Have you ever caught yourself wondering, am I too old to start writing?
I’ve always felt like a writer, and I’ve always taken for granted that writing books and stories is a possible thing. However, I know that not everyone feels this way. There’s a misconception that writing is something you have to start doing young, or if you’ve spent a good chunk of your life not writing, that writing isn’t something you can just randomly start doing.
…you’ve got access to a computer or smartphone, right? Or paper and a pen? Or, at least a felt tip and a wall??
Alright, a bit facetious. The point I’m trying to make is, there is no maximum age. No prior formal writing experience required. The only thing you genuinely need is the curiosity, drive and courage to give it a try.
We’ve got a pretty broad range of ages here at Writing Voices. We all met on a Creative Writing Masters degree a few years ago; I remember being initially worried about being the only thirty-odd in a classroom full of kids but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We had a small handful of early twenties following directly on from an Undergraduate degree and a fantastic rainbow of mature students ranging right up into the sixties and seventies. It’s never too late to start, to learn, to improve and to love this craft. And don’t start excusing yourself from giving this a try because a Masters degree isn’t on the cards for you; you don’t need formal training or a degree to start writing or to get really good at it; you just need to make the decision to sit down and start.
People that started young have had plenty of time to hone their craft; but you’ve got something they didn’t have when they started: a lot more life experience to draw on! If you think about it, you’ve been preparing to do this your whole life…
In addition to racking up experience points by simply living, you’ve probably been reading books and watching screen. You might not have been sitting in a classroom learning about the classics but you’ve been absorbing narrative structure, tropes, dialogue etc. You’ve already got many more skills than you think you do. You can obsess about sculpting sentences later; if you’ve got a good story to tell, an authorial voice full of personality and an open mind then you’re 85% of the way there already.
The best piece of advice I can give you is this: don’t try to write like JRR Tolkien or David Baldacci or anyone else. When you pick up that pen, be yourself.
The first thing you write might suck a bit. That’s okay; everyone’s first piece of writing sucks. But the redraft will be better. And the next thing you write even better than that. That’s free joy, right there. It costs nothing to sit down and try it on for size.
Not quite ready to believe me yet? Toni Morrison found writing in her late thirties. Raymond Chandler started writing in his forties. Anna Sewell in her fifties. Millard Kaufman published his first novel aged ninety and his second novel was published posthumously. Stephen Hawking continued to write books after he lost the use of his hands and voice.
There's this whole incredible world waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
Liz specialises in fiction and short fiction. Liz writes short stories for both formal and web publication, and is currently working on two full length manuscripts. Find out more.
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Imagery by Wilhelm Gunkel via Unsplash