Are You Too Old (or Too Young) to Become a Writer?

4 Aug 2020 | Writing

Are You Too Old (or Too Young) to Become a Writer? (title image)

This post was originally published in March 2016, and updated in August 2020.

An email from an Aliventures reader landed in my inbox with the subject line, “Am I too old to become a writer?”

I opened it up, assuming she was in her 70s or 80s.


She was 37.

Here’s part of my reply to her:

Plenty of people wait till they’re retired — heck, I’m sure to a lot of just-getting-started writers, you’re young. Hurrah for you getting on with the novel now!

But whatever her age, my answer would’ve been the same: you’re not too old. Keep writing.

Because you’re never too old to become a writer.

Getting Started Young Does Help, But …

Obviously, if you start writing seriously and regularly when you’re still in your teens, you’ll have plenty of years of practice – and thousands, perhaps even millions of words, under your belt by the time you’re 37.

And that does give you a bit of an advantage.

We do sometimes hear about authors who get a very early start on success – I’m thinking people like Zadie Smith and Helen Oyeyemi – but the reason they make headlines is because they’re the exception.

Most writers wanted to write for a long time before they ever took that calling seriously.

And most writers who get started a little later have a ton of other advantages. They’ve got a lot more experience of life – and more to write about. They may have gained other skills (like marketing, or public speaking) that will help them get their writing career off to a quick start.

If You Wish You’d Started Writing Sooner: Focus Forward Not Backward

Trust me, I have spent my share of time regretting things I didn’t do (like: getting on with my writing) in the past.

But I can’t go back. You can’t go back. Time and energy spent wishing we could is entirely wasted.

I’m not suggesting you should try to forget what didn’t go so well for you. Instead, learn from it.

Focus forward: what’s going to change? Ten years from now, you could have a half-dozen finished books under your belt. How will you make that happen?

The time will pass – whether or not you use it well.

Whatever life looks like right now, find a way to carve out some time to write. Start that novel. Because you don’t want to look back, ten or twenty or thirty years from now, and wish you’d done things differently.

If You Really Do Feel Old: Ageism and Writing

As an older writer, you might might worry that agents or publishers or readers simply won’t be interested. You might be reluctant to join a writing course that you suspect will be full of bright young 20-somethings.

The reality will – hopefully! – be different. However, it’s hard to deny that we live in an ageist society – particularly for women.

Now, I’m very aware as I write this that I’m in my 30s.

I don’t know what it’s like to feel invisible because of your age, or to feel that people are dismissive of your writing because they think of you as some little old dear.

I don’t know what it’s like to put your writing aside for 20 or 30 years to raise a family or to work a job that’s not your calling – only to finally have the opportunity when you retire.

I would encourage you, though, not to give in or give up. Try out that writing course (the courses and groups I’ve attended have always had a healthy proportion of older writers). Put your work out there.

If You’re Much Younger: Getting a Head Start

Of course, some writers get serious very early on. I started writing a novel when I was 13.

The big danger here is feeling like you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Well, you do … but it’s very easy for those years to slip by, while you’re waiting to feel “ready” to become a writer. If you’re living with your parents and siblings, or with roommates, it can also be difficult to get people to respect your writing time.

Your conditions might never be absolutely ideal to write. You’re never going to feel ready. 

You’re never going to know everything you think you should know.

You’re never going to have read all the books you think you should have read.

The very best way to grow as a writer is to write: steadily and consistently, for years, while life goes on. The sooner you start your apprenticeship, the sooner you’ll be able to see your work out there in the world.

Of course, there are advantages to waiting. If I’d begun at 18 instead of 13, I’d have no doubt written a considerably better first novel. I’d have known more.

The novel I wrote in my teens was – looking back – nowhere near a publishable standard. But I had plenty of fun and learnt a lot along the way.

Ultimately … you will never be too old, or too young, to be a writer. Don’t let other people’s expectations and biases – however heavy those may feel – hold you back.


I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.

Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.


  1. Sue Keehnen

    I’d almost like to be someone’s “little old dear”! Having said that, I’d probably hate it if/when it happens1 HA! Age can also give perspective on many things that younger people haven’t experienced. However, young people have an amazing perspective these days that people born in the 1950’s (like me) can sometime struggle with. Anyway, love and appreciate your coments.

    • Ali

      Thanks Sue! I suppose we all have a different and unique perspective, whatever our age … the trick is to recognise that and make the most of it. 🙂


      That is a great tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
      Short but very precise information… Many thanks for sharing this one.

      A must read article!

  2. Chris Lovie-Tyler

    Thanks for the encouragement, Ali. I’m 43 and, although I’m writing via a TinyLetter (and enjoying it), often worry that I don’t have a clear direction with my writing.

    Should I write poetry? Should I write non-fiction? Should I try my hand at short stories? Should I write about faith explicitly? Should I not?

    I’d like to write a book, but it seems like a big undertaking, and I don’t want to go down the wrong track. I also don’t want to live in regret!

    I guess my approach at the moment is to just try and build a regular writing habit and see if, maybe, a direction/pattern comes out of that. But I do often panic about the fact that life is short and getting shorter.

    Any advice?

    • Ali

      Good questions, Chris! I’d suggest that initially you give yourself a set period of time — maybe six months — to focus on building a regular habit, and see where it leads you. I stumbled into blogging by accident in 2008, after a period working on short stories, off and on … and I’ve never looked back!

      After six months of regular writing, though, I think it’s worth sitting down and asking yourself what you’d like to have achieved in, say, 3 years or 5 years time. It sounds like you’re already feeling at least a bit drawn to the idea of writing a book — yes, it’s a big undertaking, but if you wrote just 150 words per day, you’d have a full finished draft after a year.

      (Your comment was 129 words, so 150 really isn’t all that much!)

      Best of luck — and keep me posted on how your writing goes. 🙂

      • Chris Lovie-Tyler

        Thanks, Ali. That’s a good suggestion. I think I might do that.

        I’ve just started writing poetry again (first time since I was a teenager, although I used to write lyrics for bands). I’m not sure where that’s going to head yet, but six months will probably be long enough to tell me whether I’m going to stick with it. And if I do, perhaps the book will be a poetry collection. 🙂

  3. Ohita Afeisume

    I am in my fifties and I am happy to start writing seriously again after a long break. I used to write articles for a newspaper in Nigeria when I was in my twenties. Now having raised a family(my six children are adults now), I am more experienced now to write on issues of love, the home and family life which is my area of interest. So nothing is wasted.

    • Ali

      With six children, you must have a huge amount of experience to draw on! Hope you enjoy getting back into writing. 🙂

  4. Mai

    Thank you Ali for this post. Also I have another question around this post: I’m an arabic native speaker and I wanted to start writing at English. Is it good or should I write at Arabic firstly. Thank you again

    • Ali

      It’s entirely up to you, Mai. Can you write in both, to begin with? It would probably be good to write in Arabic to develop broad writing skills (like structuring a piece of writing) and to write in English to become more comfortable and confident with the vocabulary and grammar of English. Best of luck with your writing, whatever language you choose to work in!

  5. Vicki Neely

    Glad I came across this article. Great encouragement for this Generation Xer.

    I have been working on a book for several years now about my son with Down syndrome and non-verbal autism, but between caring for him and homeschooling my other three children (just graduated the oldest), I have found my writing and blogging taking a back seat.

    I am also trying to figure out how to make money by writing ( I must work at home to care for my son and homeschool) but I’m finding that difficult as well. I’m trying to get my motivation and momentum up to explore some possibilities and submit articles over the summer. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Ali

      That must be a heck of a lot to cope with, Vicki: well done you on making any time to write and blog. Have you looked into writing for parenting blogs? There are some on “family and parenting” listed here that might potentially be a good fit for you:

      Best of luck, whatever direction you go in!


    That is a great tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Short but very precise information… Many thanks for sharing this one.

    A must read article!

  7. Mark

    Hi my name is Mark. I am deciphering whether to pursue my career in writing as I wrote some articles and fictionalized stories for the past years and thinking if I am too old to publish it. I guess if its ones passion, one must find to still push through with it as it will definitely bring Joy to to always do what you want. I hope to make the right decision in the future. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    Mark’s last blog post ..How to Get More Podcast Listeners


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