I’m reading the edition of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio edited by Ray Lewis White, and the introduction says:
On September 13, 1915, Sherwood Anderson (1876 – 1941) became thirty-nine years old. He was living in Chicago for the third time, writing advertising copy to support himself while trying to achieve his greatest ambition: to become a published novelist.
It took Anderson—now, if not a major author, then at least an important one—until middle age to find and execute that ambition. Many writers seem to take longer, and at times I wonder how they persevere. Perhaps they are afflicted with what Robertson Davies said novelists must be. I’m reminded of a famous quote, given here in the Guardian: “Robertson Davies, the great Canadian novelist, once observed: ‘There is absolutely no point in sitting down to write a book unless you feel that you must write that book, or else go mad, or die.’ “