The other day, I saw a tweet where some ignoramus told an aspiring author she’s too old to start writing. I’m sorry, but that’s just plain stupid.
I sold my first work of fiction at the somewhat ripe age of 46. For me, it’s seemed like perfect timing. And plenty of authors have started their careers later in life.
Charles Bukowski published a couple short stories and some poetry when he was younger, but didn’t sell his first novel until he was 49. Laura Ingalls Wilders started writing at age 44, and published Little House on the Prairie when she was 64. William S. Burroughs first book came out when he was 40, and Naked Lunch six years later.
In our youth-obsessed society people seem to forget that you can be a terrific writer at any age. In fact, I believe chances are you’ll be a better writer if/when you’re older. And not just because you’ve had more years to practice and polish your craft.
Comedian, actor, and Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones was on The Tonight Show recently. She told a story of getting the chance to open for Jamie Foxx when she was 19, and bombing. After the show, she cornered Jamie and asked him what she needed to do to be like him.
His response was (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Your problem is, you’re too young, so you don’t have any material. You don’t have any stories. Go live life. Go have good jobs and bad jobs. Have crazy roommates, get your heart broken, break someone else’s heart. Then you’ll be ready.”
Most people need some life under their belts to have rich, touching, funny, surprising stories to tell. Some of us get that life sooner than others, for sure. And some authors are just gifted with the ability to tell a great story at a young age. I’m not one of them.
The urge to write fiction didn’t even strike me until a few years ago. Until then, all my writing was non-fiction–magazine articles, nature essays, marketing copy and press releases. When I started writing romance, finally, FINALLY, my long list of crazy jobs, fantastic and screwed up relationships, and amazing adventures made total sense.