There’s no question that we are living in a society obsessed with youth. We base many of our increasingly unrealistic standards for physical beauty on the premise that we all have expiration dates, after which we are simply no longer attractive. We celebrate and idolize young people who succeed in sports, business, and the arts. We fill our Facebook and Twitter feeds with viral videos of impossibly young people doing impossibly impressive things. So it stands to reason that we writers – who are, let’s face it, a species known for our seemingly infinite ability to find things to be insecure about – might feel some pressure to succeed before… well, before it’s too late. A ticking clock, if you will.
The clock ticks even louder for those of us “of a certain age.” In addition to worrying that our window of publishing opportunity is closing, there’s also that pesky mortality thing looming in the back of our minds. This only adds to the steaming pot of Insecurity Stew many of us keep simmering on our mental stovetops. (Hmmm, do people even have mental stovetops? Perhaps there’s a better metaphor. Okay, not perhaps. There’s *definitely* a better metaphor; it just eludes me at the moment. But I digress…)
Bottom line, age is something that ultimately concerns us all. Juliet Marillier’s excellent post last week touched on the aspirations and concerns of older writers throughout all stages of their careers, and it prompted some candid and insightful comments. Today, I want to focus on older writers who have not yet been published – or perhaps have not yet written their first book. In particular, I want to delve into the questions that many of them may be asking themselves: Is it too late to start writing? Am I too old to be published? Did I miss my shot? All of these lead me to ask a simpler question:
For a writer, how much does age matter?
And here’s my short answer: less than you think. To give my opinion some context, here’s some background. I started writing fiction seriously at the age of 40, and sold my first novel at 50. I am now 39 years old.
Okay, you see what I did there. While I’m telling you age doesn’t matter, I make a joke of lying about my age. That’s to acknowledge that yes, ageism is a real thing, and it exerts pressure on us in many aspects of our lives. I just don’t think it has that big an effect on us as writers – at least not as negative an effect as you might believe. In fact, I think there actually are advantages to being an older writer, as I’ll describe next. [Read more…]