Success As An Older Writer

A letter in the advice column “Blunt Instrument” over at Electric Literature asks:

“I write every day, I read every day, I revise and interrogate my own work constantly. And yet, it is to no avail… Am I too old to even matter? Should I just give up on fiction?”

Essayist and poet Elisa Gabbert replies: “I think you’re doing almost everything right — you’re working hard, you’re productive, and your writing is getting very close to publication. All signs suggest that you’re going to get good news soon. Your established writer friends are correct: it takes time; be patient.”

Read the full response here:

Do you think success can be found as an older writer?

Who are your favorite over-40 writers?

Are you an older writer? When did you get started?

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I certainly hope success can be found as an older writer (I turn 60 in a couple of months), but I can’t claim to have success as a writer, yet. Nevertheless, I’ve edited for years and some of the best authors I’ve had the honour to edit for have been older.

It’s true that sometimes when I consider all the hoops I must jump through for marketing in today’s online-world, I do find it off-putting. And I do agree that you need to be able to generate a social media presence to make enough noise to be noticed, regardless of whether you opt for traditional or self-publishing. So learning a ‘young person’s tool’ – social media – may be a deterrant to success. But then, perhaps that’s more an aspect of being an introvert rather than being OLD! It’s not so much a matter of knowing how, rather having the inclination to do so.

Having said that, I think older writers can enjoy distinct advantages. We’ve lived through different eras, usually experienced more things, felt a greater range of true emotions, met a greater range of personality types, read more, often have a greater vocabulary (but that is a moot point, I concede), occasionally have more time on our hands if we’ve retired and don’t have children to take care of (though may have grandchildren), and so on. I also realise every point I’ve made could and should be contested, but I’m averaging out our lives – not talking specifics. Plus, of course, people are not ageing nearly as early as they used to, which is why the “grey market” is expanding so rapidly.

I’ve always written for myself and for others, but only recently started writing my novel in earnest within the last twelve months. And I’m not alone. I know several writers who’ve started later in life. I also just googled “successful writers who started later in life” and without scrolling down the first response that came up included the following (copy and pasted):
10 Hugely Successful Authors Who Got Their Start Later in Life

Mark Twain. Age: 41. Image via A&E Biography ...
Marcel Proust. Age: 43. Image via The Guardian ...
Henry Miller. Age: 44. Image via Goodreads ...
J.R.R. Tolkien. Age: 45. ...
Raymond Chandler. Age: 51. ...
Richard Adams. Age: 52. ...
Annie Proulx. Age: 57. ...
Laura Ingalls Wilder. Age: 65.

The list goes on, so I think I’ve made my case!

All the best,



As always, your words are beautifully written, intelligent, well said, and appreciated.

Thank you for sharing your touching gift of insight.

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