I sometimes come across authors who worry that they’ve come to their writing career too late, or that they’re too late to make it a successful career, especially given how slow the publishing process can be. Others sometimes compare themselves to younger successful authors, and that’s their first mistake – comparing their journey to another author.
We all have our own journey, our own pace, and comparing them to authors who seem ahead of us is the path to madness. For a start, when we see success, we don’t see the number of years, sleepless nights, rejection and stress that author went through to get to where they are. We’re best off focussing on our own journeys, on our own milestones and wins.
So I wanted to talk a little about my journey, and how I came to writing later in life.
Choosing A Life Path
I’ve always been a late bloomer. Ever since I was a kid, I struggled to keep up and fell behind. Part of this was because of childhood bullying and other trauma I won’t bore you with. Part of it was also health issues which put me six months behind my classmates. Basically, I always felt like I was behind everyone else, and not just academically, but socially, too. I discovered new bands and new loves after everyone else had gotten bored with them!
I didn’t get to University until my late twenties and I was technically classed as a mature student, and even then I didn’t have a clue what to do with my life, or who I wanted to be, and maybe you can relate to that. In my search to discover my passion in life, I tried many things. I’ve held a variety of jobs, from cleaning toilets to delivering leaflets and providing technical support. I’ve also studied various things at school and college, including philosophy, psychology, sociology, graphic design and web design! I was lucky that I got to enter University through a mature student scheme, otherwise I would never have managed it. When considering University courses, my interests jumped from religion to art therapy to sociology.
I was certain sociology was my path in life. And then I signed up for computer games design!
All throughout my life, I’ve held a few consistent hobbies; reading, writing, and video games. I wrote my first book aged 5. I started acting out plots using action figures soon after. At age 12, I had detailed world building and maps for some stories that I later abandoned, and one which evolved into my new adult gaslamp fantasy that I’m now working on. When I met my career advisor at school, I had two careers in mind; author or game designer.
I chose game design because I grew up thinking I could never be an author. It wasn’t a “real” job I could make a living from. And I came from a working class background. There were no opportunities for kids like me, and no one ever encouraged me to pursue writing as my passion. Honestly, I thought even game design was beyond me because I had no programming skills at all, but my University accepted me onto a program and I completely forgot about writing until then.
My game design degree required writing game design documents and thinking of plots, and as an avid RPG fan, I started thinking of my old story ideas in terms of game plots, and soon they reignited a passion I’d once buried. During my module on interactive stories for games, I realised that I preferred writing these stories rather than translating them into game mechanics.
Falling In Love With Writing
The year after I graduated, I began working on the first draft of what became Sand Dancer. I had never written a full novel before, and yes, my first draft was full of cringe, but I wrote it. I finished it.
And my passion for writing ignited like never before.
I delved into the worlds of fantasy fiction, but then I scored my first real job working for a mobile games company. My writing came to a halt because I no longer had the time or energy to keep it up. Though as I designed games and wrote blurbs for them, I again realized that I much preferred writing to designing games. That job solidified my love for the written word.
That job also put me off the games industry entirely. So many of my old game industry friends have worked for major companies like Rockstar and Ubisoft, and they all speak of terrible work practices and long hours. The thought of a 14-hour shift terrified me. How could I write in my spare time if I had no spare time?
It was only after I quit back in 2016 that I picked up Sand Dancer again. I delved into the writing community; I signed up for mentorship courses; I wrote SO MANY drafts. I threw myself into reading and writing and I made some stupid mistakes along the way, but it lead me to publishing my book and writing more.
I’m only a few years shy of 40, but I know, in the depths of my soul, that writing is my passion. Yes, it took me half my life to figure this out, and sometimes it annoys me I didn’t start earlier – that I didn’t ignore those voices of doubt telling me that writing wasn’t a real job, that I wouldn’t be successful at it so why bother?
The way I see it, I have a lot of story ideas waiting to spill onto the page, so everything I do now is to make up for lost time and find those stories a home.
And that’s one reason I’ve decided to self publish. I don’t want to wait longer than necessary to publish my books, and boy oh boy, is traditional publishing slow.
I found my passion later in life when I was ready to take advantage of it.
So like me, you may have come to writing later in life, but there’s no point mourning the time lost to the past. Now all we can do is write the future! There’s plenty of folks older than me who go to University and live their dreams, and why not? You get one shot at life and there’s no age limit in pursuing your passion – if anything, you now have the wisdom and experience to navigate your passions with a clear head. Besides; it’s better late than never!
But writing takes time, I hear you cry! And yes, even self-publishing takes time. Writing a book isn’t quick or easy, but it can be satisfying. Just think – you could spend the next few years indulging your passions, or you could tell yourself it’s not worth it. Those next few years will pass regardless, only by then, you may regret not giving your passions a go.
Where do you want to be in the next few years?