Today the Writer's Almanac told a very interesting story about Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones. She had a traumatic experience that haunted her life for many years until she was able to confront it and give it voice in her writing. Her novel became a success and she was quoted as saying, "It's very weird to succeed at 39 years old and realize that in the midst of your failure, you were slowly building the life that you wanted."
A few days ago (August 22), it was Annie Proulx's birthday. Proulx got me to love & appreciate the short story. Nobody does grunge better than she. The Writer's Almanac said, "She was virtually unknown until the early 1990s, when she burst onto the literary scene, publishing her first novels, Postcards (1992) and The Shipping News (1993), in her late 50s ... she doesn't regret becoming a writer later than most people because, she said, she knows a lot more about life than she did 30 years ago."
Slowly building the life you want isn't always pretty and easy, and rarely feels like it's got any sort of meaningful direction. But as Tolkien wrote and bumper stickers have adopted, "Not all who wander are lost."
Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, advises writers to plumb the depths of our own lives, especially those bits that seem mean or inconsequential. It takes time and determination, but we have to go through the sh*t to get to the art.