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IWSG: When Is Too Old?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I seem to have been an intermittent Insecure Writer's Support Group poster, but here's my piece for December.




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?

8 comments:

  1. I believe I've gotten better and my writing has gotten better as I've aged. I have a different perspective on...well, almost everything than I did when I was younger, and that includes what success means to me, what it looks like now, etc. As long as you still love writing, Simon, go for it! :)

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    1. Wide advice, as ever. Thanks, Madeline.

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  2. *laughs* too old? That touches a nerve! Didn't start until the month before my fortieth. meh, what are you going to do? Create a time machine and go backwards? Age? I wasn't even worried about it -- until now.

    And loving the snow. Could you share the code?

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    1. Actually, yes, I was thinking some sort of time machine. Not sure where I got the code from - I just googled javascript snow and found it. Actually it looks weird on my machine, the snowflakes are all squares, so I might have to find another...

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  3. I'm in the exact same place as you with age. And It's not too old for a career. (If I wanted one.) Besides, with what you've done so far, you've just begun building your legacy.

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  4. I got my first story published when I was in my 20s and then took a REALLY long break to raise my family. I am definitely too old.

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  5. Write on, my friend. Writers don't retire. They can't. But I understand how you feel.

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I'd love to know what you think.