Too Late for a Writing Career?
Too Late to Start a Writing Career?
Written by D Kane
As a person who published her first three books in 2017 at sixty-three years of age and a fourth in 2018, I believe the answer to this question is a resounding “no”. Older people have an advantage over the young in any society – accumulated life experience. Nothing can replace it, and it gives the older person a wider range of understanding from which to draw.
We all have this mental bell that rings the day we feel too old to start something new. Instead of getting excited, we shrink back into our comfort zone. Although seniors have the opportunity to write articles for magazines, pen their memoires, or participate in any literary endeavour that catches their fancy, sadly, most don’t.
I think there are two main reasons seniors don’t pursue a writing career:
Getting Started: I’m astonished at how many people have told me they want to write a novel – some other time. An accountant acquaintance in her fifty’s feels driven to write a book but says she can’t get that first word down. When I asked why she didn’t start, her instant expression of anxiety told me volumes.
I don’t think the work of writing a book is so daunting. This person, as an accountant, isn’t afraid of long hours. Most people work hard every day. It’s the knowledge that if you write the book, anyone can read it – even people you know. Once it’s out there, the whole world can and will judge you, and we’ve been conditioned to avoid public censure at all costs. Scientists say it’s genetic because being judged and kicked out of the tribe has been fatal for millennia.
A writer of necessity steps into a leadership role. Writing means standing alone in front of the crowd and having your say. How will people react? Will they accept your opinions? Refuse to consider your ideas? Heap scorn upon your head as they abandon you and walk away laughing? Many seniors have been successful in their careers. Why rock the boat now and expose themselves to criticism? After being respected for decades for their work, how many are willing to be seen as hesitant beginners again?
Each piece of work exposes a writer to the historical dangers of rejection. Not only do we have to dig deep to find or reignite those leadership qualities, we challenge the genetic programming that tells us to stay safely within the herd. Every published writer has surpassed this challenge whether they’re aware of it or not.
Novel writers, after a long labour of love, watch their literary babies grow to adulthood. With trembling fingers, they wrap them in glorious covers and fling them without protection into a world that will either devour, ignore, or adore them. It’s a risk few seniors are willing to accept and why desk drawers are stuffed with countless abandoned manuscripts. It takes a strong person to expose their hearts to a cold world, and most seniors have experienced rejection all too often.
And that brings us to the second reason seniors don’t write:
The Publishing Process: It takes an even stronger person to figure out the publishing processes. How do I get my articles into magazines? Who wants to publish my memoirs? Will publishing houses accept samples of my work? Where do I send them? How do I find an agent? I came across a book that listed publishing companies and agents. It was six hundred pages – more daunting than writing my novels in the first place.
I’ve spoken to intelligent and educated people who took the time and effort to write that novel. Excited to see it on bookshelves, they dipped their toes into the world of publishing and withdrew in reflexive horror. I admit, publishing is a daunting task. It was for me as well. Many people, not just seniors, are intimidated by that world. It’s so much easier to leave that manuscript in a drawer. After all, nobody’s watching.
I don’t think there’s a right answer when it comes to publishing. As I was writing my novels, I scanned the websites of publishing companies, investigated what an agent does, and tried to give myself at least a minimal education about the industry.
Wading into the marketing of books is daunting, but there are experienced people out there. Joining a writer’s group can be helpful. There we find a variety of writers in different fields and a mixture of seasoned and new people. It’s where we can step into that network of passionate individuals, some of whom have already worked through the industry labyrinth. Even if all we have to bring to the table at first is our enthusiasm, we’ll be accepted into the fold. A grey-haired beginner is just as respected as the seventeen-year-old who plans to change the world.
Those of us with the zeal to pursue our literary dreams broaden the path for others who follow. If we start our own trail, others may be intrigued by our ideas and come after.
Age is not a barrier, and with any kind of writing, years lived are an advantage. We don’t have to imagine the tragedies of the world. We’ve probably lived most of them. We don’t have to imagine that great love that didn’t work out. We’ve been there. Or we might be one of the lucky ones upon whom life has smiled. Those stories are important too.
Too many seniors die with their dreams and experiences hidden within them. How much has been lost to the world by the multitude of stories that have perished unwritten?
The saddest characteristic of seniors is that so many have given up on their dreams. They might’ve been successful in life, but many know they haven’t lived a life of passion that had them bounding out of bed with that glow of excitement. The plodding day-to-day of paying bills and providing for others has sucked the desire out of them until there’s nothing left but a reluctance to challenge anything ever again.
I can tell you from experience that if you’ve ever had a passion to write, being a senior is the best opportunity to get started. You’ve already gone through so much. Whatever you dreamed of writing in your youth will be enriched by years of living. Things that used to terrify are now laughable as you look back on it all. Seniors have such an opportunity to share their wisdom with the young who struggle with the complexities of today’s world. An experienced mind sorts through choices and simplifies with ease.
Young people live on a broad plain where so much is happening, they struggle to figure it all out. The older a person gets, the more she rises above the fray and begins to see the patterns and how they connect. Age gives us a wisdom impossible for the young to achieve. It takes time to fully experience this life, to recover from the tragedies and to enjoy the pleasures.
Is sixty, seventy, or eighty years of age too late? No. It’s the perfect time to start a writing career. I invite seniors to throw off their self-imposed shackles and dive into the exquisite and wonderful world of writing.
The world is waiting, and we can’t wait to read your fantastic stories!