Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Being a late starter

I’ve spent years of my life not writing.  In my childhood, I read voraciously and began writing a story based on every novel that captured my imagination – from pony stories to Jane Eyre. But in my teen years, school work and extracurricular activities took up all my time and energy – the Debating Society, the Folk Club, the school magazine. When I went to the University of Edinburgh, I got into student politics and, after some hard campaigning, was elected President of the Student Union. The next eight years I spent in London, working in politics and journalism. My career was demanding and my social life not much less so. As the end of my twenties approached, I reached a crisis point. I quit my job in television, rented out my London flat, and flew to Washington DC with just my US passport and two suitcases. I rented a room in a group house on Capitol Hill and took a job in a bookstore for $6 an hour. And slowly I began to write again. My first short story was published six months after I turned 30.
But I still spent too much time working, traveling, and partying. There were always other calls on my time and attention. When I became a wife and a step-mother, I continued to work full-time, and free time became an even more precious commodity. It wasn’t until I became part of a writing group that I finally buckled down to the real work of my life. Apart from the support of my fellow writers and the inventiveness and incisiveness of their critiques, what helped me most was having a deadline. Everything else had to take a back seat till I had finished my latest chapter and sent it to the group. All the trivia on my to-do list would sink to the bottom and the important stuff got fitted in around the edges. My focus became unwavering. Because I had a deadline, I was finally able to give myself permission to put writing first.
My thanks to those women who put me back on the path of what I can only describe as my vocation - Jan Linley, Beth Millemann, Julia Slavin, Louise Farmer Smith, Wendy Mitman Clarke, and Melanie McDonald. All extremely talented writers themselves who, by making themselves available to read whatever I wrote, helped to bring me back to doing what I love. It’s never too late to start.  


  1. You're right, it's never too late to start. And who knows -- the added years of life experience might make your writing that much more insightful. You'll never know what your experiences have added to your writing ability, but I believe they've given you a depth you might not have had 20 years ago.

  2. Thanks - let's hope so! I certainly agree that maturity is an important component of good writing and some people mature earlier than others. I'm a late bloomer in many ways but I've had a lot of fun in the meantime!