I started writing when I was a pre-teen and never stopped. I remember I visited a friend once during the summer in middle school and she was annoyed that I spent so much time scribbling into my notebook. It was like there were so many words inside me and they had to spill out into somewhere. I still have a plastic tub full of the notebooks and journals I used to keep as a teenager. Full of fanfiction from my favorite shows, original stories, and just regular journal entries.
By the time I got a computer in my bedroom, I wrote fiction there and my personal journals became scrapbooks. I glued down anything that had any meaning or would jolt my memory of an event. Concert ticket stubs, movie ticket stubs, wrappers and receipts from coffee shops, promotional items from my many trips to local book stores. When I went abroad, I would glue down train tickets and press flowers and sketch vistas.
At some point, even that faded. I kept a livejournal instead. It was easier than lugging around journals so full that they didn’t even close anymore.
Even though the places that I wrote changed, I’ve never stopped writing.
I can tell you that the stories I wrote were not great. When I was writing Harry Potter fanfiction at 19, they were overwrought and melodramatic and full of the most predictable of tropes, but people still liked them because when you’re obsessed with something, even bad stories can be good stories.
The stuff I was writing at 25 when I was in grad school was certainly better, but even that I look back on now and think, oh I would change this and I would delete that and I would never say such a thing now. But people liked it because I was writing for the love of it and when you love something that much, the love always shines through the obvious plots and incorrect comma placement.
I still like a lot of the things I’ve written in my thirties. I was 36 when I signed on with a publisher who liked one of my stories well enough that they wanted it to become a book and 37 when that book came out but even a story with thousands of hits and hundreds of kudos and comments was imperfect and needed work. I know I will like things about my second book better than my first. That’s just how writing goes.
There’s no perfect timeline. There’s no age where things are ~supposed~ to happen. I’ve never written toward a goal other than finishing the story and maybe posting it somewhere. If you publish a book at 25, that’s amazing but I assure you in ten years, you’ll have evolved and you’ll look back at it and cringe a little, no matter how much people liked it.
It’s also never too late. You can start writing now. You can publish a book at fifty or sixty-eight or seventy-two. Anytime is a good time if you’re writing for the love of it. Your people will find you. Some people might not like it, but some people will. I still get comments on that Harry Potter fanfiction and every time I click on that notification, I prepare myself for the worst but it’s always praise. Somehow, they still love it, imperfect as it is. Somehow, the love still shines through.