• You’re Never Too Old to Write

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 15 comments

    Annie Proulx, in her recent NBA acceptance speech, said this: “Although this award is for lifetime achievement, I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-eight, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…

    OK, so lots of trolls playing “Gotcha” point out that Proulx published stories in her thirties and a collection at fifty-three, and that she was fifty-six when her first novel came out.

    Who cares! Proulx’s point is, you’re never too old to start writing, and you’re never too old to find literary success, however you may define it.


    Howold Anderson

    A few years back I profiled Howard Anderson shortly after he released his debut novel, Albert of Adelaide. Albert is a platypus who has escaped from the zoo in Adelaide, Australia, and wanders through a Wild West-style landscape and culture, dodging all sorts of violent animals.

    That story was born twenty years earlier as a bedtime tale for the daughter of Anderson’s girlfriend at the time. He was about forty-nine then.

    I know that because he was sixty-nine when he published Albert.

    You’re never too old.


    Six Over Forty

    Anna Sewell was fifty-seven when her first and only book, Black Beauty, came out.

    Frank McCourt was sixty-six when Angela’s Ashes became a book club favorite.

    After working as an occasional journalist and editor, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote and published her first Little House book — at sixty-five.

    George Eliot’s first novel was published at forty. She was fifty-two when Middlemarch, her opus, came out.

    James Michener published forty books after he turned forty.

    Toni Morrison was forty when her first novel was published. You think she made any of those “20 Under 40” lists?

    Et cetera. There are many dozens of examples.


    Me Me Me

    Yesterday was my last chance to make any Under-40 list. Didn’t happen. Unless they just haven’t announced it yet.

    I don’t care about all that. I might be on the decline physically, but I’ve never been healthier as a writer.

    For the first time in my forty years, I’m deep into a book and, more importantly, want to continue getting deeper. Not only that, but I think it’s really good! That’s new for me, too.

    Also, I’ve finally reached a point where I know what I like to write and what I don’t, and I know what I’m good at and what I’m not good at.

    For years I tried to pretend I was a book reviewer. I’d get assignments months ahead of the deadline, and I’d read the book as soon as it came in the mail. Then I would write the review… the day it was due. Weeks after reading the book.

    Consciously I thought this was simple procrastination. Subconsciously, I knew: I was putting off these reviews because I despised writing them.

    When I admitted this to myself, early in 2016, I felt such relief. Writing about it now, I feel that relief again. I haven’t written a review since, and I don’t regret it even a little bit.

    I’m not saying I’ll never take an assignment again. But I won’t do it unless I really want to. That’s progress.

    I’m doing only what I want and only what I’m good at. That’s a good place to be at forty.



    At my current pace, I’ll publish this book when I’m forty-two.

    I see all these kids in their twenties publishing book after book after book. I’m sure some of these writers have natural talent and advanced maturity and life experience.

    Do not compare yourself to them! This isn’t a race.

    Thank god nothing I wrote at twenty-five, even thirty, was published. The idea of any of my early stories being in print is horrifying.

    Maybe when I’m sixty-five I’ll look back with that same horror at the book I’m writing now. But I doubt it.


    What Are You Putting Off?

    If you’re reading this, you have at least a mild interest in writing.

    Annie Proulx, again: “I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-eight, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…”

    Does this fit you? What have you been putting off?

    More importantly, what will make you put it off no longer?

    Let us know in the comments below, or drop me a line to talk in private: david[at]writebynight.net


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr, 40, is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Tonya Assid

    46 years old here. Still hoping to get published. I go back and forth with the whole “becoming a published author” thing. In music (I am a washed up musician by trade), the older you get, the harder it is to get jobs and showing up at auditions with all these young-fresh-out-of-college kids is really intimidating. But a friend of mine, who was a late bloomer as a musician, didn’t really get started until her 50s and now in her 60s has more paying gigs then she can handle. It’s never too late, she says to me on a regular… Read more »


    I will turn 67 in a month. I just finished my first novel this year, and am working on my second. I never would have dreamed or guessed I would be writing fiction, and have no idea whether anything will ever get published. I worry that my time has passed – why didn’t I do this sooner? yada, yada. But at this point I’ve also realized none of that matters. What matters is the work. You’re never too old to dance with your creativity. Do your part and let the universe figure out the rest. Happy writing!

    Glynis Jolly

    Patricia, if you’re like me, you’re thinking your life experiences have helped you with your writing. Congratulation on your first book.

    Glynis Jolly

    I’m 63 and I have yet to be published except for a few articles. Other things happen in life that are just as important and cannot wait.

    Happy Birthday, David.

    Ousmane Toure

    I am 47 years and I still have some existential questions to answer but I feel that it is the time for me to take care of myself. It implies to finish a novel I start writing three years ago. I went back to get a MFA in creative writing for the sake of competency but I do believe that I need help to get there at some point. I am on my way coming to you. The core factor is that I embrace myself and who I am now even though I regret not doing this earlier in life.… Read more »

    John Liebling

    Check out on youtube Seesaw with Tommy Tune: It’s Not How You Start It’s How You Finish… The video is silly, but the message rings true. Genetically and medically speaking we all are living much longer lives. During the era of the Founding Fathers most would kick the bucket about five years after David’s current age…belated happy birthday. Point is we all have extra decades – to write. As an historian I’ve read about many injustices. As a human being – I’ve experienced a few over the decades. I don’t have political connections. But I do have a voice. I… Read more »


    I am very glad you don’t think you’re too old to publish at 40. Just remember to put your teeth in.


    I’m joining this party late, but here goes. Yes, Happy Birthday David! Thanks for the effort you put into Write by Night and the encouragement you give us. There seems to be a theme here in terms of sharing our age, so I’ll step up and share mine. Just turned 55. Ok, moving on… several years back, I led a panel discussion which included Naomi Shihab Nye and she made a comment to the effect of “you can never be lonely as a writer because it’s a social activity”. Those are not the exact words; it’s just the gist of… Read more »

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