Last week, we celebrated two important holidays–Earth Day and National Arbor Day–which may have gone unnoticed by the masses, especially during this pandemic. I know not many people get overly excited about holidays like these; there are no presents or fancy dinners or religious services after all, but I enjoy the environmentally-focused holidays which give me the opportunity to reflect and do something for this planet we all call home. For example, I will often pick up trash or plant flowers or trees. Several years ago, my family and I even planted a small orchard!
Speaking of trees, every spring I can’t help but pay notice to the two very first trees we planted when we moved to our land some twenty years ago. Both oaks, these trees are dramatically different in size which has been a yearly topic of conversation for my husband and me. They’re not planted all that far away from each other, and we’ve often wondered why one’s growth seems to be stunted while the other has grown so well. The smaller oak is always the last tree to bloom at our place, leading me to worry every March if this was, indeed, the year it didn’t make it through the winter. But come mid-April, its tiny green leaves appear and I worry no more. It has always seemed healthy-it’s just late to bloom.
I recently realized that I can relate to this late-blooming tree, in a way. I’ve always loved to write and for many years, writing a novel was probably in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until age 34 that I became serious about it. When I then began to make connections with other writers and really started paying attention to the authors of published books I loved, I was surprised to find that many of them were younger, and in some cases MUCH younger, than I was. I didn’t let that stop me obviously, but I did somehow get this strange notion that I needed to get published by the age of 40. Like if I didn’t, it would somehow be too late.
As you might guess, that didn’t happen. I’m now 43 and though there are unofficial things in the works, I’m still not a published novelist. However, I’ve since realized that there are many writers who don’t get published until after the age of 40. Like our little oak tree, I’ve realized it’s okay to be a late bloomer. In fact, some other writers would still consider me quite young.
What we should all remember is that there is really no age timeline on publishing. It’s a marathon, and though some start early and achieve their dreams in their 20’s, many others don’t realize theirs until much, much later. I didn’t focus on anything writing related in college after all; I majored in elementary education (with middle school endorsements, which is what I ended up teaching). I’ve always loved books and writing, but I didn’t develop the desire to actually write a novel of my own until later. It’s okay. Every writer’s progress and growth is different.
And to illustrate this point, here are a few famous authors who didn’t get published until later in life:
Maya Angelou, age 41 (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)
J.R.R. Tolkien, age 45 (The Hobbit)
Richard Adams, age 52 (Watership Down)
Anna Sewell, age 57 (Black Beauty)
Laura Ingalls Wilder, age 65 (first of the Little House series)
So you see, there truly is no age limit when it comes to being a good writer or even a best-selling novelist. Being late to bloom says nothing about someone’s talent or their future success. By mid-summer, both our young oak trees will be fully cloaked in green and one would never be able to guess which was the first to bloom.