While re-watching Skyfall the other day, a short conversation between Bond and Q really stuck out to me. Upon seeing how young his new Quartermaster is, this discussion takes place (quoted from IMDB):
“James Bond: You must be joking.
Q: Why, because I’m not wearing a lab coat?
James Bond: Because you still have spots.
Q: My complexion is hardly relevant.
James Bond: Your competence is.
Q: Age is not a guarantee of efficiency.
James Bond: And youth is no guarantee of innovation.”
I found this particularly interesting because the age argument is one that comes up again and again regarding various fields—and writing is no exception. We often hear of teenagers publishing their novels (Kat Zhang, Christopher Paolini, Kody Keplinger), which teen-aged unpublished writers often take as a call to action (if they can do it, so can I!) and unpublished writers beyond their teenage years are tempted to ask if they can get published, why can’t I?
The trouble with the age game is that it’s far too easy to compare. Age is one of the few variables that you can measure, which makes it especially tempting to play the age game, but I truly don’t believe that age is what’s important: experience is.
If you dig a little, you’ll often find that those young published writers were often writing seriously for years before they found publication—just like every other writer who reaches the status of “published.” Kat Zhang, for example, may have been published at 19, but she was writing with the goal of eventual publication since the age of 12.
Age isn’t the important factor—not every teenage writer is going to get published in their teenage years because regardless of age, it takes some longer than others to reach a publishing-ready level. Some writers (albeit a minority) manage to get their first ever books published, but for most it takes years and more than a couple trunked manuscripts before they write the one.
It’s tempting to look at publishing as a race of sorts—to make goals like “get published by age x,” to look at young successful people and start to compare. But the problem with comparing is that nothing about publishing is a race and there are far too many factors out of your control to be able to compare fairly. The writers who debut with their first novel aren’t any better than those who debut with their eleventh book, nor are the 17 year-old authors any better than the 90 year-olds.
Age doesn’t matter. The writing matters, and by extension, experience matters.
So don’t get caught up in the numbers game—in fact, take all the time you need to make your book as good as you possibly can. You’ll be glad you did.
I don’t believe that age matters when it comes to writing, but now I want to hear from you: what do you think? Is age important? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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- davya23 answered: let people think age matters. then when they panic and hit 30 and haven’t been “successful”, they’ll get out of the game. i’m ok with that.
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- queenofravenclaw answered: Whether your a teenage author like me or don’t get published until you are 75, that shouldn’t stop you from trying your hardest to achieve.
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- ghostofthewind answered: Age makes no difference its what is written that matters.
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