Tips for late blooming writers to get over impostor syndrome and conquer self doubt.
When I was forty-five, I finally started trying to write fiction. I had always felt like it would be fun to write a novel, but I was a late bloomer, too busy with working full-time and raising four children who were spaced many years apart. Maybe you can relate.
And I didn’t tell anyone either. I just started “pantsing” a story I hoped my kids would eventually enjoy. Oh, I mean, I became a “discovery writer.”
The whole process was me trying to discover if I could even write a book. 🙃
Whatever. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book because I had a terrible case of impostor syndrome. About the time I had written what I figured was equivalent to four books in longhand several years later, I decided to get serious, start over, and actually write the first book in the series.
Common Reasons Mature Writers Doubt Themselves
Comparisonitis We feel life is flashing past the front windscreen after a certain point, don’t we? We’ve been so busy doing life that we get surprised by the bonfire birthday cake and wonder why we haven’t started writing that book that’s been lurking in our subconscious for years.
All the airport authors seem to have started writing books while they were still in the crib; somehow, they have fifteen to twenty best sellers in their backlist. The debut authors landing book contracts all look like twenty-somethings, each dewier and fresher than the last. Right?
Comparison really is the place where joy goes to die. Stop looking! Just stop.
Your life experience is a huge advantage. More about that in a minute. A late start is what it is; concentrate instead on writing. And find other late starters who have made it to inspire you.
Second Career Maybe you’ve made the frightening decision to write as a second career. I’m not going to sugar coat this: maybe you have a reason to doubt your ability to replace a full-time income after a year or two of steady writing. However, you won’t make it if you succumb to doubt, and that’s a fact.
Technological Deficit Every person I know learned how to do their job on the job. Even if a profession requires a college degree, new graduates don’t know what they don’t know until they start working for a paycheck.
You can master using a computer. My generation went from having no computers to wearing computers on their wrists, so do NOT make technology an excuse. Get on YouTube or Lynda.com or a hundred other sites to learn what you need to know. Or go to the library and take a computer literacy class.
I know, I know. Using a computer to learn about using a computer is meta.
But every band kid learns to play their instrument by playing the instrument. No kidding. The band director explains things a couple of times and tells the students to practice, practice, practice. In reality, anyone who has learned to play an instrument is largely self taught.
You learn by doing. You learned to drive by driving. (That’s super scary to think about, isn’t it?) You learned to cook by cooking, didn’t you? This is no different. You can do this.
Fear of Critique Nobody is comfortable with critique, so if you cannot handle this fear, start small, if need be. Seek critique from people you trust. Take what you can use and ignore the rest. If the same issues keep coming up, then look for instruction.
Unrealistic Expectations If you have succeeded (or even exceeded expectations) at previous jobs or endeavors, you may start writing with unrealistic expectations of swift success. There is a learning curve, especially for writing fiction, so give yourself time and grace to improve. Everyone starts at zero. This is the time to be humble and accept critique and learn about craft and practice writing. Remember, you learn by doing.
Changing Industry This is a valid concern for sure. Take comfort in knowing you are not alone. My suggestion is to be wary of old advice and scams; find current sources of information on book marketing and distribution. Be willing to experiment. Finally, don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle; some folks have been working hard for years to reach their current level of success in book publishing and content creation. If you are older and just beginning, it’s okay to be a novice.
Unfortunately, publishing scams are plentiful, so do your due diligence to avoid falling victim to vanity publishers and folks who want to empty your pockets.
Tips for Mature Writers
Schedule time for writing. You do NOT have to write every day, but several dedicated times during the week is best.
Join an author group. Find a local group of authors, if possible, and if it’s not possible, go virtual. You need company. And you will shorten the writing learning curve in the company of others.
Join professional organizations. I recommend joining the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) even if you hope to be traditionally published. Read their posts and dive into back issues. This is the continuing education part of becoming an author. I can also recommend the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) for the same reasons.
Follow podcasts and YouTube channels dedicated to writing craft. Put your learning cap on and become a student of the art of writing.
Read craft books. I highly recommend any craft book by James Scott Bell. By the way, James Scott Bell was a late bloomer and an inspiring example to follow. There are too many good craft books to list here but make time for continuing education on craft.
Check any vendor against the list maintained by Victoria Strauss on WriterBeware.com. There are lots of folks who are not on the up and up, so writer beware!
Lean into your life experiences because you know things. Truly, your gray hairs and laugh lines are badges of honor. You didn’t just read about stuff online; you lived through it. I was around for the hippies and the moon landing and 9/11. Those twenty-somethings are guessing, but we know how it used to be. And we’ve seen things, many of which we cannot unsee. Take those experiences to your pages and put them to work.
Late bloomers have some advantages. You understand people better than you did when you were younger. You know more about the world, AND you have loads of experiences to mine for story ideas.
I started my writing journey when I was forty-five, but it wasn’t until I was fifty something that I published my first book. These days, I would definitely do things differently because: a) things have changed and b) I held myself back for too long by worrying about whether I was good enough.
Please don’t be discouraged by your age. Late bloomers have some advantages. You understand people better than you did when you were younger. You know more about the world, AND you have loads of experiences to mine for story ideas.
What is the most challenging part of being a late blooming writer?
Leave your answers and comments below.
- 58: 7 Tips to Renew Your Mind and Transform Your Writing (podcast episode)
- 1: Overcome Impostor Syndrome (podcast episode)