We all have dreams that we’ve held onto for years, that we defer until we have the requisite time, energy, or space. Early in life, we prioritize finishing school, starting a career, and/or raising a family, leaving very little room for other endeavours. Perhaps you’ve always known you have a book in you—a novel or memoir—and you’ve finally made enough space in your life to pursue that dream; but maybe you feel with the discipline, time investment, and competitive industry, that it’s a little too late to become an author?
Learning and practicing the craft of writing does take time—something many of us don’t get until later in life. You might have a novel that you started when you were younger and never finished. Or perhaps you’ve been working on the same project for years. It’s hard not to let the voices creep in that tell you it’s too late—that it would have happened by now if only…(insert one of a million reasons here). Firmly planted in mid-life, I know that feeling all too well. However, if there is anything this past year has taught us, it is that now is the time to work on your dreams, and shut those voices up for good. Need more convincing? The bestseller lists are full of examples of late-blooming creatives. Check out this list of familiar authors who didn’t publish their debut novel until after they turned 50:
One of the bestselling books of the last few years, Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, was published in 2018, when Owens was 69. While she had published two non-fiction books prior to this, this was her debut novel. As of February, 2021, it had been on the NYTimes bestseller list for 124 weeks and sold approximately 7 million copies. Reese Witherspoon, who picked it for her book club, is also working on the film adaptation.
Sue Monk Kidd is one of my favourite authors, and her debut novel, The Secret Life of Bees, is one of my all-time favourite books. Again, while she did publish three books of spiritual memoirs prior, her debut novel was published in 2002, when she was 54. Again, it spent over 100 weeks on the NYTimes bestseller list, and sold over 6 million copies in the US alone. It has also been adapted into a movie, a play, and has been translated into 36 languages.
Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes, was published in 1996, when he was 66. He was a teacher for most of his life and didn’t turn to writing until his retirement. McCourt won the Pulitzer Prize for this work.
Other authors published after the age of 50 include Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods (age 65), Richard Adams, Watership Down (age 52), Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (age 50), and Bran Stoker, Dracula (age 50).
The point is, it is never too late to be a writer. It’s your dream for a reason and it’s time to start pursuing it. Take some classes, find a writing group, and join our manuscript accelerator workshop. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be a New York Times bestseller too.