Last Christmas, I found the perfect gift for a horse-crazy nine-year old girl; a collection of detailed, miniature toy horses. When I went to cash out my find, the clerk looked at my purchase, smiled, and said, “This is going to make some little girl very happy.”
As we chatted, she said she’d always loved horses, and dreamed of owning one, but obstacles always stood in the way. “Finally, I got a horse of my own. It only took me until I was sixty, but I persevered and made my dream come true.”
I thought of this clerk when I was at a writers’ conference recently, talking to a woman who wondered if she—at 58—was too old to write and sell a book.
She’d heard agents and publishers were looking for young writers in their twenties, with potential long careers ahead of them, and if you were of “a certain age” they would reject your book no matter how good. So what chance did she have?
I listed all the writers who started their writing careers later in life. J.R.R. Tolkein didn’t write Lord of the Rings until he was 62. Patrick O’Brien was 55 before writing Master and Commander. Dracula didn’t see the light of day until Bram Stoker was 50. Mystery novelist P.D. James is the baby of the group at 42.
If this woman always dreamed of being a published novelist, I urged her to go for it. Ignore the nay-sayers on the outside—well-meaning friends, family, and co-workers--and the nay-sayer inside, the one who whispers, “You’re too old to be a writer.” Knock down those obstacles one by one.
When she submits to agents and publishers, if she encounters nothing but rejection, she now has the option of going indie, and publishing the book herself.
Years pass. We all get older. In 10 years, this woman will be 68. She can either be a published writer, or still an unpublished one filled with regret for the road not taken. I know which one I’d choose.
Did something keep you from trying to achieve a dream? How did you knock down those obstacles and achieve it?