When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed about writing fantasy books, and I used to write little stories about heroes on journeys and things like that. It was all pretty derivative, but I was happy when I was writing in a way that I wasn't happy doing other things. So I was sure that I'd be a writer someday.
But life kind of got in the way, I guess. I ended up studying more "profitable" things in college and putting myself on a track toward a different career. I'm about to graduate, but I feel kind of trapped. I wish I'd decided to be a writer instead of going into a "sure thing" and giving up on my dreams. I want to go back, but I feel like it's too late. I'm really pretty sad about it, and I don't know what to do. Experts, do you have any advice?
Sure, we've got advice! How's this for advice: it's never too late to pursue your dream of writing.
Only you can decide how much to bet on your writing future. You may or may not decide to change careers completely and abandon the one that you're on track for. But even if you do decide to keep your current career trajectory, it's possible for you to pursue your writing dreams on the side — provided you have a whole lot of discipline!
First things first: you need to realize that it's not too late. Far from it! Some of history's greatest writers pursued other passions and careers early in life. Others were writers all along, but didn't find success until they were much older than you are now. Take Mark Twain, who was 41 years old when his first novel was published.
For some inspiration, you can check out other stories of writers who changed their lives to pursue their passion. Caesar Rondina, an author who has written inspirational nonfiction as well as crime novels, mysteries and love stories, has shared his story of moving to writing after more than 35 years in the healthcare industry. Other authors have been doctors (Michael Crichton) lawyers (John Grisham), and even pharmacist’s assistants (Agatha Christie) before their writing got big — and, in some cases, before they started writing in earnest at all!
In short, it's very far from too late for you to start dedicating yourself to the writing craft. But if that's really what you want to do, there are some things that you should know.
The first thing that you should know is that this is going to take a lot of work. Like any other skill, writing is developed through study and practice. You need to be reading and writing a lot to become a competent writing, and you need to pour even more time and effort into your passion to go from being merely competent to being a true standout talent.
Author Stephen King recommends that writers read all of the time. He also prescribes a heavy writing schedule: King claims to write 2,000 words per day, and his prolific output makes that number look credible indeed.
Of course, writing thousands of words per day doesn't necessarily mean writing thousands of publishable words per day. Some authors work very slowly, but all authors have written a lot of words in their day. Don't feel like your writing has to see the light of day: practice on your own and drill yourself in writing basics, and then turn to your "real" writing work once you're warmed up and have developed your skills.
All of this takes time. If you're going to pursue another career and pay the bills while you develop your writing, you're going to have to be very disciplined indeed. You need to be writing pretty much every day to keep up your skills and your momentum, and that will mean carving out big chunks of time to focus on your craft. You'll be working two jobs, in a way, and only one of them is likely to offer near-term financial security.
But if you really care about writing, you can do this. You can dedicate yourself and practice hard and keep creating great stories. Like Caesar Rondino or Michael Crichton or dozens of others, you may find that you someday break through and become a celebrated author. You may quit your "other" job and focus entirely on writing. It could happen, but it will only happen if you work hard and work consistently. Just know this: It's never too late.