I want to write. I have always wanted to write. I published my first book at the age of 61. So what took me so long? Fear and self-doubt. I’ll explain later. I am a late bloomer. As such, I came late to writing. My path to the place where I could don the title of writer with full confidence was a long and frustrating one.
I won’t go into the myriad of personal setbacks, though there were many, so I will just give an overview of my journey. I was an immigrant child at the age of nine. I arrived in Houston, along with my family of seven, in 1965. My life seemingly began that summer.
In reality I had been a dreamer of a child, with notions of creativity since infancy in my family’s farm in Mexico. I discovered this, along with a richness of other facts about myself and other family members once I embarked in writing my first book in earnest. I wrote Of Dreams & Thorns much later than 1965. It wasn’t till after my retirement as a college professor and administrator of a federal college program that I was able to clear my head and heart of all negativity regarding my proclamation that I was indeed a writer.
Of course, in reality I had been writing Dreams since my adolescence, at least. It came to me as vague notions of something that ought to be written down and shared. Aspects of it, bits and pieces, phrases, images, characters speaking their mind, shouting out for attention. I kept telling them I wasn’t ready, or I wasn’t the one. I was afraid to let them down if I lacked skill. After all, I had studied the best writers in the world. How could I presume to join their ranks?
I studied writing even as I taught freshman composition. I eventually learned about a pathetic disconnection between academic and creative writing. I studied poetry (last year I published my book of poems, states of unitedness) and I attended a couple of courses in fiction, taught by members of our University of Houston’s award-winning creative writing program. Alas, it seemed the more I studied, formally and independently, the more I knew that the best way to write and finish a book is to just do it, to borrow from Nike. So I began my book in 2017.
Before that, I wrote lots of poetry and ideas that I never threw away. Forty years wasted, it seems like sometimes. But more often than not, I believe that, for me with my history and circumstances, those 40 years were necessary preparation. Of course, I could have cut that time in half had I made a conscious assessment and decision to just get started. By the time of my retirement, and finally embracing my total freedom of choice, it was 2014.
It took a year to get reacquainted with myself and sort out all types of elements that defined me. All that assessment pointed indubitably to my being a writer. I finally had no more excuses not to act on my truest impulses. I wrote the book in six months, but in reality I had been writing it for forty years, at least at some basic level. The writing experience unleashed a pent-up craving to master the novel form. I made myself go beyond most basic writing book advice, and I assumed the mantle of writer in my own right.
With that, it was as if I gave myself permission to never again let self-doubt or fear of criticism slow me down. When you are a Mexican immigrant child, when you see yourself as a poor country peasant, when you doubt if you have mastered the English language enough to use it creatively, it builds up self-doubt and insecurities. Well, I somehow managed to shed all that garbage. I was well accomplished in many other areas, after all; I certainly had the wherewithal to do it.
I wrote, and I studied, and I wrote. I edited, and edited, and edited. I hired professional cover and book interior designers, and I hired two professional editors. I was investing in my book as if I were a minor “traditional” publisher. I learned the business, and it taught me that my route was to be an independent publisher. The aspects of publishing a book and getting it to market, or “in shelves,” end up falling into a category of business that we creative types seem to hate. I certainly do.
I will not expound much on the trials and tribulations of the modern status of publishing as regards novice writers, but I do recommend a thorough study of it if you are planning to embark in a writing career or adventure of your own.
So there it is — My short version of how I became a writer late in life as opposed to the more ideal time of my twenties through forties. I do regret that I started late, but only because with age come health issues and other things that slow me down. I have so many projects I want to complete. I have grown considerably as a writer since first publishing my two books, but that is part of the process.