Giving Myself Time

Today’s my birthday. I won’t tell you how old I am (old enough!)–but I do want to make a public gift to myself.

The gift of time.

So often, with writing, I feel a sense of the clock ticking, of time getting away from me. When I was in 7th grade, my teacher read a short story I’d written and confidently predicted that I’d write a novel–she said she couldn’t wait to read it. For years, I imagined that I’d be some kind of wunderkind who would amaze the world with my brilliance at a young age. (Confession time: how many of you envisioned similar fates?)

It’s now been more than twenty years since middle school, and I’m pretty sure my teacher has long since passed (she must have been in her sixties then).

I’m still working on publishing that novel. Sometimes this reflection makes me feel like a failure, like I should have figured this whole writing thing out by now if it was meant to be.

In the mean time, I’m figuring out a few truths.

*Good writing takes time (see a great article by John Scalzi on why so many “new” authors seem to be in their 30s or older here). It takes time to master the craft, time to find a publisher, time to mature into an author who understands more of the human condition.

*I’m in good company as an “older” aspiring author.

Consider the following list of authors’ ages at the time of their debut novel (and check out this article by the Atlantic on Literary Late Bloomers):

Amy Tan, 37
James Joyce, 49
David Sedaris, 38
Umberto Eco, 48
Lois Lowry, 40
George Eliot, 40

Laura Ingalls Wilder was 44 when she started a writing career; and 64 when she published Little House in the Big Woods–the book that made her famous.

So today, instead of worrying about the fact that I’ve missed my window as a child prodigy (or any sort of prodigy, really), I’m going to relax a little–and keep writing.

I like to think that my age will give a sort of vintage quality to things: more thoughtful, more mature, better in general.

What about you? In an era that touts the astonishingly young age of some debut authors, do you ever feel like you might be “too old” to write? (Or am I the only one who’s that shallow?)

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