Friday, March 5, 2010

Why We Must Write…Why We Must Create

A professor of mine back in college once forewarned my class and I with this haunting phrase: What have you done with your life so far? In other words, what have you accomplished? It was a class on British Romantic literature and he mentioned that the famous poet John Keats had died at age 25. So he told us when you reach age 25 look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you had done, because by this point in time every word of every poem by Keats had already been written. Examples like this extend beyond the realm of writing to anyone anywhere who creates art, music, film, dance, etc. Think of it, every Jimi Hendrix song you have ever listened to he had written and recorded before the age of 27.

Now as I age myself I find myself driven to answer this question, and have actually found comfort in the fact that each of us in our own way engages in the art of trying to lead a good life. The value of your efforts thus far in this crazy world cannot be measure in film credits or record sales. But the question still remains valid. Whether applied to your life as a sculptor, photographer, playwright, novelist, mother, husband, or friend. You may have heard that common saying, “don’t let your music die with you.” Well, as the week turns into the weekend and I begin another round of writing I thought I’d share this tidbit that has driven me, namely to express the things inside me. But what have you done today or will do tomorrow? What have you wished to write or play or do that you have put off for one reason or another? Don’t hold back. Scribble some notes on that poem, pickup the guitar, take your kids to the playground, or go call up that friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Life’s too short! When I think of all of those in this world that have come before us I think of all the great or not-so-great things they may have done, but now they are done. And you are not.

Below I have listed the ages of some artists off the top of my head who died or finished their most famous work before they turned 40. Now, don’t forget, just because many talented people lived short lives doesn’t mean you cannot do great things at any age. Lots of people found their own destinies when they got older. Gianni Versace didn’t start his famous clothing line until he was 40, Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy career didn’t even take off until he turned 50, and Winston Churchill didn’t lead Britain in its time of need during WWII until he reached his late sixties! So as you peruse the list beneath of artists who perished in or before their prime, remember nothing is written…just yet.


Arthur Rimbaud – age 21 (when he stopped writing)

John Keats – age 25

Wilfred Owen – age 25

Stephen Crane – age 28

Percy Bysshe Shelley – age 29

Christopher Marlowe – age 29

Silvia Plath – age 30

Emily Brontë – age 30

Lord Byron – age 36

Alexander Pushkin – age 37

Mary Wollstonecraft – age 38

Charlotte Brontë – age 38

Federico García Lorca – age 38


Richie Valens – age 17

Buddy Holly – age 22

Selena – age 23

Jimi Hendrix – age 27

Jim Morrison – age 27

Janis Joplin – age 27

Kurt Cobain – age 27

Stevie Ray Vaughan – age 35

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – age 35

John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) – age 35

Martial Artists

Brandon Lee – age 28

Bruce Lee – age 32


River Phoenix – age 23

James Dean – age 24

Heath Ledger – age 28