Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number

Look, I get that I can be kind of cynical and downright panicky sometimes, even if I do always find that little bit of hope that helps me to keep going. I spent all of my last post complaining about feeling old and several posts recently lamenting the inherent risk of choosing a subjective art form as my preferred career. I feel badly about that. To be honest, even though these are all feelings I (and I would imagine, many others) struggle with as we get older and the chances of success seem more slim, becoming a writer typically takes a long time.

This post is dedicated to those people who didn’t let their age deter them from following their dreams. The ones that spent years working their craft and made a modest career doing what they loved. The ones who struggled but kept the dream alive. The ones who maybe should have given up, but didn’t.

Let’s begin with the Nicholl Fellowship. This is the highest amateur competition around. Notice the word I italicized in the hopes of drawing your attention to it? It’s a great honor to be selected as a Nicholl Fellow and will surely lead to at least a little success, but I think you’ll find many Nicholl Fellows don’t go on to become world-famous writers. That being said, what’s the average age of a Nicholl Fellow?

36 years old, according to their Frequently Asked Questions.

Now, that doesn’t mean all of the Nicholl Fellows have been writing since they were 16 years old and took twenty years to gain even that modest bit of success. But it does mean most success stories (if not all) are not overnight.

Another example: What is the median age of writers in the WGA? The 2014 Hollywood Writers Report* states that the highest-earning writers – and the most employed – are between 41 and 50 years old. Not to say they’ve just gotten their start, but it’s taken them that long to earn their place at the top of the food chain – so to speak. You’ll also notice that only 5% of writers working in film are under the age of 31. That goes to show that those working in film, especially as writers, tend to be a bit older.

*If you read the Hollywood Writers Report, you’ll find the majority of its content is about the rather wide gap between white male writers and minority and women writers in Hollywood. That is an important topic to discuss (and broken down well in the report) but it’s way outside the purview of this particular post and maybe even this blog.

And, finally, there is this post from the Writer’s Store about relatively famous writers who didn’t succeed until much later in life. Did you know Raymond Chandler, he of the hard-boiled detective novels, didn’t publish his first novel until he was 51? That’s nearly 25 years older than I am right now!

Even though I often wonder what I’m doing as a 27 year old who wants to pursue a career as a screenwriter from Virginia of all places, I think it’s important to understand that these things don’t happen overnight. I’ve been writing for a long time, sure, but it’s only been a really serious pursuit for about two years. That’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. Now, if I’m still on this blog when I’m 47 complaining that I feel old I give any of my readers permission to tell me to quit.

Not that I will, of course.

1 Comment

  1. NordlysSørensen

    Most writers become successfull when they are near '40s'.
    Age is important for writing. More you're older, better you will write.
    Youngers writers are too attached to their characters and their stories, and they often fail to fix their mistakes, not because they can't see them, but because they can't kill their darlings.

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