There is an article in the paper about a woman in my area who didn’t commence to be a writer until she was fifty. Her husband told her she’d always wanted to and she’d best get started. Robin Hathaway followed the usual path, lots of rejections, eventually a few with encouraging notes, but after ten years, she hadn’t sold anything and decided to quit. Her daughter talked her into one more try—the Saint Martin’s mystery book contest. She entered, put it out of her mind, and won. Her first book was published when she was sixty and she’s doing pretty well these days.
I’m rapidly approaching fifty, and although I have a book out and one on the way, I am now trying to teach myself to write fiction. Oh, I’ve written it, even sold a few short stories, but they’re bad. (Some are online at LDS.org if you don’t believe me.) This time, I want to do it right. I want to make things up sometimes and the type of writing I do doesn’t let you make things up.
It’s encouraging to know writing is one career you don’t have to get started on when you’re 21. I love knowing that when I send in a manuscript, the readers haven’t a clue that the author has gray hair, wrinkled clothes, and a messy office. If the writing seems immature, they can picture me as a hopeful twenty-year-old instead of an experienced middle-aged woman, as long as they don’t read my published books first and find out I have grown children.
Hathaway’s advice to writers is to persevere. It’s good advice. Many great writers took decades to get noticed, so if this is important to you, keep sending out your work.
But don’t forget to hone your skills while you’re submitting. It’s not enough to submit. You have to study and practice, just as you do with anything else you hope to do well.