The perfect age for writing

In the UK this weekend is Children in Need, a fundraising event for children’s charities across the country. It is a well loved televisual institution that has been running for many years, and receives the support of a large number of celebrities and not so celebrities to raise vast sums each year. For many people it provides a night of entertainment with the opportunity to do some good, but for one group of people it is a night to be feared: parents.

Now, I’m not saying that parents don’t agree with the aims of Children in Need, we do most definitely agree (have you noticed how I’ve suddenly become the spokesperson for all British parents), it’s just that over the course of the night there are many films explaining why money needs to be raised; sad, heartbreaking films, which for many parents are almost unwatchable. Before I became a parent, I would be able to watch Children in Need without issue. The sad films were sad, and would motivate me to donate, and that was all. Now, each case of abuse, each demonstration of neglect, forces a spike into my heart. As a parent you feel each blow, each act of neglect almost physically. You can’t watch the films because you transpose your children in the place of the children in need, and you can’t help but cry at how monstrous humanity can be. Myself, I sit the with tears running down my face (complaining of allergies to my wife), while at the same time wanting to hunt down each and every person responsible for the the stories I see, a tearful angel of vengeance, so to speak.

As these thoughts circled around m brain, it got me thinking about writing, and in particular: Is there a perfect age or level of experience for writing? Now I need to explain myself before I get accused of ageism. I don’t mean a perfect age for writing per se; what I’m wondering is if the is a perfect age for genre writing, and is it different for different genres? For example, many of the most successful crime or thriller writers (PD James, Tom Clancy, John Le Carre, Elmore Leonard) appear to be of a more advanced age. Is there something about that age (experience, the ability to see both the macro and the micro?) that gives them a better insight to the genre? At the other end of the spectrum, many horror and fantasy authors appear to achieve success at a young age (and then go on, and on, and on – don’t worry, I love the genre and am only jealous). Does the flexibility of their youthful minds allow these authors to create believable worlds and situations that draw the reader in (and once trained, allow their minds to continue in this vein)?

And if this is the case, what is the best genre for an early forties male?

Any thoughts?


2 thoughts on “The perfect age for writing

  1. cthomashuber

    Hmm. I would say it all depends on your life experience. Take Kurt Vonnegut, who successfully wrote and published well into his advanced years. Or take the filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who made films into his 90s; his subjects hopped from one genre to the next (compare The Seven Samurai, about feudal Japan, to Ikiru, a story about a modern man dealing with a life-threatening illness). Life experience dictates genre for an author. Perhaps for some writers, the vitality of youth allows longer, more intense fiction, and also allows for more books written in shorter periods of time. (Don’t tell that to Dan Simmons and his apparently yearly delivery of 900 page novels.) Finally, I do not believe there is a ‘perfect age’ to begin a writing career. Post-modern writer John Barth was published at 24, and I still think The Floating Opera is a pretty solid debut. Insight comes from experience, and that’s different for everyone. Start at 24, start at 42. Write SF, write thrillers, write satire. Tap into your life experience and go from there.

    1. dylanhearn Post author

      Hi and thanks for the reply. Sorry for the late comeback, I must have missed the notification and I hate it when I have taken the time to write something and it goes unacknowledged.
      I was trying to be very careful not to say there was a perfect age for writing per se, as you have pointed out, there have been some blistering debut novels from very young authors. I was more interested as to whether age somehow influences either what you prefer to write, or what you are suited to write. I definitely agree with your last point, a person should feel free to write whatever they want and not take any notice of societal pigeonholing or prejudice. Thanks once again for your thoughtful response.


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