Let’s get one thing out of the way: The idea of feeling like it might be “too late” to do something doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with age.
I remember vividly the first time I was overcome with the unsettling sensation that certain ships had sailed. I was a new college graduate folding myself into the “real world”—and the realization that my unstructured, unspoken for days for the year ahead could suddenly be counted on my fingers (weekends notwithstanding) made my blood still. I peered out at the sea of cubicles around me, anchored in a bigger sea of landlocked Midwestern states, and took a big, swift kick at myself. Why had I not studied abroad in college? Why had I not taken more than a week after graduation—the summer off, perhaps—before punching my first time card? There was no going back now. This was it. This was how it would be until … retirement? What had I done?
Of course, especially now that I’m raising a family of my own, that temporary sense of despair sometimes seems almost laughable now. I didn’t have anyone but me to take care of. It wasn’t really too late to travel, or to take more time to find myself, or to change my mind—about anything. The opportunities to take those paths just weren’t going to be as readily available. Pursuing them would require more strategizing. More careful planning. More guts.
I think that is what we really mean when we lament that it might be “too late” to do something with our writing—to publish our first book, or to leave our day job and try writing full time, or to break out of a genre we’ve somehow gotten pigeonholed into, or even just to boldly say the words “I’m a writer!” out loud. Whether we’re 25 or 75, when the voices in our heads whisper that it’s too late, or when we mumble those loaded words to a well-meaning friend who asks, “Whatever happened to your idea to …”, what we’re really saying is that we wish we’d done it already. That we wish it were easier to do it now. That we don’t really know how to get started, or what to do next. That we’re afraid of what people will think, or afraid to have regrets later, afraid to make mistakes, afraid to fail.
When you think of it that way, it’s clear that it’s never really “too late.” We just need to believe that we can do it, to be willing to take action, and to form a plan. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!]
The November/December 2015 Writer’s Digestis loaded with road maps to help you pursue the detours you’ve been dreaming of. Learn from other writers who’ve taken the long way around. Get inspired to map out your own trip. Fill your tank, pack your bags and embrace the journey as part of the destination. When you get there, as editor and author Stephanie Stokes Oliver so wisely says in her essay on Page 29, you won’t be late. You’ll be right on time.
Director’s Cut: More Can’t-Miss Features
There are two other pieces in the November/December 2015 Writer’s DigestI wanted to be sure to give a nod to here.
- Novelist and National Black Writers Conference co-founder Elizabeth Nunez’s essay “Bring Diversity to Publishing—and to Your Bookshelf”: I invited Professor Nunez to write this piece after seeing her speak at a literary event earlier this year, and admiring her willingness to candidly and thoughtfully address topics that many others shy away from. If you’ve followed the We Need Diverse Books movement on social media, I think you’ll find her article an important and worthwhile contribution to the discussion of diversity in publishing at large.
- My WD Interview with David Baldacci: One reader on the Writer's Digest Facebook page commented that this article alone was worth the price of his whole subscription, and I couldn’t be happier to hear it. I hung up the phone after my hourlong conversation with writer-of-many-genres David Baldacci feeling utterly in awe of his work ethic and passion for the craft. If reading his insights doesn’t send you running for a pen and blank paper, I don’t know what will! (For a taste, check out our bonus David Baldacci interview outtakes that we didn’t have space to print.)
We all have days where we feel burnt out, intimidated or discouraged about where we are now or what lies ahead. This issue is the perfect companion for the good days and the bad—and, having just begun to realize my own goals of becoming a published novelist, I know that I’ll be reaching for this special WD again and again when I need an extra push to keep trying, to make a change, to dream bigger, or even just to remind myself to be happy with wherever I am.
Preview the full contents of the November/December 2015 Writer’s Digest, download it instantly, order a hard copy, or find it on a newsstand near you.
Editor, Writer’s Digest
Debut Novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, coming from St. Martin’s Press in 2017
Follow me on Twitter @JessicaStrawser
Get your print or digital Writer's Digest magazine subscription today, so you never miss an issue!