Writing today is an entrepreneurial endeavor. One has to constantly explore new technology, creatively connect with people in a meaningful way, and innovate. It’s a constant process of trial and error, tinkering and studying - and reading, reading, reading. The Monthly Takeaway highlights the most helpful lesson I’ve learned each month and applies it to life in general.

The Monthly Takeaway

A Newsletter by Michael W. Anderson

It's Never Too Late To Start 
(September 2014 Issue)

The Realization

It’s never too late to start working toward a goal. In fact, you may be better positioned to accomplish your goals now than earlier in life when you had fewer life experiences and less understanding of how the world works.

The Example

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder why I was even allowed to have my 20s. When I look back at that decade, it seems like I wasted an inordinate amount of time. I had boundless energy, no kids, few responsibilities or obligations placed on my time … and yet I accomplished a tiny fraction of what I get done now (writing novels, blogging, building a family, maintaining a full-time job, etc.). Have you read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a novella by F. Scott Fitzgerald where a boy is born extremely aged and gradually gets younger? (Skip the Brad Pitt movie – it was really weird). Reverse aging would have been a better strategy for me, too. Sometimes I wish that I had started being intentional about life earlier on.

But the truth is, often you’re only ready to do what you’re truly meant to do after experiencing a fair amount of life. In my case, I draw from past experiences heavily when I write novels. As just one example, part of the plot line in Provoke Not The Children revolves around the main character lobbying on Capitol Hill on behalf of abused children. I couldn’t have written that portion of the book knowledgeably without having worked for three years at a lobbying firm. Life experiences allow me to write about relationships, capture thought processes, and even form the basis for some characters. I’m sure it would have been possible to write a novel at 23 (and have 10 written by now), but I’m rather certain the same novel would have been better written at 33.

Give me a couple of minutes and a topic and I’ll come up with a few dozen theories for you. But this time I was curious to see if my theory actually had some validity - I looked up some of the most popular authors today to see how old they were when they published their first novel and how many novels or other books they produced after that. The results were interesting/encouraging:
Janet Evanovich
Known For:
  • The Stephanie Plum Series.
1st Novel Published at: 44 years old
Total Novels: 54
Lee Child
Known For:
  • The Jack Reacher Series.
1st Novel Published at: 43 years old
Total Novels: 19
Scott Turow
Known For:
  • One L
  • Presumed Innocent
  • The Burden of Proof
  • Personal Injuries
1st Novel Published at: 38 years old
Total Books: 11 (9 fiction, 2 non-fiction)
Tom Clancy
Known For:
  • The Hunt for Red October,
  • The Sum of All Fears
  • ...actually, every book he ever wrote.
1st Novel Published at: 37 years old
Total Novels: 20
David Baldacci
Known For:
  • Absolute Power
  • King and Maxwell
1st Novel Published at: 36 years old
Total Novels: 25
Ann Rice
Known For:
  • Interview with the Vampire
  • Queen of the Damned
1st Novel Published at: 35 years old
Total Novels: 35
Gillian Flynn
Known For:
  • Sharp Objects
  • Gone Girl
1st Novel Published at: 35 years old
Total Novels: 3
Hugh Howey
Known For:
  • The Wool Series
1st Novel Published at: 34 years old
Total Novels: 20+ (including novellas and shorts)
John Grisham
Known For:
  • The Firm
  • The Pelican Brief
  • A Time to Kill
  • The Chamber
1st Novel Published at: 34 years old
Total Novels: 27
Dan Brown
Known For:
  • The DaVinci Code
  • Angels & Demons
1st Novel Published at: 34 years old
Total Novels: 6
J.K. Rowling
Known For:
  • The Harry Potter Series
1st Novel Published at: 32 years old
Total Novels: 10 (some under the pen name Robert Galbraith) + short stories.
*I left out authors like George R. R. Martin of Game of Thrones fame (29 years old at the time of his first novel), James Patterson (29 years old), Donna Tartt of The Goldfinch fame (29 years old), Stephen King (27 years old), Michael Crichton of Jurassic Park fame (24 years old) and serial novelist Dean Koontz (23 years old) because I don’t appreciate how awesome they were in their 20s.

These writers didn’t start producing the work they are best known for fresh out of college. They used a decade, sometimes two, of experience as lawyers (Grisham, Baldacci, Turow), a TV presentation director (Child), a homemaker (Evanovich), a singer/songwriter (Brown), a single mother (Rowling), English teachers (King, Brown), a roofer (Howey), an ESL instructor (Rowling), a politician (Grisham), college lecturers (Turow, Rice) and a yacht and tug boat captain (Howey) to develop a greater understanding about how life works. It was only then that they were ready to accomplish their goals.

The Application

“Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb.
That’s where the fruit is.”

H. Jackson Brown, American Author

Next time you’re wondering if you should pursue a goal or you’re bemoaning the fact that you never pursued one in the past, remember that you may be better equipped today than at any point in the past.

Michael W. Anderson is the author of Provoke Not The Children. His second novel is due to be released later this year. He documents the ups, downs and humor of the writer's life on his blog If The Monthly Takeaway was forwarded to you (awesome!), but you would like to receive future issues directly, please click HERE.

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