1. J. Johnston
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    J. Johnston Member

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    Late Bloomers in Writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by J. Johnston, Jan 22, 2016.

    Hi,

    Wondering if it's common or not among these forums, for people to pick up or devote themselves to writing at a later age than is typically usual.
    I personally was not an avid reader as a child, and didn't really appreciate writing as a craft (and by extension, literature) until around age 18. In the UK, between 16 and 18 some of us attend 'college' to acquire A-levels, which are similar to the US SAT exams (our precursor for university); it wasn't until college, that I took academics even remotely serious, and began applying myself (honing my writing was a byproduct, of studying Classics and English Language). On recognising I at least had some natural ability, I explored writing as a discipline, and even gravitated towards books.

    For the record, I understand that late-teens isn't exceptionally late (Bram Stoker started in his forties), but compared to Rowling, Iain Banks etc who all seemed sure of their goals, from childhood onwards, are there any among these forums whom developed the interest or the passion at some point past the typical age? Share away your origins, and we can try to find a trend!
     
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  2. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I wrote a lot as a youngster, but only short scenes without a real goal despite telling everyone I wanted to be a writer. Didn't have the stamina or the will (if I am honest with myself). But I didn't miss it when it went away, I had other goals in life.

    Last summer it came again, but only when I answered to a writing prompt in here it took really off. I am now into my fourth teen. And to be honest, my style has evolved out of all recognition. When I now think back I can't help but laugh at what I used to spew out. Now though.. there are times when I want to erupt with joy at my own words. Of course that is open to debate by others if they find it as enchanting as I do (I certainly am not unbiased :D) but I don't see it going away anytime soon.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm a late comer to writing, though not to reading. I'm also convinced from my own experience that one can learn how to write, you don't need to be born with a specific gift though some people obviously are.
     
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There are many late bloomers in writing. A lot of writers didn't publish their first piece until they were in their 30s or 40s, so you're in good company.

    As far as my experience goes, I wrote a lot as a child, stopped writing for a number of years, and then picked it up again in my late teens, which was around the same time I began reading a lot more.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I was 46 years old when I started writing my novel, around about 1995. I always loved the idea of writing one, and thought about doing it, but couldn't make it happen before that.

    It began with us getting our first Apple Mac (Performa) and me getting to grips with a first-class wordprocessing programme, ClarisWorks. Before that, it would have been either handwriting or typing, but neither of them suited the way I write. I need to be able to make all sorts of mistakes, chop and change, add to it, subtract from it, move bits around. Any time I tried writing by hand or typing the thing ended up such a dog's breakfast that I just threw the stuff away.

    I always had stories in my head, though. As a child I used to tell them out loud to my sister. It was a huge breakthrough for me, as an adult, to be able to actually write a novel. And I found that I could do it ...with many many many edits to make it work. But with my wordprocessor, that all became possible.

    I have always been a voracious reader, though. I do think that was also a massive help.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  6. J. Johnston
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    J. Johnston Member

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    Right. I think we can attribute that to different personalities and experiences; just as many write, because of their attachment to reading, so too can the reverse order be true.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not entirely sure that's true. I do question how good a writer you'll be if you never read, or aren't interested in reading. I know many people don't read WHILE they're writing, but I bet nearly all published writers are or have been readers at some point in their lives. I just don't see how the reverse can be true. If you don't know what it's like to read a book yourself, how can you successfully create the experience for others?

    I'm not saying it's impossible ...nothing is ...but I'm saying it's highly unlikely.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I agree with @jannert, if you aren't a fan of reading you aren't likely to be a very good writer. But I don't think you have to have always loved reading. The more I've been immersed in writing, the more I've been interested in reading.


    For writing a fiction novel, it's that thing @jannert mentioned earlier—modern word processors—that made all the difference for me. I remember when I got one of those self correcting typewriters in college, you could backspace and erase the last twenty characters. That got me through term papers well enough. But it wasn't until I had a word processor that I considered writing a novel.

    I admire people that can write something well right out of the gate. My brain just doesn't produce words on a page that precisely. And now with the Internet I have instant access to spell check and a thesaurus as well as an infinite resource for looking things up, I'm in Ginger's writers' heaven. The portability of my Macbook and the ease of saving files on a flash drive are cherries on the top.
     
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  9. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    I waited until I retired before getting serious about writing, so here's a guy in his sixties who is starting where you are. It helps a lot that I've been an insatiable reader since I was four, and I agree with those above that it seems unlikely that someone who doesn't read a lot could become a good writer, though I can't say it's impossible.

    I wouldn't put too much stock in the 'remembrances' of authors like Rowling and Banks. I have a feeling that a lot of that is the result of them trying to come up with fresher answers to stale questions asked by too many interviewers.
     
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  10. J. Johnston
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    J. Johnston Member

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    I think there's been a slight misunderstanding; I was saying, that just as reading can prompt one to write, so too can a joy of writing encourage one to read (or devote more attention to it).

    There's a slew of people with poor attention spans and/or discipline in their youth, thus may lack the inclination to sit down and read a book. These same people mature, and become forced into some aspect of writing during academic studies; which, if enjoyed can be a fresh gateway into pastime reading (be it literature or otherwise).

    I recognise fully, the necessity of reading to distinguish good and bad writing (and by extension, improve one's own).
     
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  11. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I loved writing as a child, but never considered attempting a career because of the running joke that in order to get a degree in English you have to be able to successfully ask, "You want fries with that?"

    I went to college and got a couple degrees in a "real" field where I could get a "real" job. I never considered writing as a career until I read a magazine article and thought, they publish that crap? Heck even I can write better than that. I've been writing on the side since 2012. I think a lot of people here came to writing late, after being unsatisfied in other jobs, careers, etc.
     
  12. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    How did you get a chance to publish works in a magazine? Was there a specific submission process? Sometimes I come across truly atrocious blogs about banal matters. If they can make money off comparing Kylo Ren's face to a deformed Balinese cat, surely I can make money writing something with a tad more substance.

    I too wrote as a child and through high school and university. At one point I considered an English degree, but found my only money would come from a combination of teaching and miracles, neither of which appealed to me. So I got a degree in something else and write for recreation.
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I started off making comic books and stapling them together. I wasn't interested in words as much as 'art'. But in third grade a writer stopped by and read their book and I was so impressed with her poise and pride in her work - I personally found it boring - that I decided I wanted to be a writer. Probably I was more attracted to the confidence she oozed more than the idea of writing.

    But I didn't do anything about it for years and I wasn't a reader. Then I came across Harriet the Spy and that's what really sparked my interest in writing. A lot of my early stuff was garbage - I got hooked on 80's series book - Sweet Valley High, the Babysitter's club - and my stuff came out sounding like a poor clone.

    I had to actually force myself at 14-15 to read some real literature - I copied a list of banned books and great fiction and started reading. Couldn't break that journalistic spell over my prose though and for years and years it still sounded like something out of Sweet Valley High no matter the subject matter. Very dry and blunt. There would be little bits shinning through but it took twenty years to bring that out and develop my style.

    Sometimes late blooming isn't about when you start writing, it's rather when you find your voice.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  14. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Other than a couple fanfics that I outlined but never finished, I never had anything I was particularly interested in writing about until I was 21. I guess 21 is not that old to take an interest in a creative endeavor, but it is adulthood. As a child, I never remotely considered being a creative writer when I grew up. (I still don't.)
     
  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Have always loved writing - I think I started writing before I started to properly read any chapter books. As for when I decided I wanted to publish a book - I haven't a clue, but it seems like a dream that's always been with me, even though I know that's not true lol. However, I didn't take writing seriously until I attempted my first novel (which is still going, 5 years later. Sigh...) when I was 19. Since then, the multiple complete drafts I've done for that novel is basically my journey to finding my voice.

    So I don't know if that counts as a "late" bloomer as technically I started writing at the age of 8 or 9. I started reading proper English prose that I know of - eg. chapter books - when I was 9. Previous to that I read comics in Chinese. But I didn't touch any literature until I got to university - my friends were all flabberghasted that someone who claimed to love to read and write hadn't read a single classic. And it was only then when I started being critical of writing quality - up till then I'd devour just about anything, and when something didn't capture my interest, I wouldn't know why. So I was 18 then.

    So, in a sense, it is kinda "late" :D The interest came early, but taking it seriously and developing a critical, artistic eye for it came only as I reached "adulthood" (because we all know at 18 you're really still just a kid haha)
     
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  16. Viridian
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    Viridian Contributing Member Supporter

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    I read A LOT, always have from being very young. I also loved to write when I was very young but stopped before I reached high school age. It stayed with me though and I started 'dabbling' in it around age 36 at the encouragement of my husband. I only got serious about it last year though (at 43) after some encouraging comments on this forum. Part of me wishes I had started again at a much earlier age but I didn't have the confidence to do it back then. I also think my 'voice' comes a lot from life experience and from years of reading.
     
  17. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Unsolicited story. I just wrote a story and submitted it to the magazine with a note that read, "Can you use this?" The editor got right back to me and said, "It's not quite what we're after, but it's got potential if we edit it and made a few changes. Are you okay with that?"

    Was I going to say no? Not a chance! If he was willing to pay for the story he could do whatever he wanted to with it. I sent in another story a couple of months later and he bought that one too. He like the writing and tone so much that afterwards he started asking, "Will you write a city spotlight for us?" and "Will you write a book review for us?"

    I believe that if you put your best work out there, the writing will speak for itself. (She says with her fingers crossed as she wonders if her novel is publishable.)
     
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  18. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    Was it a local magazine? How did you discover these magazines?

    Sorry for the numerous questions, I just like hearing how people started putting their work out there [besides manuscript publishing], and maybe take some pointers back from it.

    Thanks.
     
  19. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am 36 and just starting my writing life. I have always had an interest in writing but, unfortunately, never pursued it until now.
     
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  20. arkadia
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    arkadia Member

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    I don't think people in their early 20s have enough interesting experiences from which to draw. Neither have they truly experienced the full spectrum of what life has to offer.
    Not to mention the fact that they don't know enough about conditions in the world.

    The exception would be for writing YA fiction, although it would be relatively shallow.

    Of course, there are natural geniuses and exceptions to the rule -- I'm talking about the average writer though.

    I'd say around 30 people start to be grounded enough to be able to write well.
     
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  21. KevinMcCormack
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    KevinMcCormack Member

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    I think it depends on what type of writing you're considering. Memoirs obviously need a few decades under one's belt, as might literary works. Kerouac feels like an outlier in this regard.

    In contrast: journalists, ad copywriters, and entertainment reviewers can start very young. I see a lot of young screenwriters and comedy writers and playwriters. Standup comedy in particular seems to be a young person's game.

    When I did website design, our ad copywriter was 20. She had a BA in English, and most of her graduating class was working fulltime as writers.

    I don't know this for a fact, but I'd bet the demographics for bloggers skew toward youth.

    I expect there's a larger division between aspiring professional versus comfortable hobbyist writers. Aspiring professionals probably skew toward younger, but amateurs probably skew toward older (more spare time, less physical ability = writing as the perfect pastime).
     
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  22. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I'll tell you something that may or may not apply to you in terms of what your approach to it is, but it is a noteworthy hazard nevertheless.

    Take the time you have now to write, rather than dumping too much focus into what is good writing and trying to learn the craft vicariously, as I do. I think that my other strengths actually hold me back from writing. You could be older, a psych Ph.D., a globetrotting backpacker, etc., etc., but what have you done for stretching the imagination and storytelling? I believe people will only have a higher and more daunting expectation of themselves as they get older, so actually writing is the best thing to do from the start.

    Again, I have no idea if this is how you've been viewing it, but that's where I'm at, myself, as a latecomer.
     
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  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very early on (age 4) I wrote my first story. At age 6, I wrote a second (prize-winning) story at school.

    Then, I fell in with the illiterate and stayed there for years. After my first year of high school, I dropped out, bored with the whole thing. I didn't think about writing until...

    After graduating from art college at age 35 (as an animator) I realized if I wanted to do my own animations rather than work for someone else my whole life, I needed to know storytelling. I read a few books, read a few more, and got hooked. I went from writing short animations to full-length screenplays, then to novels. I packed in the animation and wrote a big pile of crap over the next 14 years. (Illiterate, remember I said that earlier?) But I kept at studying and writing, nonetheless. (See? I know big words now! :) ) [If you can find Time Runner starring Mark Hamill and Rae Dawn Chong, you can watch one of those piles of crap.]

    I did post-grad work in screenwriting at age 49 and wrote so much during that year, I burned myself out. I didn't find my way past that burn-out until last January.

    I did, however, continue to study during that time (even though I couldn't write) and I think that's what saved me from life-long writer's block.
     
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  24. rider1046
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    rider1046 New Member

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    Voracious reader all of my life, wrote and sold my first short story when I was in 3rd grade (got 15 cents for it), had a poem published when I was in the 10th grade (for the life of me, can't remember where or it's title), and that is the extent of my published life. I have kept journals most of my life, very disorganized and haphazard, and have made many attempts at beginning a novel or completing stories to no avail. My other creative pursuit is photography with the same level of success.
    I'll be 70 years old this year and for the first time in many years, I feel an interest in and zest for taking up serious writing, if you can call short stories serious. I am an avid reader of short stories, can't get enough, so my idea of a successful writing career would be to have a short story published in a paying venue before I die.
    To answer your question: Yes!
     
  25. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    I used to write sporadically throughout my early youth. I was fascinated with the crusades and I remember writing a few short scenes about the siege of Jerusalem from the Saracen perspective. I think I was about 12 years old then. I found it again years later while seeing which part of that old PC I could scrap and connected the old hard drive. I remember I did not find it bad writing at all, surprisingly, although a bit archaic :p Also wrote a terribly corny start to something that might be labeled as high-fantasy, but I never pushed on with it. I think that back then, it was more of an outlet for my imagination without me ever wanting to take up serious writing or being a writer. Later in my youth, my goals and ambitions were different, and I abandoned it for the next 10 years or so.

    When I was 24, I came up with an idea for a story, without having any idea whether it was to become a movie, series, or a book. It developed into me sitting down and writing it. Only then did I truly find the "calling", loving every minute I spent developing my skills and spewing out words. It had never occurred to me before that it should become a novel, as it was just a story, but in the process I found that I loved to write, and looking back at all the years before, I think the little "writer-me" was always down there somewhere just waiting to be discovered.

    I'm 28 now, and I have been writing seriously for 3,5 years. Don't know if that is really old compared to others, or young for that matter. I think it shouldn't matter. You are never too old to learn anything, and everyone discovers something they love at different points in their lives.

    I can't help but smile at this. I guess we are never too old to learn anything. If I may be so blunt; When reading and writing, do you feel like your relatively old age has you writing in a different way or style than younger authors? I can imagine that the thoughts process of someone your age can be quite different from that of a younger person. Do you think it influences your writing? I cannot help but think that "old" age must somehow improve ones style, seeing that a life full of experiences can only help someone in writing.
     
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