These Famous Writers Made It Big in Middle-Age

Tricia Chadwick

Could writing be your second act?

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Ah, to be young! The youth have a hunger and drive to succeed, to grab life by the horns! But alas, youth is fleeting. 

And adulthood is long. 

And challenging.

Many of the dreams we had in our younger days fall to the wayside, victim to the daily grind of caring for children, helping out elderly parents, work responsibilities, household chores, family obligations, and all the other responsibilities that come with adulting.

So maybe you always dreamed of being a writer, but your life took a different path. Life became so hectic you weren’t afforded the time to sit back and ponder the universe and your take on it. 

What if now is your time? Your time to make the dreams of your youth come true?  

You have concerns.

  • Yes, it is a once in a hundred-year global pandemic. 
  • Yes, it is a global economic crisis. 
  • Yes, there is rampant political unrest.

On the plus side, there’s plenty to write about!

Writing is therapeutic. Letting your feelings and opinions out onto the page helps you to process the events happening around you.  

Writing can also be a great way to make money.

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

And it is convenient and flexible. You can write at times that fit into your schedule. If you work one or more jobs or have a family, you can get up earlier or stay up later to make time for your craft.

Many famous writers joined the industry for these very reasons. Surprisingly, although they are well-known, they did not begin their careers in their 20s as one might usually expect. 

The following writers did not find professional success until they were well on their way to middle age. Here are some of the most interesting and relatable.

Toni Morrison

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” 

Toni Morrison is a woman that was living a hectic and full life before becoming an author. 

I can completely relate to her. 

She had a successful career, marriage, and subsequent divorce and raised two children, all before taking the plunge and deciding to write her own material. 

“After teaching at Howard University for seven years, Morrison moved to Syracuse, New York to become an editor for the textbook division of Random House publishing. Within two years, she transferred to the New York City branch of the company and began to edit fiction and books by African-American authors. Although she worked for a publishing company, Morrison did not publish her first novel called The Bluest Eye until was she was 39 years old.” -Kerri Lee Alexander, NWHM Fellow 2018-2020.

Writers speak of imposter syndrome and worry that their work isn’t good enough. Even the iconic Toni Morrison edited others’ work for years before building the confidence and stamina to publish her novel. 

Raymond Chandler

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”  

Raymond Chandler’s story closely reflects today’s economic events, as companies worldwide are forced to close their doors and let go of employees.   

Chandler was working in the oil industry when he lost his job during the Great Depression. Many today can relate as unemployment in 2020 reached levels unseen since the Great Depression. 

He pivoted to writing and became one of the great detective novelists of all time. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was not published until he was 51 years old. His writing career continued long after, and he even worked in film.

Richard Adams

“If I had known how frightfully well I could write, I’d have started earlier.”

Richard Adams did not begin writing until he was 46 years old. His career began as a story about rabbits, told to entertain his daughters on a car trip. With their encouragement, he put the tale to paper, hit the pavement, and eventually got it published, allowing Adams to become a full-time writer.

Photo by Steve Smith on Unsplash

Parenting can bring out the best in us and lead us to talents we didn’t realize we possessed. Thanks, kids!

Donald Ray Pollock

“It wore on you after a while, other people’s accomplishments.” 

Life wasn’t easy for American writer Donald Ray Pollack.   

Born in a rural town in the 1950s Midwest, he dropped out of high school at 17 to work. He is a former addict. He labored much of his adult life at a paper mill and later as a truck driver.

Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

That is, until enrolling in an English program at Ohio State University at the age of 50. According to his official site:

“While there, Doubleday published his debut short story collection, Knockemstiff, and the New York Times regularly posted his election dispatches from southern Ohio throughout the 2008 campaign. The Devil All the Time, his first novel, was published in 2011.” 

Pollock hadn’t even completed his English program when his short story collection was published. Talk about a sign that you are on the right path! He has been a full-time writer ever since. 

Now it’s your turn.

“Have great hopes and dare to go all out for them. Have great dreams and dare to live them. Have tremendous expectations and believe in them.” – Norman Vincent Peale

The authors highlighted in this story all shared one thing in common. They used their life experiences, good and bad, to inform their writing. 

They began a writing career against conventional wisdom. Taking a chance when others would play it safe. 

Even when life was difficult, they wrote. They used their writing to dig themselves out of financial and emotional messes. There is no better motivation than a crisis or the inevitability of life passing you by. 

The time for your dream is now. It worked for these writers, and it can work for you. 

Look to these greats next time you need a little inspiration. 

For more information on these fantastic authors, check out the links below that I used in writing this story.


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Small business owner, teacher, and mom. I write about learning, health, parenting, and animals.

Torrington, CT

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