March 27, 2022: Late Blooming Writers
There is no doubt we live in a youth-centric culture. Being young is valued and aging is looked on as something to be kept at bay. Whether through diet, exercise, injections, creams, or pills, we are inundated with invitations to look and feel younger.
That focus on youth is not limited to our physical lives. Ageism, assumptions we make about people based on their age, is everywhere.
When looking at our careers and work lives, the assumption is that success is for the young. Quickly making a name for yourself within your field of endeavor is the way to go. Climbing that ladder takes a stamina that it is assumed, is only possessed by the young.
The good news for those of us who are clearly beyond middle age, is that these assumptions are simply not true. Yes, there are many careers and endeavors, particularly those that rely on physical prowess, that do favor the young. But there are so many more that are equally accessible to the mature group as they are to the young crowd. And writing is one of those.
It does not take too much digging to find very successful writers who did not get their first book published until they were well past their youth.
Mark Twain, J.R.R. Tolkien, Annie Proux, Laura Ingles Wilder, Henry Miller… to name just a few. Authors who did not get their first book published until later in life. Meaning, in their 40s, 50s, or 60s.
It may have been because they had not taken up writing, or set out to seek publication until the later years of their lives; or it may simply have been that it took that long for them to reach that milestone.
In so many of the writer’s groups to which I belong, it is easy to see the differences in the approaches to publication that different generations possess.
My unscientific observations and anecdotal evidence, support the fact that many young people are focused on achieving success FAST. Anything that does not happen quickly, is the source of great stress and agony. When they begin to truly understand all that is involved in the process of becoming traditionally published, so many throw in the towel and fall back on self-publication routes. They are simply not willing to put in the work required.
This trait seems to appear less in writers who have passed that middle-age designation.
The benefits of being an “older writer”:
- As someone who has decades of life under our belts, we have a plethora of experiences on which to draw when writing. We have most likely experienced the joys, sorrows, heartbreak, frustration, or any other emotion that our characters are feeling or that we are trying to capture with our words.
- We tend to be more resilient when faced with failure or rejection. Again, through that life experience, we know that failure is not fatal and that it can be overcome with hard work and new approaches. We understand that instant success is often not realistic and we are willing to put in the time to earn it.
- Our maturity gives us a more balanced view of life, and therefore, we understand the value of those intangible, immeasurable parts of life, and of being a writer. Even though writing is a solitary endeavor for the most part, older writers seem more willing (or perhaps able) to nurture the social aspects of being a writer. Writer’s groups, networking, mentoring.
To all of those older writer’s out there who are seeking traditional publication for your work, do not give up. I was a late bloomer and did not get my first book traditionally published until I was nearly 50 years old. Thirteen years later, I have had three middle grades novel traditionally published and have a fourth one for which I just signed a publishing contract. It can be done. Do not give in to impatience or short cuts. You totally have what it takes!