Learn more about WriteOut, a writing camp for teens founded by Ally that starts this summer in Cedar City, UT.

too late?

Back in August, as we watched the Olympics, with all those video clips of the athletes when they were small (tiny Missy Franklin! darling little gymnasts!), my son, who is nine, turned to me and said, “Mom, is it too late for me?”

He’d realized the dedication it takes to become an Olympian–and also how early you have to start to realize that dream.

Also in August, I ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) with my brother, my sister, and my husband (and also my sister’s cute roommate). My husband and I used to run half and full marathons together before we were married and we thought that signing up for this race was a great idea. We’d hire a babysitter and go running together this summer for dates! We’d train properly and have a great time!

Well, this summer was, to put it frankly, chaos. We both had work deadlines, work travel (Portland, New York, Los Angeles for me, Cambridge, MA, and the annual working trip to England for him), church stuff, and of course all the wonderful and crazy summer things that having a house full of four kids entails (swimming lessons, soccer, etc.). We both kept running, but we didn’t train as far or as much as we should have. While we were reasonably pleased with our times (we ran 8:06/mile for the race), we both were pretty stiff afterwards and knew we could have been faster and recovered more quickly had we properly prepared.

As an amateur athlete, you can kind of do this (although I realize that we are begging for sports injuries). This kind of thing doesn’t fly for the pros. To get really, really good at something you have to put in the time and the workouts.

I know this about writing. I put in the time, (just about) every day except Sundays, and I have for almost a decade now. I know that if I don’t put in the time, I won’t be able to write well. (And please know that I realize that “putting in the time” looks different for each author; when I give specifics about what I do, I am just acknowledging what have to do to get it right.) I have been writing since I was four, but putting in hours and hours every day the way the Olympians did? Not so much, not until the past 10 years.

But the really nice thing about writing is that it is almost never too late, if you’re willing to put in a lot of work. You can start at 10, you can start at 20, or 30, or 50.

So if you’re feeling like it might be too late, it’s not. Like any worthwhile endeavor, it will be a LOT of work, but there’s no expiration date on writers. Look at Agatha Christie, Lois Lowry, P.D. James. The only way it’s too late is if you don’t do it at all.

Back to work for me now…how about you? 😉

P.S. An interview with me over at Design Mom posted yesterday, in which I answer a lot of questions about being a mom and creativity. Check it out!

P.P.S. There is less than a month left until REACHED is released! EEEEEEEK!!!

+ comments (6)
  • Rusty Fischer
    October 16, 2012

    GREAT post, and congrats on the race! When it comes to writing, I’m always inspired by Frank McCourt, who wrote the beautiful Angela’s Ashes in his late 50s!!!

  • Jen Barnes
    October 16, 2012

    So great to see you on Design Mom!

  • Tiffany Lewis
    October 16, 2012

    Ally, thank you for these great thoughts. It’s one think I love about writing–it is never too late. In fact, as wisdom and experience ages us, with practice it can only get better. I just finished the book “The Talent Code” which had me looking at how we master a talent in a whole new light. Hard work and deep practice matter so much more than what comes to us at birth. It’s changing the way I teach my kids about the talents they want to master, whether it’s the piano, karate, math, or spirituality. For the most important things in life, it’s never too late.

  • Rosalyn Eves
    October 17, 2012

    I love this! Sometimes I worry that I’ve let too much time go by (even if it was worthy things, like getting a PhD and having a family) without writing. This reminds me that it’s never too late to start.

  • Ashley R.
    October 17, 2012

    This is a great idea. I need to realize what I need to put my time in now. Probably preparing for my mission and future life.
    I just finished Edenbrooke! It was so wonderful, I couldn’t believe how fantastic my life was. I can’t thank you enough for suggesting it. I was so very, very happy while reading it. It is officially my favorite book (although I absolutely love your books as well).
    I am so super excited for Reached to come out, and Crossed to come out on paperback. My life is so great right now. 🙂

  • Thank you for the inspiring words. Sometimes I do feel like I waited too long to decide I wanted to write. If I had known sooner I probably would have a lot more mistakes already under my belt and maybe have majored in creative writing. 🙂

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