Are you ever too old to start writing? I thought about that when a neighbor asked me, “Am I too old to learn to play the guitar?”
I had just read an article in The Classical Guitar Corner on exactly that subject. My answer was, “Absolutely not!”
The same thing holds true for writing. You’re never too old to start.
“You’re never too old to start writing,” Robert McCrum writes in The Guardian. Daniel Defoe didn’t complete Robinson Crusoe until just before his 60th birthday, and Mark Twain published Huckleberry Finn when he was 49.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Kimberly Turner in her article, “Five Authors Who Prove It’s Never Too Late to Start Writing” in LitReactor: “We are writers. Not Olympic gymnasts. Not runway models. Not strippers. We don’t need to cash out at 20.” We don’t have a shelf life as an author. And as long as there is technology to assist us, we probably won’t be hampered by physical limitations.
Turner goes on to talk about several famous writers who didn’t come into their own until later in life. Bram Stoker, who finished his novel Dracula when he was age 50, went on to write seven more novels before his death at age 64. Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book, Little House in the Big Woods, at age 64, completing seven more in the series. One of my favorite authors, Frank McCourt, retired from teaching before writing his first book at the urging of his wife. He was 66 when Angela’s Ashes was published, and he went on to win the Pulitzer, National Book Critics Circle Award, and L.A. Times Book Award. The book became a movie, and he wrote two more memoirs after that.
Writers Digest guest blogger Rebecca Foust’s writing life started with a college class and then was interrupted by a career as an attorney and mother of three. After a 35-year hiatus from writing, she took a class. She was again a writer. When asked if she regretted wasting all that time, she responded that she had been building life experience and amassing material that she would be able to use as a writer.
Age doesn’t matter, according to D.B. Giles in “How Old is Too Old to Be a Screenwriter?” According to Giles, what matters is the quality of what you have written. He says, “If you’re 38 or 59 and you’ve written a 118-page turd, your age has nothing to do with it. Plain and simple, you’ve written a turd.”
I think back to the article about the classical guitar and see many parallels between learning to play and learning to write. If you want to learn to play, ask yourself. “Why am I doing this?” You can be a professional or an enthusiastic amateur. The same goes for writing. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to write the next great American novel or write memoirs for your grandkids?
The guitar article suggests that you should enjoy the process of learning the instrument, accept slower progress, and join an ensemble. Enjoy learning the writing process by taking a class, be patient when your first draft isn’t the best thing you’ve ever read, and join a critique group.
Kimberly Turner sums it up nicely. “As long as we can move our fingers on the keys, we still stand a chance at making our authorial dreams come true. So if you’ve been questioning whether you’ve missed the literary boat, stop worrying and start writing.”