Success Begins at Fifty

Here’s the thing, when I was nine years old I decided that I was going to be a writer. Little did I know it would take forty years, the literary equivalent of Moses wandering the desert, for that to come true. I was fifty years old when I “received the call” that my novel, The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow was going to be published by Abingdon Press. They were starting a brand new fiction line and yep, Agnes Sparrow was one of their debut novels. I was filled with an odd combo of feelings that swung from elation to relief to utter fear, and honestly--embarrassment. Finally, after all these years of trying I was going to see my dream come true.

Sure, I would have loved it if the dream had come true twenty years earlier. There’s something to be said for having physical energy and mental agility, but it didn’t. I was fifty years old when my career left the launching pad. It was a rocket (I hope) that kept getting delayed for one reason or another—usually my own fault. I struggled with that for a while but then I chose to embrace the notion that my success began at fifty, exactly when it was meant to begin. I’m okay with it now.

I don’t believe that the time spent in the wilderness was good for nothing. I graduated from high school—still with the dream in tact, found employment, went to college, got married, raised three children—I’m still raising my son—that’s right, he’s just twelve. He was another later-in-life success. I struggled through various degrees of financial hardships, medical traumas, near-death diseases, car accidents, teen years with my daughters, driving lessons, shoe-tying, toilet-training, marital separation, etc. etc. etc. But still in the back of my mind in the midst of all that life, I still knew that I knew that I knew that I was meant to write. I refused to give up, even though there were many times when I quit for a season, became so frustrated that I prayed for God to take the dream away from me and replace it with an undying fervor to work at a car wash. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just sounded easier.) Emily Dickinson said that, “success is counted sweetest by those who n’er succeed.” I made that my theme song for a while, convincing myself that reaching for the stars was somehow better than grabbing hold of one. You see, pre-success holds more possibility than actual success.

So, what was going on in those forty years to prepare me for becoming a published author? Plenty. Tune in tomorrow for more. And let me know if success has come late to you. We can commiserate or celebrate together.


Katherine Hyde said...

Joyce, I'm a late bloomer like yourself. I'm 54, and also have a 12-year-old son! I've published a picture book, but am still on the road to publishing a novel, which is the dream I've held onto since I was 11. Like you, I got sidetracked by marriage, children, earning a living, but at age 46 I knew I had a choice: write or go mad. Or is that write AND go mad? Some days it feels like the latter. :)

I've heard a lot of great things about your writing. I guess it's time to break down and buy a book!

(By the way, if that picture is current, you don't look anywhere near fifty.)

Tracy Krauss said...

Hooray! I'm glad we got that cleared up (That success can come at any age ...) Phew!
Like you, my dreams of becoming a published author were late in coming, but that doesn't mean all those years in between were for nothing. god does everything IN HIS TIME.

Marti Pieper said...

Joyce, you know we share an early (elementary school) interest in writing. I've been a late bloomer almost my entire life. Why should my writing career be any different?

I think part of my slow-to-get serious-thing was the married/pastor's wife/homeschooling mom/ craziness. But I also have a deep belief in God's sovereignty. He put me with the right story at the right time--not a moment too soon (or too late). And He did--and is doing--the same with you.

Blessed to join you in the journey (as long as we take time to stop at Rita's along the way).

Joyce Magnin said...

Thanks Katherine, yes, please keep writing. It will happen. I love that you have a young son like me. Adam is the love of my life even if I cannot keep up with him sometimes.
And Tracy, absolutely! The times is never wasted as long as you remember that and don't give up in the process.
And Marti, YOU,ME and the rest of the usual suspects, RITA's PHILLY, August.

Brenda said...

Hi Joyce, I'm over fifty and still waiting. Unlike you, however, I only caught the dream about ten years ago. So I'm hoping that my desert experience isn't as long as Moses. Or I'll be as old as Moses was when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt.
I'm looking forward to taking your class at Montrose in July.