I read a newspaper report recently about a writer who has achieved some success with a novel, and the report contained this line:
"literary success has come late - he's 42"
Ouch. I turned fifty this year (thank you, thank you), and lines like that inevitably make me worry I've missed my chance to be a real, full-time, professional writer already.
OK, so I've achieved a fair bit of what I set out to do. Over a hundred short stories published, including some by pro magazines. A novel published by a publisher as well as a couple of others indie-published. And I've written some things that I've been really, really happy with.
But wider success remains elusive, as I suppose it does for many writers. Not skilled enough? Not lucky enough? Not persistent enough? I don't know.
I tend to vacillate between two attitudes to the age thing. In optimistic moments I don't see it as a problem at all. I still get ideas for novels like every day. I have years - decades - of writing ahead of me if I wish to take them. And as I get older I find I have more and more time for writing, which is lovely. But in darker moments I worry my chance has come and gone. Maybe I won't ever get that agent and that major publishing deal. Maybe I won't ever see my books lined up on display stands in book shops.
I don't know. I'm not done yet, not by a long chalk. In many ways I feel like I've barely started. And I enjoy writing too much to stop. Each story and book sale I make is one more glorious kick in the teeth for an indifferent universe. Plus I have, like, two trilogies to finish. Still, does there come a point when you say, OK, I gave it my best shot, but now it's time to move on?