I have wanted to be a writer of fiction most of my life. As a teenager I did some scribblings and in my 20’s I enrolled in a 12-week novel-writing course while I was bartending in New York. But I never completed anything and eventually quit.
I told myself I had time and could pursue writing later in life.
As I approached my 40th birthday a year and a half ago, I realized a few very important things:
1. I’m not getting any younger
Pretty soon, another decade or two of my life will be gone. I couldn’t keep pulling out the “I’ll do it later” card.
2. It takes time to be a writer
I wasn’t going to write a novel, let alone a bestseller, overnight. First I had to learn the craft of writing a novel. Then I needed to practice doing it. I needed to put in the time to write a first draft, then second draft, and so on until I had a finished novel, which could be years. And then I’d have to write another one. And it could take several books before I wrote anything truly good or a novel got some positive attention. I realized that I could not afford to wait a moment longer to start seriously writing.
3. You never know if you don’t try
There’s also the possibility that the dream I’d have of being an author was just that: a childhood dream. If that was going to be the case, I’d rather learn this sooner rather than later. If I wasn’t cut out to be a writer, I could close that door and still have time to open another door.
4. You have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself
A few months before my 40th birthday, someone asked me what I would do if money was no issue. I said, I’d write novels, of course. Up to that point, I hadn’t considered not working a normal job. Then when my contract job ended the week of my 40th birthday, I realized that I was in the enviable position of not needing to go out and get another job. I had a husband who was able to support me. And by not being in a regular job, I could focus on seriously becoming a fiction writer AND spend more time with my young children, take on freelance work, and take some of the daily burdens off my husband, who has a very stressful and busy job.
So I decided there was no better time than at that moment to take the plunge and focus on my writing. (I took as good signs the fact that I got two unsolicited freelance assignments the day I found out my contract was ending and that the annual local writing workshop was taking place the weekend of my birthday.)
A year and a half down the line I have completed the first draft of my first novel, have self-published a short story, built my author platform and started blogging again. I’ve also learned so much about the craft of writing and the nuts and bolts of self-publishing and book marketing that I know, without doubt, that this been the right choice; this investment in me and my dream to be a writer will pay off.
Note: Please do not let this post discourage you from pursuing your dreams if you are over 40 or are not able to quit your job to do it!
Most people don’t quit their jobs in order to write or pursue their dreams. I hear about a lot of successful writers who started out by disciplining themselves to write before work, on their lunch breaks or at other times. For them what was crucial was making writing a priority.
Also, there are plenty of people who start writing — and are doing well at it — only after they retire. So it really is never too late to start, the important thing is that you start before it’s too late.