Monday, January 25, 2010

Too Old to Write and Publish?

This week I'm talking about one of the unpublished writer's greatest obstacles: getting discouraged.

Today, let's concentrate on an aspect of discouragement that I know I've struggled with: age. I'm in my early thirties and wish I'd started writing seriously years ago, because I'd be in a difference place today than I am. Now, I understand that I needed to do things on my own time and mature according to my schedule. But dang, when I was twenty and RARING to take on the world, with no husband, toddler, career, or house payment, it would have been nice to get some experience. I had a heck of a lot more energy then. I know I may not have had the stability or drive to see through what I'm doing, but shoot. The energy.

If you're an older writer, you may have felt this way. If you're an honest writer, you realize that the older we get, the wiser we are, but also the less time we have to develop all the ideas and novels we want. Sue Grafton gave an interview in this month's issue of Writer's Digest and said she, at age 69, is tired and losing it and getting to the end of her alphabet series seems more daunting with each book. I loved her honesty but man that was scary to hear.

As it turns out, INTERN had thoughts about age recently as well. She posted about the young people who write good novels and get agents and publish them. I haven't seen any debut author statistics, but I'm betting that teenage or early twenties authors are the exception.

The eternal optimist says age is just a number. But I wonder--does age matter in the published author game? Chances are, if you're in your thirties, you're probably in an established career or raising young children while you write, or all of the above. What are you willing, and not, to do at your age?

For my few younger readers, how do you feel about your age in relation to where you are with your writing career? Do you feel like you're at the right spot for what you're doing, or that you want more years to grow?


Travener said...

Early thirties? I'd kill to be in my early thirties. Early forties, even! One thing I discovered about myself was that I did not have the energy and discipline to hold down a full-time job and also write. Oh, I tried, but I never got very far. In my case, it took retirement from the Very Important Organization to give me the space/time/lack of excuses needed to sit down and finish a book. Too bad that coincided with a huge recession.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I actually wanted to be a writer first - wrote some novels in high school in addition to short stories and thousands of journal pages. (I think I was releasing my "million words of crap.") Then I veered off in other directions in college but always had the desire to write - and over the past years have come back to it as seriously as I can manage. I feel like it's true: if I had stuck with writing all this time I'd probably be farther along. But my goodness, with no other experiences, what in the heck would I have written about? I'd have been one of those young twenty-something writers who writes books about young twenty-something writers.

As for right now, I've got a wife (who makes a great living on her own) and no kids or mortgage, lots of savings since I still basically live like a grad student. I would love for some agent or editor out there to give me a reason to try to do this full-time. Until then, I eke along as best I can. My career is very important to me, but I'd still take a chance on my dream if the circumstances were right.

Mike Chen said...

I'm just over the 30 barrier and I'd say that life experience and writing experience (both professional and creative) has made me a better writer. I think the only way age matters is life priorities and discipline. Otherwise, I doubt agents/editors care whether you're 19 or 91.

annerallen said...

My 88-year old Mom just had her first mystery novel accepted by a small New England press. (Yay! I'm so jazzed.) I plan to blog about the whole process next month.

Yes, we live in a culture that favors the young. Movies are made for young audiences, and movie deals are where the big money comes from. But the fact remains that the majority of book buyers are women over 40--a demographic that isn't all that heavliy into steam punk and zombies, no matter what the fad-followers say. And we prefer authors who have something to offer besides adolescent angst and "oooh I want to get laid."

Sierra Godfrey said...

Thanks guys, and welcome Lt. Cccyxx of the skullcrushing. I love your perspectives. Anne, I look forward to reading about your mom's process. Being 88 and getting published gives me hope that the mind IS active enough at late ages to be producing creatives works.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...


I am in my late twenties. I certainly wish I'd gotten an earlier start. I mean, I have been writing my heart out sporadically for years and years now, but the focus only came recently. However, I am sure that I wouldn't have been ready (in my late teens of earlier twenties) for all the responsibility it takes to be a writer... and, I'm a believer that I'm honing in on it now for some certain cosmic reason. (Well, I reserve the right to change my mind about that.) Still, it just seems like THIS is my time, and my writing wouldn't have taken the direction that it's taking now if I'd tried to write any of this ten years ago or ten years from now. Does that make sense?

Meredith Rae Morgan said...

I'm 55. When I was in my 20's -- before marriage and kids -- I didn't have enough experience to write seriously. I spent my time getting that experience.

Then I got married, bought a house and started a family. I jotted a lot of notes, but had too little time to devote to serious writing.

Now that Daughter Dear is in college and I have plenty of life experience under my belt, I'm writing like crazy and the ideas keep piling up for more stories to write when I'm finished with the one I'm working on.

It will remain to be seen whether or not I can interest a publisher in my work. Even if I never get published through traditional channels, this journey has been so worth taking.

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