I see this question a lot.
People in their 30s, 40s, 50s asking if it’s too late to become a writer.
A user on Quora recently asked whether 28-years-old is too late to become a writer.
Wait a minute. What? You’re still in your twenties and you think the ship has sailed?
WARNING: Sarcasm alert.
Yes, my friend, 28 is too late to become a writer.
Better pack up your dreams and wait to die for the next 60 or so years.
The cut-off point for becoming a writer is 22. Everyone knows that. Even that’s pushing it a bit.
However, there have been some notable exceptions to this iron-cast rule.
- Toni Morrison wrote her first novel at 39. Song of Solomon brought her national attention at 46. She won the Pulitzer for Beloved at 57. At 62, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
- Ian Fleming didn’t pen the first instalment of the James Bond series, Casino Royale, until he was 44. He worked as a journalist for a few years previous to this but, before that, he spent most of his working life in war intelligence.
- Bram Stoker published his first novel at the age of 43. Dracula, perhaps the most influential horror story of all time, wasn’t published until he was 50.
- Raymond Chandler, one of the prolific founders of hardboiled detective fiction, didn’t start writing until he was 44. He lost his job as an oil company executive in the Great Depression and thought he might as well write. He published The Big Sleep at 51.
- Haruki Murakami started writing at 29. Up until that point, he ran a coffee house and jazz bar. He was 38 when he wrote Norwegian Wood, which brought him national fame.
- George Orwell started writing at 30. He worked as a policeman in Burma but left the job to start writing. At 41, he published Animal Farm. At 45, he published Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Okay, so I was lying about the “cut-off point”.
There’s no such thing.
It is never too late to become a writer.
Unless… you think it is too late to become a writer.
The thing I hate most about this question is that it isn’t sincere. This question often isn’t actually a genuine concern that one may be too old to be a writer.
It’s an excuse. An excuse not to take action.
It’s not even a good excuse.
I don’t like watching the Olympics. I prefer the Paralympics. Anyone making an excuse as lousy as age for not doing something as simple as writing needs to watch the Paralympics.
Here are a few things I saw watching the Paralympics:
- Blind people doing judo, soccer, and running at world class levels.
- Swimmers without arms and legs.
- Tennis players in wheelchairs.
These stunning athletes didn’t let blindness, deafness, or deformity stand in their way at being world class. And yet people will wonder if they’re “too old” to start writing. Freaking writing! One of the easiest things in the world.
It’s never too late to start putting words on a page.
It’s never too late to start doing anything.
Unless YOU think it’s too late.
So… don’t ask these questions. Questions like “is it too late” suck.
Here are better questions:
- What books should budding writers read?
- What aspects of the craft should a budding writer focus on?
Worrying whether it is “too late” to become anything is a poor excuse for inaction. If you’re afraid to do something, just say you’re afraid.
Age is actually an asset when it comes to writing.
Your ideas have had time to mature.
You’ve been around the block.
You’ve got stories inside you.
Let them out.