I’ve wanted to write a novel since the age of five. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I started several novels but never finished a single one because life always got in the way. Adult life will throw you a curve and often make you think you’re too old for your passions.
When I was 34, I got serious, joined a writer’s group and started another novel, but I dropped it about five chapters in — again, because life.
This year, I returned to that novel because it wouldn’t let me go. With the help of Rachael Herron’s 90 Days to Done course, I decided to start over from scratch and 74 days later, I finished it. A few months after that, I enrolled in DIY MFA’s Pixels to Platform course, which gave me all I needed to launch my writing platform.
And voila! My new writing career is now underway at the age of 48. In most careers, this would be considered too late to just be getting started. You might feel too old compared to your younger colleagues. However, with a writing career, it’s never too late, and there are five reasons why.
When you’re older, you know yourself better.
Just because you are older, doesn’t mean you are too old. From my teens to my 30s, I often set unrealistic expectations for myself and then gave up when I couldn’t achieve the impossible. At one point in my early 20s, I decided I would get my feet wet as a freelance writer by submitting articles to magazines. I wrote my very first article, did zero revisions, and then sent it off — along with my SASE — to YM magazine. When I received the inevitable rejection letter several weeks later, I took that as a sign that I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer, so I quit. That kind of all-or-nothing thinking was the norm when I was too young and idealistic to understand that worthwhile ventures require resilience and perseverance.
In contrast, when you’re older, you know your strengths and limitations, and how hard you can push yourself. You are better equipped to strive for — and accept — progress over perfection. This kind of self-knowledge is priceless when dealing with deadlines, struggling with motivation, and working on several writing projects at once.
You’re not too old, you have invaluable life experience.
Living a couple of extra decades means I have more to say now than when I was in my 20s. Although I write YA novels, the perspective I have 30 years removed from being hot off the griddle of angst allows me to write with more clarity and meaning than if I had written about the same teenage protagonists back then.
Most of us could probably tell at least a few heartbreaking anecdotes from our own lives. We’ve seen some stuff. These experiences not only provide fertile ground for growing stories, they enrich our ability to separate the wheat from the chaff in our revisions because by now, we know what matters most. It also helps us to write characters with more layers and depth because our earned wisdom is our greatest muse. We’ve been there, done that, and lived to tell about it. So, why not do it now?
You know the craft better now.
In my early 20s, I completed a six month course on writing for children and teenagers. It was from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Remember them? Their ads were everywhere back in the 80s and 90s. I also subscribed to Writer’s Digest, Poets and Writers, and The Writer magazines, and I read several books on the writing craft. While that all sounds impressive, what I didn’t actually do was write.
Maybe you’ve been thinking about writing for years, perhaps decades. Maybe you’ve even written on and off. However, all the time you’ve spent thinking about writing, studying writing and writing some here and there was not for naught. It was practice. You were priming the pump. You were observing, studying, taking it all in, and producing when you felt inspired. Now, it’s time to take all of that preparation and funnel it into actual writing, while trusting that you know what you’re doing because now you do.
Knowing there is no time to waste will keep you motivated.
I’ve been a high school teacher and college adjunct for close to twenty years. I have another decade before I can retire with some comfort. And I don’t feel old, I feel experienced. My plan is to do well enough in my writing career to be able to retire early, hopefully in the next five years or so. Therefore, since I began writing seriously this year, I’ve felt a sense of urgency about my writing career because I know I’m getting started much later in life than others.
Starting later isn’t a bad thing; it can help you create the momentum you need to keep going until you achieve the level of success you desire. What’s more, launching your writing career as an older adult will also provide you with something meaningful to focus on and sustain you in your later years.
You have more time to invest in yourself.
Although I’m nearing fifty, I don’t feel old. I remarried a decade ago and now have two young sons at home. However, I’m in the minority. Most women my age and older have moved beyond their child rearing years into another season of life. At that stage, you have more time to spend on doing what you enjoy without worrying about taking time away from your families and other responsibilities.
In addition, when you’re an older adult, you’re no longer striving to establish yourself in your previous or current career. This affords you the time and energy to pour into your writing and set goals for your writing career. Perhaps for the first time in your life, you will be working hard to do something you truly love. You can write with passion, knowing you’re doing it all for you — and your readers.
So, whether you’ve already started writing seriously or are still just thinking about it, know that now is the exact right time for you. There’s a reason you haven’t started your writing career until now. Trust that. Now, get going!
Anita Ramirez is a writer and teacher who transforms bilingual, dispassionate teens into lovers of books, one reader at a time. When she’s not teaching Hispanic/Latinx literature and composition to her high school students or linguistics at the college level, she’s revising her first bilingual YA novel and attempting to win NaNoWriMo while writing her second. Anita is a California native who’s been living in New York for the past 25 years. She loves the poetry of Pablo Neruda, teen movies from the 1980s and café con leche. You can find her at www.anitawritesbooks.com and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.