You know that nagging sense: You should have started serious writing sooner. You should be published by now, famous by now. Earning real money by now.
I know you’re familiar with these thoughts because: I talked to some of you at Worldcon who feel that way; we all are seeing young stars rising; and in general writers seldom miss an opportunity to worry, especially about things they can’t do anything about!
We are the age we’re at, and we are as young as we will ever be again. So, is it too late?
That depends on whether you give in to this idea. You surely know that if you are 50 or 60 years old and have just written The Help (or a novel just as fine) publishers will not care how old you are.
At the same time, it is in point of fact possible that you will not have time to make a commercial success of your writing career. Hit by a Mack truck tomorrow. Decide next year that wine making is your true passion. Fate may decree that you will not publish or find an audience. The brutal truth is that it could be too late.
But it doesn’t matter whether it’s too late, because you can’t know what will happen. So why are we wasting energy on this one?
- Fear. We are trying to give voice to our love of writing, but it’s coming out in negativity and worry about things we can’t control.
- Envy. We are jealous of others’ successes and turn this against ourselves.
- Entitlement. We are looking for an excuse to give up because success did not come when we thought it should.
If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you already recognize that these attitudes will sap your energy and your well-being. It’s a mind game, friends. (And for further help on the mind game, here’s my post on cultivating the right attitudes.)
So here’s my take on the Too Late issue:
If you are an aspiring author, a sale can come at any time, no matter how many manuscripts you’ve had turned down. Editors don’t often buy novels they aren’t passionate about. The next one may strike a cord with an editor who will be your champion. Your past efforts are no indication of what appeal your next work will have. Ergo, it is never to0 late unless you decide it is.
If you are a published author struggling to sell the next one, or watching your sales fall, you may in fact be on the verge of an upswing. You may find that the very book you’re working on right now will connect in just the right way. No matter how many publishers turn it down. It is tempting to see a trend. And it may be a trend . . . . But many careers are characterized by upward and downward swings. You would be very surprised to learn the names of authors who’ve almost quit because of the down swings–and then come roaring back.
Because it’s always about the next book. Even if, as a journeyman writer, you have to change your name. It’s still a fresh start every time you put a new novel out there. Success in writing does not come very often from contacts, one killer concept, secret handshakes or being under forty. There is no shortcut or ideal profile.
And the best news?
No one can keep you from writing. If writing is the thing you love, then you have the rest of your life to keep doing it. No matter how many years you have or don’t have. That means, whatever your allotted time, and whatever your allotted success, you can fill your days with stories spun from your imagination.
And every day has the same chance as any other to bring you that story you were born to write.
We’ve got lots of stuff to worry about. Global warming, frown lines, the bank account and the presidential election. But let’s, like, let the too late thing go.