Then the world would’ve missed out on some of the great stories he’s shared through his songwriting. This week he’s celebrating his sixth full length release, Tallsome Tales, where he shares fun stories, cautionary tales, and deep tragedies through his lyrics.

The lyric that struck me the most on Tallsome Tales was the true story behind the death of “Young Danny Lee.” It’s the song we talk about on the latest episode of Tales From the Homestead.

Take a gander at the lyrics below and then hop over here to listen to the story behind the song, straight from Gary himself.

Young Danny lived at the edge of town
Only fifteen years was he
While lending a hand to his father Jack
Climbed up the roof to see
Time Stood still as if transfixed
By the knife of memory
In a room below Jack raised his gun
And shot young Danny Lee
O, he shot young Danny Lee

A cold wind on the prairie
The day young Danny died
The small Kansas town was turned upside down
For he was his father’s pride
O, he was his father’s pride

Old Annie Danny’s mother
Healed animals by trade
His father Jack a stoic man
Had nothing much to say
His brother and two sisters 
Too young to understand
Moved on through life not knowing
What Danny might’ve been
What Danny might’ve been

On the edge of that small Kansas town
Tucked back all dark and gray
The husk of their house still remains
As if they walked away
The furnishings all smell of mold
Their clothes in disarray 
Dead vines all scattered ‘cross the roof
Where Danny Lee did lay
Where Danny Lee did lay

A cold wind on the prairie
The day young Danny died
The small Kansas town was turned upside down
For he was his father’s pride
O, he was his father’s pride

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