'WHEN IS OLD TOO OLD?' - An Article by Tina Parsons
When it comes to writing, old is never too old.
The desire to write knows no age. Whether we are 7 or 77, if we have something to say, we have something to write about, and there is nothing to stop us except ourselves. From the moment we are able to put pen to paper or indeed words to screen, the potential never leaves us. Our ability to write doesn’t fade with age, if anything the need becomes stronger and the voices louder.
Despite this, the thought of breaking into the literary world as a mature writer can seem like a mountain too high to climb, the summit too far from reach. In a world where the measure of success, like beauty, is synonymous with youth, aging gets the raw end of the deal. The tendency to see our advancing years as barriers to new ventures increases, and before long we have built a barricade of insecurities, real and imagined, that make it impossible to breakthrough.
But if we take a moment to view the mountain from another side, we might find that we are already halfway up without realising it. While our bodies might be slowing in pace and our minds taking longer to compute, we have been following a unique path. One where the terrain is filled with knowledge, rich with experiences, and bursting with potential. Each wrinkle, white hair and aching muscle gained along the way has made an invaluable contribution which may be harvested as a sentence, a paragraph, a page.
As retirement beckons, we might begin to see the path beginning to widen, opening up the space to reflect, to find the place from which to reap the heart and soul of the poem, the short story, the novel that has been waiting in the wings begging to be written.
As the list of young debut writers emerges each year, whether we are writing with a desire to be published or just because we can, let’s not forget that if youth knows no bounds and middle-age knows what youth never imagined, I for one, am looking forward to whatever riches old age has in store for the future of my writing.
And just to prove my point, here are some of the many writers who have made their writing debuts later in life:
Kit de Waal’s award-winning novel My Name is Leon (2016) came out when she was 56 years of age.
Frank McCourt started writing in retirement and his debut novel Angela’s Ashes (1996) was published when he was 60 years old.
Penelope Fitzgerald's first work of fiction The Golden Child (1977) was published at age 60. In 2008 The Times listed her among “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.
Harriet Doerr’s Stones for Ibarra (1984) was published when she was aged 74. It later went on to win the National Book Award for First Work of Fiction.
Lorna Page’s first novel a Dangerous Weakness (2008) was published when she was 93 years of age.
Whatever your age, I wish you years of happy and fruitful writing.