Too Old for Success?

Sample of old russian сensorship. Book "N...

Will I ever have my name on pages like these? Image via Wikipedia

Someone told me once that if you don’t publish anything by the time you’re twenty-five, then you aren’t any good. All of the greats published before they were twenty-five–some of them were even dead by then, you know. Of course, I knew this was all rubbish, but in the back of my mind, the idea took root and persisted. I had to be published by twenty-five. I had to be published, not because it meant I was successful, but that I was one of the greats.

I’ll be twenty-six in a little over a month. Though I’ve been published in a newspaper and a required reading book for my high school, I haven’t had that great bit of success. I’ve not been recognized as great, despite entering contests, winning medals, getting As. Everyone was shocked I hadn’t been published yet. I remember how well you wrote in high school; when is your book coming out? Have you found an agent? What happened?

Since I’ve been out of school, I’ve seen many people get published. I’ve seen people get published who were only slightly interested in writing. Maybe I’ll write a book. I’ve seen people published whose passions lie in other areas. I’ve seen people published that, being honest, I didn’t think had good ideas or wrote about trivial things.

I began to be a hater of published authors. I could do that and be published, but I’m not compromising my art! I thought. Then I started a book in a genre I never had an interest in writing that sells well. It was something I wanted to write and was still good writing, but I felt like I was writing it now, pushing forward with it now, because it fits the current trend in publishing (and no, there are no vampires, shape shifters, or angels). I was obsessed with being published before twenty-six, even though I didn’t have many things worth sending to a publisher.

The writing wasn’t fun anymore, nor was it rewarding. I wasn’t trying to tell a good story well; I was looking for recognition, for validation. I wanted someone to say, officially, Yes you can write well, and people are interested in what you have to say. I was even developing an unhealthy attachment to my blog stats.

Now I’m settling back down. I’ve refocused myself. Now, I realize I don’t just want to be published; I want to publish something I’m proud of, something that’s ready to be out in the world. I realize that either people want to read what I write or they don’t; it has no bearing on the fact I feel compelled to write, and I will keep writing no matter if it’s published in my lifetime to worldwide acclaim or critically and commercially panned, or not published at all.

What are your thoughts on an “age” for publication? Do you have an age you are aiming to be published by? How important is publication to you?


5 thoughts on “Too Old for Success?

  1. What age do I want to have a book published by? Before I’m dead. That’s a good age. After death, I’d miss the party, the reviews and the rolyalties.

    Honestly, most of us are ignorant to the fact we have to be published by the time we are 25. I’m well-over 25 and don’t feel that way. Gosh, I wasn’t published until I was 31. That’s only in newspapers and magazines.

    Being published is very important to me, but not as important as writing, but more important than owning my own house. Writing pays the bills, so if I don’t get published, I don’t get to write because I have to do other things to pay the bills which doesn’t give me time to write.

    It’s a terrible circle. I’ve often been asked: Why do you write? For the money? Or just the joy of it? Because if you’re not doing it for the money then it doesn’t matter how much you get paid or even if you get paid.

    Well, yes it does: refer back to that circle: write, paid, more writing. Yeah!

    So yes, getting a book published is very important to me. I don’t really have an age limit. I work toward it every day and when it arrives, it’s here.


    • I like your answer of wanted to be published before you die–but the greatest importance seems to always be bestowed on your work after you’ve kicked the bucket, LOL.

      I don’t think that admonishment is actually truth, in fact, I’m certain it isn’t. I think everything happens in its own time.

      I hate how people say if you are doing what you love you never work a day in your life. Of course you do! Writing is fun and rewarding, but it’s work. You’re lucky if it pays the bills so you can be free to write. I don’t have that luxury yet :-(, but I hope to one day.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Gosh, if I had a dollar for every time someone said I wasn’t working as I was writing or editing a column, I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Writing is fun. It’s exciting. I love it. But it is work. There are days I don’t want to go to the keyboard. . . . Okay, that’s a lie, but there are days I don’t feel like writing the things I earn money with. I would rather play with a few characters and create a story, but that doesn’t pay my bills. Yet.

    I don’t have the full luxury of working full-time as a writer, but I’m working on it. Working 26 hours out of the house flipping pizzas subsidizes my writing. That means 40 hours of writing and 26 hours of standing on my feet, but I’m not going to write less.

    I’d rather live poor as a writer than poorly as a lawyer.


  3. Hey 2blu2btru, I’m glad you directed me here…I’ve never been. I’ve got to take the kids to a birthday party, but I’ll be back sometime this weekend to dig deeper.

    Your published-by-25 post caught my eye because being past that prime, I’d sure hate to think that’s true. (At 37, that means I should just pack it in.)

    However, intellectually, I know that cannot be true. The thing is, every day of life you live provides a new experience or perspective that can shine through in our writing. So what if the first light shines at eighteen or seventy?

    For a while last year, I was so preoccupied with the pressure to be published that I wasn’t having as much fun. Since then, I’ve stepped back and I don’t feel that publishing drive at my heels.

    I don’t think it’s coincidence that this new peace happened about the same time I’ve been struggling with my spiritual self. I honestly feel like if I chill out and write, and let God lead me down the path I’m supposed to go, I will feel fulfilled. Whether or not I get published and when? I don’t know. And I can say with my whole heart that I’m okay with that. (You want proof? I’m no longer obsessing about the partial and full manuscripts that are being reviewed by agents.)

    Sorry for my long answer to your short question. Good thing you don’t charge for comment space used 🙂

  4. Pingback: The Buried Life, Examined « Copywrite1985

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