Lately, as I think about how much I love writing I can’t help but wonder what might have been if I had started in my 20s. I know what ifs. . . and if onlys . . . are a waste of energy because going back is impossible but still, I went there, and was feeling pangs of regret.

Then my inner voice whispered something to me, (if you have read my book The Last Hut you will be familiar with the story about how I found my inner voice) it told me to ‘search for famous writers who started writing late in life,‘ which I did and immediately felt better.

I found people who were not published until their late 40s and older many of them overcoming obstacles in life such as poverty, family obligations etc and one of them, just like me, who was inspired to write after watching her daughter develop her writing career. So here they are:

Famous writers who started writing late in life

Richard Adams

Published Watership Down in his 50s pursuing writing as a hobby rather than a career until his daughter persuaded him otherwise.

Diane Leslie

Author of “Fleur de Leigh’s Life of Crime” and other Fleur de Leigh novels was in her late forties when she published her first book. I read this line on her website and loved it…

“Most of us need life experience and maturity before we can write well. Having a gloomy childhood can be an asset. ” – Diane Leslie

Charles Bukowski

He was 49 when his books were published.His semi-autobiographical novels include Post Office (he worked at one), Women and Factotum. Much of his work expressed his anxiety about what he calls his “lost years.”

William S Burroughs

Age 39 when his first novel was published. His book Junky and Queer focused on his battle with alcoholism and drug addiction as well as homosexuality.

Raymond Chandler

Age 45 his short stories were published in different magazines and he had quite a life always writing and getting close but not quite close enough to being published. He was in his late forties/early 50s when he published two novels – The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye (1953 – age 65)

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

He was in his 50s when his first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, was published and then age 90 he wrote Thy Hand, Great Anarch AND THEN aged 100 Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse.He left India aged 73 and went to live in Oxford where he died age 101.

Helen DeWitt

Published The Last Samurai (2000) aged 44. She spent 7 years working on various novels, had 100 novels at different stages of being written and combined writing with various jobs until 1995 when she decided ENOUGH ALREADY! She quit her job and decided to write until the money ran out…

Harriet Doerr

Age 73 she published her first novel “Stones for Ibarra” – abound with energy she refused to slow down and wrote multiple novels, essays and short stories.

Mary Alice Fontenot

Launched her writing career aged 51 and wrote almost 30 books in her lifetime.

Frank McCourt

He was in his mid-sixties when he published his memoir “Angela’s Ashses” which tells the story of growing up living in poverty.

James A Michener

His first book was published when he was forty and he continued writing until he died age 90 – after having worked on over forty books.

Donald Ray Pollock

He graduated and was published age 55 and he published his first collection of short stories. His debut novel was published in 2011.

Marquis de Sade

Wrote his first novel, Justine, age 47 and an extended version was published a few years later when he was 51 years old.

Mary Wesley

Wrote children’s books in her 50s and was age 71 when she decided to write for adults. Her first novel was called Jumping the Queue

Laura Ingalls Wilder

If, like me, you grew up watching Little House on the Prairie then you will recognise Laura’s name as one of the characters. It was watching her daughter enjoy her writing career that sparked Laura into starting her own in her 40s – just like me :). She was in her 60s when she used her pioneer childhood life experiences to write the Little House series for young adults.

I was reading a book called “Pen on Fire” (a birthday gift from my BFF) and in the book the author dedicated a chapter to discussing what she called “late bloomers” – people who started writing late in life. This included Mary Rakow who published her first novel in her early fifties, Nuala O’Faolain who published her memoirs in her mid fifties and Rachel Carson who published her book at the age of fifty five.

The list could have been longer because there are many others but that was about enough to remove the if onlys… and get me back on track. I have finished my first short story (since deciding to call myself a writer in 2012) and am very proud of it. It has no title right now but I may enter it for a competition. It was a short story I wrote, age 30, that got trashed which stopped me writing until now so learning from past errors I won’t stop even if I do receive negative criticism.

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