Never Too Young or Too Old to Write

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER | @LGNWVR on Unsplash

I am either too young and don’t have enough experience to write something meaningful, or I’m too old to start something new like a writing career.

These are both reasons people give to postpone writing or to not start writing at all. And both reasons come from the writer not focusing on what he or she has to give.

Young Writers, This is Your Time

Back when I was in college as a nineteen-year-old, my most agonizing fear was that I didn’t have enough experience to write. This idea disrupted my creative process mostly because it was true. This voice in my head mocked me an reminded me that I had little life experience to pull from, and I didn’t know a lot about many things. Being so young and not knowing a lot about writing, I already lacked confidence, so these thoughts running through my mind when I sat down to write, were hard to ignore.

I what I didn’t realize for some time was that while I was struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted from life, while I was forming my own beliefs about the world, these feelings and thoughts were fuel for writing great stories.

I didn’t have to have it all figured out. I could write about exactly that! I could write about young women who were seeking their independence and were excited about the future but also fearful and uncertain.

The great thing about being young is that you are living in this unique time in history and only you can give a perspective about what it’s like to be 20 today. Young writers can use their youth to their benefit by sharing points of view that are different and fresh. And they don’t have to have it all figured out because writing characters who are growing and maturing and changing can be endearing to readers

A Younger Person’s Voice

I remember once being at a friend’s house with stacks of other student submissions that I was supposed to critique — that was what we did in that class — and my friend asked me about my writing. I handed her a chapter from another student who was older than I was. I liked his writing. She read it and looked at me and said, “You didn’t write this?” I asked her how she knew, and she said that it didn’t sound like me. I don’t speak that way and she was sure I didn’t even now some of the words in that story. The writer used Jewish terms, so my friend was absolutely right. I laughed and told her she was right then gave her a copy of my real work.

I would think about that day often as I moved forward in my writing career. My friend knew the writing “didn’t sound like me” because she knew me so well. I needed to write like me so that future readers would also learn my voice and know when they were reading my work.

And, really, did I as a young Latina want to sound like an older Jewish man? Of course not. That was his voice and I needed to develop and appreciate my own voice.

Passion is the Fuel of Youth

The best thing about being young is that we are passionate about everything. Life is intense and we want to do it and experience it all.

So young writers should use that passion. Write about what matters most to you and it doesn’t matter what that is. Don’t prejudge it. I think that last thing a young writer should do is write books like what is already out there. Those ideas belong to an older generation, and they may be great and probably are if they are published and the author is successful, but using your own passion to write something new can create a new type of story.

Whole industries and job opportunities have been created by people doing what they are passionate about. Have any of you been to Legoland? The park is full of great Lego sculptures. I bet there was a little kid years ago who was passionate about playing with Legos and whose parents wondered if he’d ever be interested in something valuable. That kid probably became a Lego master builder and is making money building Lego creations. Who would have thought that following a passion for building things with Legos could have lead to a paying job?

Young writers should pour their passions into their writing. The excuse that a writer doesn’t knowing anything because he’s young is not true. Young writers know a lot; they only assume no wants to read about what they know.

Do Some Research

Whatever a writer truly doesn’t know and needs to know for the authenticity of their story, that writer will research. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. We all must research details for our writing to write more realistic stories.

Read articles and books. Interview people. Watch documentaries or YouTube videos. I might never have sailed a boat, but others have, and I can learn how to do it if my character is going to sail in the Pacific Ocean by watching videos on YouTube.

We live in a time when it’s so easy to find out whatever we need. So being young and not knowing something is not a good excuse not to write anymore. You don’t have to have experienced something to write about it well.

Older Writers Have Compelling Stories to Tell

What about people who think they are too old to begin a writing career or maybe not even a career, but too old to spend their valuable time writing? Why would anyone feel this way?

There are valid reasons. It might seem like an indulgence that is silly or not productive. Older (and by older, I’m not necessarily meaning elderly — anyone over 40 who has already had a career doing something else may feel they are too old to begin now) individuals may already have a busy life and find it difficult to find the time to devote to writing.

They might feel they are taking time away from family or their jobs. Those who are middle-aged and who have already built a life doing something else probably do not find it easy to switch gears and begin writing. They might have the desire to write because they have important lessons to share or great stories they’d like to tell, but at the end of the day, they’re too tired or busy to give their writing a chance.

Some wannabe writers will say, I’ll write that story “someday” but the longer they put it off the harder it gets to write.

But the number one reason you should write if you are in the 40+ age group is that you have compelling stories to tell and it’s a shame to keep them locked inside you. It’s worth stealing a little time from other obligations and writing the story.

Also, when you get to be 40–50, I think an interesting change happens similar to those in their 20s who are discovering who they are. The stereotypical mid-life crisis has some validity. Life changes a lot for people during this time. Kids grow and leave home. It’s a time of transition and re-evaluation of life and what matters. I know many moms who feel lost and try to remember what they once wanted to do in life and go back to college or start a business. Or decide to write a book.

Writing is a Great Way to Re-Connect With Self

Some writers might want to write for publication, but others might just want to put their thoughts down to make sense of them. They might want to write journals, stories, or articles. The often quoted, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say” E.M. Forester quote sits on my wall in my office. Many times, I don’t realize I feel a certain way until I write it down. This is because I’m forced to think about the idea and write about it logically.

Writing helps us to rediscover what is important to us and how we feel.

Creativity Helps Us Stay Young

With the hustle of everyday life and the insanity of dealing with the challenges of family and work, we start to lose our creative spirit.

Writing gives older writers the opportunity to be creative again. It’s a creative channel that can help us express ourselves and bring some happiness into our world. If we share it with others, it can touch their hearts also.

When we’re young, we allow ourselves the fun of being creative. It’s okay to “waste” time learning about fashion, painting, writing, etc., but when people get older and have more responsibility, they often feel guilty about spending time doing something creative. And this is too bad because creativity helps people to stay happy and young.

Life Experience Matters

Then of course, there is the fact that older people do have life experience. They have lived a full life and have more to offer readers. They have memories and they can put those memories into the context of their life and history.

Experience and memories serve to create rich stories that can impact others.

As people get older, they get more patient also, and they take their time to describe and paint mental images of events in scenes. This is why when a writer publishes for the first time in their 50s, 60s or above, the stories are so deep and moving. I feel like there is a lifetime of thoughts and lessons in some of those books.

And older writers do tend to trust themselves more than younger writers do. They know what they know, and no one is going to dispute it. There is a sense of authority that comes from having lived and experienced life.

This was why my friend knew I hadn’t written what that older guy in my class had written. He wasn’t just wiser than I was and more experienced, his voice came through strong and confident, something I couldn’t pull off at 19.

Never Too Young or Too Old

The beautiful thing about writing is that we don’t have to worry about the insignificant thing called age. At any age, we use our strengths to write the type of story that we can only write at that time. At 20 there’s no way I could have written the stories I write now, but I also find it difficult to write 20-something heroines now that I’m in my 50s. I had a vision of the world back then that was unique and creative and believed things that I’ve come to realize were idealistic. But we need both the idealistic vision and stories and the more subdued and wise stories.

This is great news for all of us because it means we can all be writing great stories.

I am either too young and don’t have enough experience to write something meaningful, or I’m too old to start something new like a writing career.

These are both reasons people give to postpone writing or to not start writing at all. And both reasons come from the writer not focusing on what he or she has to give.

Have a story to tell? Want to learn how to record personal experiences before they’re lost or write the novel of your heart? Consider taking one of Julia’s beginning writing or publishing courses.

Also check out Julia’s new book, This Is Now!



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