I read an article in the latest Writer's Digest called "Publish your first book after 50" by Scott Hoffman (Writer's Digest. April, 2008). It states, "As difficult as it is to publish a first novel at any age, does it become more difficult as you get older? The honest answer is yes..." What the...? The article then focuses on how to beat the bias against older authors, which is great, but the whole topic made me stomp around the house with that magazine crumpled up into a violent looking tube, shouting, "Are you telling me I only have about 9 years to get my novels published before my writing is considered expired? Before I become too old to market? I just figured out how to write, for #$&^$* sake!"
Turning 40 was bad enough. I'm no longer considered sexy or attractive by popular culture's standards. My boobs droop and my tummy won't stay tight, no matter how much I suck in my gut. Getting gray hair was another annoying fact of life I've had to live with. I am no longer in the demographic for "Bust" magazine and am supposed to read "More," which focuses on career women over 40. I'm no longer a "Hip Mama." But I lived with it. I embraced my 40's with excitement and vision, ready to let go of my own youth obsession and claim my full fledged womanly power, along with my growing womanly figure. I started a publishing company and am going back to school to learn a new, better paying career. But this? Too old to be a writer? This is too much!
Why is an older writer considered a bad risk in the book industry? Part of it has to do with the idea that people over 50 don't know how to use the internet, are afraid of email, and run screaming from MySpace. In this technological age, being internet savvy and willing to self promote via social networking is mandatory. So right there, younger writers with their blackberries and interactive blogs have the edge over older people who are just now figuring out how to use a cell phone. When books are being written in Japan on cell phones in text messages and published to acclaim, you know technophobes are in trouble.
Fine, I'll accept that, but don't lump all us so called older people into the technophobe category. I for one am learning everything I can about the internet, even going so far as to learn XHTML. Yes, I know the difference between HTML and XHTML. See, I know my internet.
I finished the article, noting every myth about older writers and how to overcome them. Remain energetic. Don't mention the "R" word (retirement). Keep your ideas new and fresh. Yeah, yeah... good advice. Advice for every writer, so why is this pointed at ME? I know I'm not 50 yet, but the idea that my writing-clock is ticking like my biological clock did in my 30's is extremely disturbing. Tick-tick-tick... you'd better get published soon or you never will. Hurry, hurry. Find a good idea. Finish that last novel. Go out there and hunt down a good partner/agent to get knocked up/published before it's too late. Eeeeeeekkkkkkk
I'm calm now. Got a little dizzy there for a minute. These mid-life panic attacks are overwhelming sometimes. I wonder if it's like menopause? Instead of hot flashes, I get heart palpitations thinking about how fast my life is going. I was supposed to be a famous writer by now. Instead I'm a 41 year old publisher with a drawer full of stories no one will read. Then I remember Tillie Olson. For one brief Spring when I was living in San Francisco and going to college, I worked for Tillie Olson, one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. She raised a family while writing stories and wasn't published until she was in her 60's. She was one of those beautiful, intelligent, fiery women I idolized and I decided to be like her someday. Maybe I am? I'm not as well spoken or intelligent as she, but I'm still young and I'm learning. I have at least 20 more years to achieve the goal of being like Tillie Olson.
Aging sucks. It really does. When my knees hurt and I have to squint more to focus when trying to read a street sign, I really hate getting old. And yes, I know, it beats the alternative. I know how lucky I am to still be here on planet Earth, living a creative and fulfilling life, watching my daughter grow up, while sharing this journey with wonderful friends and a man who loves me. So I will try very hard not to take that article to heart. I will try not to let the idea that my creative time clock is about to strike midnight and my chance to go to the ball will be over.
Because when you examine the pros and cons, being 41 is a lot better than being 16.