In a word, Hell No! That’s two. I’m a writer. Words are what I do.
And words are what you can do, too.
There are many things you can be too old to do: Olympic gymnast, child prodigy (still kicking myself over that one), bear George Clooney’s children. But writing? No age, height, or weight limit.
Becoming a writer later in life is sometimes a natural progression and sometimes a return to your roots. For many, writing is something they always wanted to do, but didn’t have the time or financial freedom to give it a try. Others may be looking for a new hobby or perhaps would like to write their family history. It doesn’t matter what or why you want to write, start writing. Age is no excuse.
Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing in her 40s but she was 65 when Little House on the Prairie finally met with some success. Frank McCourt was retired and started writing in his 60s. He was 66 when he won the Pulitzer Prize for Angela’s Ashes. Many authors don’t start writing publicly until their 40s and 50s because they and their writing haven’t reached the level of experience and maturity needed to formulate coherent ideas and themes.
Here’s why you’re never too old to become a writer:
You have a wealth of experience. Writers pull from their experiences. As an older writer, you have a wealth of living under your belt to feed your muse. You’ve learned along the way, you have probably picked up on people’s behavior patterns (especially if you’ve been married or had kids). You’ve read widely and most likely have traveled a bit. All of these experiences come together to 1) make you YOU and 2) give you insight into people and the world we live in.
You have perspective. Remember the first time you got dumped? Your heart was broken, your world was ending, and you were never going to find anyone who loved you again. EVER. Fast forward 20 years. A breakup entails several bottles of wine (or tequila), a lot of chocolate, and a weekend of moping, tops. I cried more over my car’s transmission breaking than the last boyfriend who dumped me.
You live long enough, you gain perspective. You understand where things should sit in the universe and how important they are in relation to other things. On a good day, you can almost wrap your head around the Theory of Relativity. This helps you as a writer, whether you want to persuade people to your view or you want to stand back and let your reader judge for themselves. Perspective gives you a place to stand, a viewpoint to write from.
You (hopefully) care less about what other people think. One of the best things about getting older is we no longer worry (as much) about what people think of us. We know who we are and what we stand for, what we like, don’t like, and don’t care about. We know what’s important to us and if we’re really wise, maybe we know what’s important about the time spent on this planet.
When you understand who you are, other people’s opinions of you don’t matter. That doesn’t mean you should be a blowhard and tromp all over people. It just means that you feel more free to write what you like and express your opinions. You’ve learned to “consider the source.” Before taking criticism or suggestions to heart, you ask if the person offering them is qualified to do so. If they are, you can take advice under consideration. It still doesn’t mean you have to follow it or follow it completely. But if the person has no knowledge or experience in the subject, why would you let their thoughts ruin your day?
Younger people aren’t sure of who they are yet; they don’t have the confidence that comes from surviving life’s storms. When you’re older, you know the value you bring to the table and you’re willing to assert yourself when necessary.
Writing is not a full contact sport. You don’t need to have six pack abs or be able to skate at full speed headlong into a rival player. Yes, there is the ever-present danger of paper cuts, more dangerous if you’re on blood thinners, but a tightly wrapped Band-Aid will put you back in the game.
There’s nothing physically taxing about writing. It can be mentally taxing, but in a good way. Studies show that reading and writing can actually improve your memory. I know it helps clarify my thinking on a daily basis.
What’s Stopping You?
At its most basic, all you need to write is a pen, a piece of paper, and an idea. When it is time to put your work out there, you may need some internet skills but there’s no age limit to going online, either.
So if you’re hearing a voice inside your head asking, “Am I too old to become a writer?” tell it to shut up. You’re never too old to become a writer. Don’t let a number stand in your way. Start writing now.
So true Barbara, and that’s from a 79 year old 🙂
I never intended to be an author. Back in 2010 I was 68 years old and had been happily retired for 15 years. My wife was writing her first novel and wanted to go the traditional route to publishing. We learned she’d need a large online platform in order to get an agent. I offered to take on that part to support her while she finished the manuscript.
Building an online community was new stuff, even though I knew my way around the Internet. I started by taking a social media class. One of the assignments was to create a blog. I used material that I had prepared for my adult-ed jewelry classes, and I began posting the tips twice a week to the blog. They turned out to be quite popular. Followers of the blog increased amazingly fast, and I started to read more about self publishing. I had trouble believing that Amazon let you self publish for free.
So to figure out how this new publishing really worked, I decided to turn the blog into a book. My goal was to learn all the steps in the process. I chose the trim size, I learned to create a TOC, I used the CreateSpace cover creator, I wrote blurbs – all the stuff that is needed. About three months later, at age 70, my book was selling on Amazon. Total cost was under $250, which covered the ISBN, US copyright, a couple proofs, and new business cards.
In the first year, the book made enough money to pay for us to attend a self-publishing conference in San Francisco. Since then I’ve published five more books and am working on three more. Life also includes teaching classes based on the subjects I write about and giving presentations to clubs all across the country. We are excited entrepreneurs, love talking to other authors, and are active in the writing community.
Our home-based business is one we can do whenever we want, from wherever we happen to be, and one that we are proud to have created. It is intellectually stimulating and is surprisingly lucrative. And over the last year or two it has proven to be a perfect fit to our older (required) stay-at-home lifestyle.
You never know what new adventure is waiting around the corner for you. Building a platform is probably the most difficult part of being an author. I LOVE that you have done so well in a niche that you have a passion for. I’d also like to point out that it wasn’t “luck” that brought you success nor did you have contacts. You took classes, went to conferences and seminars, and learned your new business. You’ve laid out a clear path for others who would like to follow in your footsteps. Congrats!