I turned 40 last month and spent three weeks reading Don Quixote, so the mid-life crisis has been on my brain.
“Never waste your midlife crisis.”
Higgs was saying that the artists he admires are people like David Lynch, “People who you wouldn’t think there’s an obvious place for them in the world, but they just do their stuff regardless, and a place sort of builds around them.”
There’s a concept in ecology of ‘niche creation.’ And the idea is: it’s not the case that a species will sort of come along and go, ‘oh, I could do well here, there’s lots of food,’ and things like that. A species comes along and just does his thing, and by acting in the world, he sort of creates the very environment he needs to survive.
It was when I made the decision to attempt to become a full-time writer — knowing full well the absurdity of it given all the business models of writing — there was a sort of act of faith that if I just did it, people who read my books would start to appear. And slowly over time, I’d build people who would go, ‘Oh, that guy’s interesting, I’ll read his next book.’ Just enough to support me.
You sort of create the niche that need. It’s not like the world was going, ‘Oh, there’s a real need for books by John Higgs, where are they?’ But if you do them, the world sort of reacts around them.
“It’s always on an edge of never working out properly,” he admits, but it’s working so far, and it all started when he turned 40 and made the decision to go for it:
You should never waste your midlife crisis. You can do great things with a midlife crisis. If you just waste it on like a car, it’s just a lack of imagination. Mine was the decision to write books and attempt to make a living there.
The options seemed to be: If I went for it, I’d be penniless, and if I didn’t go for it, I’d be bitter. I’d be bitter going forward. Penniless certainly beats bitter. So I made the decision. And that was ten years ago! And I’m still going.
Loved this. Never waste your midlife crisis.
(I’m currently listening to his book Love and Let Die: James Bond, The Beatles, and the British Psyche while playing Zelda. He points out that James Bond was basically Ian Fleming’s mid-life crisis.)