Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Too Old to Write a Book?

Yesterday, my Best Friend sent me a link to an article from Overland, authored by Melissa Fagan, a Brisbane-based writer, writing teacher, and MPhil candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Queensland.

Too Old to Write a Book?

Image Courtesy of mihai radu ~

The article is entitled Not Dead Yet.

I found it intensely absorbing since my Best Friend published her first novel at 50 and I, in spite of a life-long love of words didn’t get busy writing seriously till my mid-50s.

The first point made by Melissa (quoting from a New York Times op-ed) is:

“‘Age-based awards are outdated and discriminatory, even if unintentionally so. Emerging writers are emerging writers.’”

Melissa had outed herself as an “emerging writer” who’s over 35

She brings up the disturbing trend that assumes 40 is some sort of “obvious” cut-off age for a writer’s spark and verve

She also shares a compelling list of authors who quash that idea

Another excerpt:

“There are all sorts of trajectories a writing journey can take, and a writer’s emergence can be stymied or delayed by any number of things. Lack of opportunity or education. Disability or addiction. Physical or mental illness. Choosing, or being forced into, a primary caring role. Being consumed by a demanding career, or by a sense of obligation – to one’s parents perhaps, or one’s community – to meet a prescribed set of expectations. Or, as Stephanie Convery has written about with honesty and eloquence, a writer may be thwarted by her own demons: by jealousy, anxiety, or an unwillingness to fail.”

She poignantly reveals her own struggles, then says:

“Do we honestly think that it’s harder for young writers to be published, to break out or break through, to emerge to wherever or whatever the hell it is we’re emerging to? Or is there something else at play: a doubling down perhaps, or a doubling up? A preference for precocity that, when examined, starts to look a lot like prejudice.”

Do you know “emerging” writers over 40?

Over 50?


Do you think youth has some special ingredient that helps writers but disappears as one ages?

Are the experiences garnered in five or six decades more valuable than the ones plucked in the spring of life?

Is it somehow “wrong” to take the whole of middle-age to finish writing a book?

Does our literate culture over-value youth?

One of Melissa’s commenters:

“Thank you for this. I’m trying to be an emerging writer and I’m 44. I’ve been trying to fit this in around a chronic illness that developed when I was 29, and I can also relate to your personal aspects of discouragement and lack of resilience….”

Another commenter:

“Why all this fixation on writing processes, I wonder? Just write the stuff, if that’s your wont, and dwell on all the other bullshit not.”


“…I waited until now, when I have four small children, too many pets, and everyone needs clean clothes and food, several times a day, and here I am, finding the moments to scratch out stories. It’s less to do with youth and more to do with when you’re ready.”

Perhaps you have thoughts or feelings to share in the Comments (about you or someone you know)?
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11 responses to “Too Old to Write a Book?

  1. philipparees July 8, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Although a lifelong writer, I have only published in my 70’s. What I would say is that the writing got better until I was satisfied with it, and brave enough to go for broke, and publish, but the effects of failure or indifference are more telling since the lack of time ahead becomes more pressing. There is less time to make mistakes. Or renew belief. I wish I had published earlier and polished resignation as much as I polished a script!


  2. milliethom July 8, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    A great comment from Philippa, above. I’m now in my late 60s and have two self-published books. With a large family and the need to carry on teaching , I only had the time to write once I’d retired. I certainly don’t feel too old to write now and my creativity has in no way diminished – just the opposite. Now I have time to spend on plotting and creating characters, and i know my general knowledge is greater than when I was younger. Such an interesting post. Thank you.


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  5. D.G.Kaye July 19, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Is there really an age you can put on to be a good writer. Some are young, wise and creative, and many more have lived life longer and gained wisdoms to share. I would never have thought twice to put an age on when one should publish. I published my first book in my early fifties; a book I began writing in journals about for decades. Nobody can say when the time is right; we know when it feels right. :)


  6. jlfatgcs May 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

    This post makes me smile. I have been writing for a few decades, yet began in earnest two years ago. I am 65, full of writing. It’s wonderful. Thank you! -Jennie-


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