A coaching client of mine recently confessed she fears she might be too old to launch her writing career.
She’s in her early 30’s.
I assured her that she was not too old.
And neither are you.
A career as an author isn’t like professional sports, or modeling, or becoming a pop star. You’re chances of hitting it big don’t decline with age. Rather, they improve because long-form fiction writing is a skill-set that takes many years to develop and perfect.
Much the wisdom that informs great writing is gained through life experience. The more triumphs you experience and tragedies you endure, the better perspective you’ll have as an author.
Hemingway’s time spent as an expatriate, WWI ambulance driver, and Spanish Civil War combatant undoubtedly led to him writing masterpieces like The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls respectively.
Reaching middle age isn’t a reason to give up on your dreams of becoming an author; it is reason to pursue them all the more vigorously.
As Malcom Gladwell points out in his New Yorker article Late Bloomers, which explores late blooming painters as well as authors, “The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.”
If you do publish later in life, you won’t be alone:
- William S. Burroughs was 39 when his first book, Queer, was published.
- Henry Miller debuted with Tropic of Cancer at the age of 44.
- Charles Bukowski wrote Post Office and became a published novelist at 49 years old.
- Raymond Chandler’s first book, The Big Sleep, came out when he was 51.
- Richard Adam’s debut effort, Watership Down, was published at age 52.
- Frank McCourt was a 66 year old retiree when he wrote his first novel, Angela’s Ashes.
- Norman McLean launched an author career at the ripe age of 74 with A River Runs Through It.
Age wasn’t a factor for any of these authors, and it shouldn’t be for you either.
There is even a website, Bloom, dedicated to “authors whose first books were published when they were 40 or older; who bloomed in their own good time”.
When it comes to writing and publishing your first novel, it’s never too late.
Remember the Chinese Proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
So get writing.
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