Procrastination is said to be common among those who write. In the course of writing this story I got up and made a coffee. Gave the cat a pat. Checked emails, replied to some. Read an article from the Washington Post a friend had posted on Facebook. Watched a tiny spider crawl up the wall. And now I’m thinking the wind is up, a storm’s about to break. Maybe I need to move the pot plants.
See what I mean?
It’s just so easy to put off writing that really, it’s a wonder anything is ever written. Nor is it surprising that many people who have delayed writing a book for whatever reason feel they’ve missed their chance.
But they haven’t. It’s the writing that matters. Not the age, as you’ll see in this list that follows.
To inspire you, here they are, some of the authors who didn’t start writing till later in life – in some cases, much later – and were successful, big-time:
A returned soldier from WWI who worked as a tram driver, trolley bus driver and later, as poultry and pig farmer. He completed his memoir A Fortunate Life, on his 83rd birthday in 1977. It was published in 1981, just nine months before his death. During the initial days of its publication, Facey became a nationwide celebrity. He considered his life to be simple and ‘had no idea what all the fuss was about.’ A Fortunate Life sold 800,000 copies, is now considered a classic of Australian literature, and remains one of our best loved books.
Fiona was a 39 year-old travel writer, her and her husband a little powerhouse in travel industry publishing, and at the height of their success when about to turn 40, McIntosh had a mid-life crisis. ‘I decided I wanted to do something entirely selfish and my big meltdown became a yearning to write. My husband wondered if I needed hospitalisation.’ McIntosh is now an internationally bestselling author of novels for adults and children. The Tea Gardens is her 35th book and her 10th historical saga.
James A. Michener
The author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Tales of South the Pacific, which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein Musical, Michener wrote an amazing 40 books after the age of 40. He was best known for his sweeping, multi-generational historical fiction sagas, usually focusing on a particular geographic region. Previous to writing he’d spent much of his life as a teacher. ‘I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.’
Laura Inglis Wilder
Wilder began writing in her 40s but didn’t find great success until some 20 years later, when Little House in the Big Woods was published. It was the first of the Little House on the Prairie series of children’s books which were released from 1932 to 1943 and were based on her childhood in a settler and pioneer family. ‘I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.’
Chandler coped with losing his job as an oil company executive (following a bout of depression, womanising and heaving drinking), three years into the Great Depression by deciding to write detective fiction. His first novel, The Big Sleep, came out in 1939 when he was 44 years old. He went on to write seven novels, many featuring the character Philip Marlowe. ‘The streets were dark with something more than night.’
Sewell’s only published work is the classic Black Beauty, one of the top ten bestselling novels for children ever written. She began writing it at the age of 51 while in declining health and dictated most of it to her mother. At 57, she sold the book. Sewell died in 1878, just five months after her wonderful novel was published. ‘We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.’
Angela’s Ashes, McCourt’s extraordinary story of his impoverished childhood in Ireland and later life experiences as a teacher in New York was published in 1996, and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. ‘You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.’