Why Are There So Few Great Writers In Their 20s Today?

Why Are There So Few Great Writers In Their 20s Today?

In the last century, great writers achieved their greatness far earlier than they do now. Granted, they died earlier too, of fashionable afflictions such as bacterial infections, addiction, suicide, and the spleen; but it wasn’t uncommon for writers to be well on the road to superstardom and inclusion in the grand literary canon by the end of their twenties. So why are our great writers now so old, when they do great things?

James Joyce had written the genesis of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by the time he was 22, and finished Dubliners before he hit 30. Franz Kafka was dead at 40, leaving behind a considerable body of work. Ernest Hemingway published The Sun Also Rises at the age of 27.

In other fields, successful artists are much younger. Popular musicians generally achieve career highs in their 20s, or earlier, as accomplished at their craft as anyone could hope to be. Actors who don’t already make it by the age of 30 are on shaky ground, unless they’re only starting out as character actors much later in life.

Why Are There So Few Great Writers In Their 20s Today?

But a 3-minute piece of research I conducted tirelessly earlier showed that the vast majority of successful writers nowadays don’t achieve recognisable career highs until at least their late thirties or forties. So what’s holding us up? Are antibiotics making us lazy about achieving things before we die? What can we possibly be doing in our twenties, that creative development is taking longer, or arrested entirely for the bones of a decade?

In order to answer these important, life-defining questions, I surveyed myself, and found to my surprise that my own lack of achievement in my 20s directly resulted from a little problem I had with being kind of an arsehole. I touched on this before in the post 5 Terrifyingly Awful Novels I Might Have Written In My 20s, so the facts are indisputable.

I spent 50% of my twenties worrying about what other people thought of me, and the other 50% worrying about what I thought of me, because I didn’t like myself at all, hardly. It was not conducive to good art. It was not conducive to good anything, unless you see simultaneous narcissism and self-loathing as a competitive sport.

However, the problem with these nuggets of self-insight is twofold: firstly, that they don’t explain my similar lack of world domination to date in my 30s, when I proudly became less of an arsehole; and second, that being an arsehole didn’t at all hinder the careers of James Joyce, Franz Kafka, or Ernest Hemingway. However, I will stick doggedly to my theory that creative development remains suspended in modern times (because, let’s face it, this blog post wouldn’t exist otherwise).

Why Are There So Few Great Writers In Their 20s Today?

Thinking about oneself for 6 hours straight is no laughing matter

Part of the reason for this may be that people aren’t under as much real pressure today, to perform in their 20s, or even to grow up. We settle into ourselves later. We marry later, have children later, and get terrifying mortgages later. The literary critic Cyril Connolly said “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall”, but I beg to differ. For many people, there’s no greater creative fire under one’s arse than the fact that they only have 30 minutes until the pram in the hall starts screaming, so they better get those bloody words down on the page before it happens.

Instead, we spend our 20s fighting to get and hold jobs we neither like nor want, because everybody knows that art rarely (if ever) pays anymore. Our spare time is spent drinking and socialising heavily to take away the edge of our youthful potential eroding visibly day-by-day; wondering if anyone will ever love us; and being obsessed with ourselves to the extent that writing about anything other than ourselves is a task so daunting as to be avoided. Blogging about ourselves can fill a void, of course, but it rarely if ever leads us to greatness.

I think the only solution to this might be to convince everybody that the apocalypse is coming. A real one. We’ll all be so busy forging our legacies whilst still in the bloom of youth, we’ll forget that in the event of the apocalypse, we’ll have nobody leave it to. But that’s art, is it not?

My question to you today is: what were you doing in your twenties? Was it a wasted decade for you? Or if not, what sickeningly fabulous achievement would you like to tell us about? Do tell. I have a bucket handy.

  117 comments for “Why Are There So Few Great Writers In Their 20s Today?

  1. May 19, 2016 at 8:15 am

    I blame the baby boomers, why not, we get blamed for everything else.

    Liked by 3 people

    • May 19, 2016 at 11:37 am

      Ouch! Now that I’m out of my 20s, Kathy, I’m happy to go with that. I would have fought you for the blame otherwise.


  2. Ali Isaac
    May 19, 2016 at 8:17 am

    I was working in a real job, busy forging a career in the cut throat exciting world of retail management, where your employer owned your soul and demanded 12 hours of work a day minimum from you, but only paid you for 7.5. There was no room for creativity. Chasing impissible sales targets and disciplining sales assistants who couldn’t care less and we’re just trying to fund themselves through booze fueled college days just kind of sacked you dry. Actually, selling anything to the general public did that. It showed you the dark side of human nature. The masses love shopping as a leisure activity, but hate paying for anything. Sales staff are their unpaid slaves. God I’m glad I’m out of all that shit! That’s where the young are, it’s only later that they develop any sense and escape the retrace to do something more meaningful. Or get burned out. I suspect those writers you mentioned came from a class in society that wasn’t expected to go out and work to survive, even if their families weren’t that wealthy. The working classes didn’t have the luxury of languishing in their 20w with nothing much to do except get drunk smoke opium and write novels.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ali Isaac
      May 19, 2016 at 8:19 am

      Btw I never got the chance to edit that comment… feeding Carys as I wrote it, and my editor was busy. Sleeping.

      Liked by 2 people

      • May 19, 2016 at 11:41 am

        I would edit it for you, Ali, but I’m too impressed that you were able to get out what you did whilst doing what else you were doing! I hear you on the soul-sucking jobs of our 20s; although it might have been the same for so many of our forebears, I think they might have cared less, which could have been good for creativity in other areas. Also, there might have been more sympathy and support for the bohemian lifestyle back then. Whereas we’re worn out sneering back at hipsters these days.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. carolannwrites
    May 19, 2016 at 9:04 am

    “But a 3-minute piece of research I conducted tirelessly earlier…” This cracked me up!
    In my 20’s I got married, moved country, started a business, bought a house, had children, bought a bigger house,,, Are you bored yet? 😉
    In my 30’s I went to university, moved country, started a new job, had another child, bought a house… Are you bored yet? 😉
    In my 40’s… I started to write! Yay!
    Now I’m 50. I’m still writing, I now have no money and live with my parents. But I’m happy! 😉

    Liked by 4 people

    • May 19, 2016 at 11:43 am

      You’re like Mork and Mindy, Carolann – getting younger as life goes on. I fully approve this message!


  4. May 19, 2016 at 10:02 am

    I turned 21 when I was studying A-levels, 27 when I got my degree, 29 my post-grad (dead clever aren’t I) and then it all went downhill. So, I suppose I peaked in my twenties. The writing started in my thirties; nearly got taken on by an agent at the age of 33. Packed in the writing, but started again at the age of 47.

    My estimate is that I’ll hit the big time in 2022 aged 57. My question is: is the twentysomething block peculiar to the UK and Ireland or is it worldwide? And what about all those twentysomethings self-publishing. It would only take you ten minutes to find out.

    Liked by 3 people

    • May 19, 2016 at 11:51 am

      I’m almost glad you didn’t get your agent at 33, Chris. Men who peak at 33 often come to sticky ends. As regards your future, I reckon you should be partying now like it’s 2022.

      I didn’t bother researching self-published twentysomethings: I couldn’t spare the full ten minutes, and I think we already know what that’s like. But to stop being glib for just a moment, my suspicion is that countries which are politically treacherous or violent tend to turn out a lot more creative geniuses at a younger age, but I wouldn’t wish that kind of creative impetus on my worst enemy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 19, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        The conclusion we might draw is that younger people need something to push against, and in a relatively comfortable society there’s nothing to drive that urge.

        Had I know it at the time I would have deferred greatness until my 34th birthday.

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 19, 2016 at 1:17 pm

          Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Perhaps that’s what we’re lacking in our 20s…

          Liked by 1 person

  5. May 19, 2016 at 10:03 am

    Reblogged this on Imelda Conway-Duffy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. May 19, 2016 at 10:07 am

    As a member of the grey brigade I have a number of inchoate pieces in black bags hiding away since the year of nod, this piece has incited something in me Tara to go have a rummage – so as a youngster the road in front of you may well be lined with gold “Now you can go back and conduct a further 3-minute piece of research with yourself who knows what you might unearth!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 11:53 am

      I agree, Chris, but I might spare the world any more of the self-surveying. The subject of the study is remarkably untrustworthy, and life is far too short…


  7. May 19, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Reblogged this on helenjnoble.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. May 19, 2016 at 10:28 am

    I found this on another blog. It could be a partial answer to your question.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 11:54 am

      That’s a good piece, Milady, if a little depressing! I might have indulged in self-loathing in my 20s, but I wasn’t altogether unhappy. Just aimless and unproductive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 20, 2016 at 2:28 pm

        Glad you liked it. Maybe a lot of writers in their twenties are hiding/ searching for their talent at the bottom of a bottle of vodka…

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 20, 2016 at 2:53 pm

          For some of us, it would have been enough to know what we were looking for down there in the first place!

          Liked by 1 person

  9. May 19, 2016 at 10:33 am

    In my twenties, I don’t think I was writing as well as I am today. I am 55 going on 56. I didn’t actually feel like I had arrived until after I graduated from College, when I wrote art, book, and movie reviews for the University of Hawaii Newspaper. I remember being allowed to write whatever I wanted and then Editor
    Sjarif Goldstein simply checked for grammatical errors and awkwardness, at which point he would ask what I meant to say and then he would write that. It was only later that he said that he never knew anyone who wrote longer pieces, which was not a complement. I just loved writing. I am best when a fresh idea comes into my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      At least you were writing in your 20s, Mario, and kudos to you for it. So many people don’t. (And in my case, I have to say this was no loss to the universe.) I think most of us feel the same; we write better later in life. It doesn’t explain why things were different 100 years ago, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. May 19, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Nothing. I took a lot of holidays and went to a lot weddings. I’m off now to cry in a corner.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. May 19, 2016 at 11:33 am

    I spent my twenties, raising four children and the odd dog (believe me, some of our dogs were very odd). My thirties consisted of running a business and refereeing four teenagers. My forties surprised us with another little addition to the family and I spent most of that living in Spain. So I think I got a bit distracted from my childhood dream of being an author, lol. However, those years that I thought I had wasted, in neglecting to knuckle down and get that book written, have given me a deep well from which to draw the inspiration for what I write now. In my twenties that well was no more than a puddle. Better late than never, I suppose. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 19, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Your comment put another thought in my head, Jean. So many people are distracted by the realities of life and so fail to realise their creative potential early. I wonder is it just that more people nowadays are going back to creative pursuits later in life, rather than giving up on them forever as may have been the case a century ago? I’ll need to think about this. Be back to you in a decade or so.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. May 19, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Tara would LOVE to hear from you and your 20’s shenanigans 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  13. May 19, 2016 at 11:53 am

    One thing about writing when you’re older is that you have more life experiences, a bit more insight into the human condition, a bit more wisdom.That can only make you a better writer. As to what I was doing in my twenties: I was trying to bed as many woman as I could (as most guys do at that age), so who had time for writing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      Regardless of what it did for your writing, Andrew, it’s definitely the most superb excuse I’ve ever heard for not writing in your 20s!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. May 19, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    I believe the opposite to you, as in England more young people go to university now than ever before. Twenty something’s take on high powered positions, buy homes and have families later. Therefore time to write gets later and later as there is little free time. But the stories of older people are full of depth and experience and written with less distraction. just my opinion.

    Myself, I was learning to be a wife and Mother. I was writing poetry and stories, with my foot on the toilet door for solitude. I made story tapes and constantly found adventures in a cupboard or under a bed. Some of which are told to my young Grand Children by their parents today. I worked from home when I could, I wrote while stirring stew bubbling on the hob, while painting the house. Writing gave me sanity, and my three had adventures that other children didn’t have. We made up stories like others watched television or played computer games. So yes I did write in my twenties and thirties, unpublished but loved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      I reckon we’re actually more in tune thank you think, Ellen! I finished full-time education when I was 22, so I had plenty of time on my hands to try other things, but I got too caught up in perception and introspection. If I’d used writing like you as a tool to get me through it, perhaps I might have come through it earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sue Bridgwater
    May 19, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Reblogged this on turning words into Worlds.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. May 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I was way too introspective in my twenties to even write a pamphlet… and I’m incredibly grateful that blogging and FB didn’t exist back then – that could’ve been embarrassing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      Me too, Scarlet. My face does terrible, terrible things when I imagine what I might have blogged about in my 20s.


  17. May 19, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    As a 24-year-old, I find this hilarious, because I feel like the world is FULL of people my age or younger who are pushing out best sellers. Look at Pierce Brown, Veronica Roth, Sarah J Maas, Marie Lu, or Jonathan Safran Foer. Heck, I was reading Writer’s Digest yesterday and the winner of their short story contest was 25 years old. On the whole, I think I’m more attuned to spotting young writers more than someone in their 30s or 40s may, because it strikes my internal sense of “falling behind” more profoundly. And this – “It was not conducive to good anything, unless you see simultaneous narcissism and self-loathing as a competitive sport.” – is TRUTH. But it’s good to see that I’m not unusual in that aspect and that it may eventually go away. God help me, I hope it goes away.

    Granted, there is a difference between “best seller” and “classic piece of deep literature that will enter the canon.” I don’t think we have a ton of that second category these days anyway, aside from the Pulitzer Prize shortlists. That is very difficult to discern without hindsight. Will we still be reading “Middlesex” and “All The Light We Cannot See” in 40 years?

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      True dat, aetherhouse: the answer to this question in the next century might well be “actually there were loads of them, Tara was just talking through her arse again”. There are undoubtedly great writers out there in their 20s. It’s just that they look to be proportionately fewer than in times past. I do think that people’s 20s have become the lost generation, though. I wouldn’t revisit mine if you paid me, but I do enjoy watching shows like Girls, which remind me so much of how I used to feel.


  18. May 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    All I was worried about in my twenties was finding a life partner and having the traditional 2.4 children. I didn’t start writing until I was in my fifties. By then I was less empty-headed, the 2.4 kids had left the nest, Mr Right was out on his bike with his middle -aged cronies, and I found I’d had lots of life experiences along the way between my twenties and fifties to write about. I’m still writing about them…

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      The older I get, the more I think a writer has to have quite a lot of life experience to churn out anything decent, Stevie (funny that). But I also wonder even more how such genius spewed forth from so many young writers a hundred years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. May 19, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for this post, Tara. For posing the question and sharing your own personal answer. In my 20’s, I was establishing my career while raising a family. I wrote to try to figure things, out, but rarely published. I’m glad I wrote back then: those stories became chapters in my first book 30 years later, and provided details of events and perspectives on life that I would have forgotten, had I not written.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      I’m seeing that a lot of people were writing in their 20s, Cynthia, like yourself, but kept it to themselves, and are glad of it!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. May 19, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Very simply, most people who achieved great art in their 20s decades back had family money. They didn’t have to support themselves on what they made.

    In my twenties, I was forging the beginning of a comedy career. But that had to work around two babies that came unexpectedly and a part time job at a bank.

    In my thirties, I had to decide between making comedy writing my career, or keeping it as my passion. I was already finding that ‘writing comedy to deadline’ was immensely stressful and killed the fun. I elected to maintain it as my passion – my fun- and support myself with a normal job.

    I found this post very interesting, Tara, as your 20s were quite different from mine. I have just realized that they rushed by with me having any time to think about them! Don’t recommend it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      Seems neither of our 20s were recommended reading, Melodie, let alone writing. But I know just how to fix that: lying. From this day forward, I suggest you and I begin boring people to death with tales of the marvellous achievements of our 20s. After all, if you say something often enough on the internet, it becomes true.


  21. May 19, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    In my twenties, I struggled to find new ways to prepare ramen noodles, somehow convinced my professors to grant me a degree, and watched a ton of really bad movies while beginning my climb up the corporate ladder.

    In my thirties, I wish my kids would anything on their plates, not nugget shaped, even ramen noodles and wish I had time to watch even a handful of really bad movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      If your twenties were today, Allie, you’d have Instagrammed every incarnation of the ramen noodles; social media-shamed your professors into granting you honours, and had a stellar YouTube career talking about corporate-appropriate shapewear for conference attendees.

      I think I almost prefer our past.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. May 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    It was the invention of the Teenager, Tara. Before there were teenagers, parents suckled children till it was time to go downt’pit and then turfed them out. But somewhere, around when Phil Larkin was inventing sexual intercourse in 1963, this construct of the teenager appeared and parents started wanting to be friends and wearing the same cloths and listening to the same music. Children hadn’t anyone to dislike and challenge who actively disliked them in return – parents ‘understood’ their children (I loathed my father for understanding me – bastard) whereas before it had been of the Mark Twain view – “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – So the twenties became the decade when children finally left home and had a chance to f**k up their own lives with no one else to blame and had something to write about. Today the little darlings bounce back and stay into their 30s (because we baby bastards spent it all) and beyond so we will see slippage in the next great novel. mark my words…

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      This is all very true, Geoff. I can’t even disagree with one line of it, and several parts made me laugh. This is a huge disappointment to me, and I’m very annoyed with you for ruining my day. Couldn’t you at least have blamed Facebook for some of it?

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 20, 2016 at 11:55 pm

        I’m on my way to the naughty step if I can first find my glasses

        Liked by 1 person

  23. May 19, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    OK – let’s get real here! (I haven’t read all the comments as I’m busy today so I don’t care if someone else has made the same observations!).

    1. Writing is something anyone can attempt at whatever age – however anyone can also publish said writing these days. And do. Mostly not very wisely and well…
    2. While everyone is busy putting work out, there’s far more people not reading it all. Ergo – only the very witty, funny, gossipy, flamboyant or controversial stuff gets a look in.
    3. Most average 20 year olds haven’t had enough interesting life experiences to write about attractively, especially if someone’s told them they’re ‘creative’ and they aren’t…
    4. Minor celebrities in their 20’s who’ve been told they can write and can’t, get older, better writers to ghost for them about their ‘fascinating’ childhood and the 10 days or less that they slept with someone older and much more famous…
    5. Most minor 20 year old celebs would much rather go on a reality show and get a presenting job off the back of it.
    6. Most 20 somethings have money to earn and squander, and either don’t have time and/or can’t be arsed to write something halfway interesting anyway.
    7. Writing is several weeks, if not months, or years of hard work – they’ve got better and easier things to do…

    😛 Youth is wasted on the young as they say – and these days you also have to prise their mobiles from their death grips to get them to do anything more worthwhile (unless perhaps they work in a call centre, in which case their souls are sucked dried and so they must be excused any intellectual activity). 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Ah now, Jan! Twentysomethings have a rough enough time. Imagine finding time in a busy schedule of self-loathing to make room for negative vibes from elsewhere! I think the sad thing is that the twentysomething I was, and so many of the twentysomethings I know, are really trying desperately, doggedly hard to achieve. That they can so often be their own worst enemies and don’t, is the great malaise of this age.


  24. May 19, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    I was 27 when I got my first book published. I’m now 31, and have more than 40 titles published. What was I doing before I turned 27? Mostly fighting health issues that had me in and out of hospital, but also working on the early drafts of some of the books I now have published.

    Here’s the thing though: I know from experience that there’s a big difference between writing and publishing a book, and having enough people notice and care about it that people like you doing research would know you exist. I mean, I’ve been published now for a little over four years, and the people who have read my work seem to enjoy it (at least, those who leave reviews seem to, for the most part). But most of the world doesn’t know – or care – who I am. I’m not whining about it… Though it would be awesome if more people did know who I am, especially if they then brought my books… I’m just saying that being a published author, and being an author well-known enough to be included in the statistics of research for things like this, aren’t always the same things. In other words, just because there aren’t so many well-known authors in their 20s, doesn’t actually mean there aren’t many authors in their 20s in general. Yeah, I know I’m not in my 20s any more. But I was for the first couple of years of being published.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      On no account am I saying that nobody’s getting published in their 20s, Victoria, just that the majority of best-known, or let’s say prize-winning or generally lauded contemporary authors of today have tended to come to writing later than those of a hundred years ago. So I suppose I’m basing the discussion on current literary darlings, rather than anyone else who has written or published without the same level of recognition or perceived success. The thorny issues of book marketing and what actually makes a bestseller happen to engender the majority of the rest of the posts on this blog!


  25. May 19, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    What was I doing in my 20s? Trying to fit into the corporate world, trying to write novels, and (this by far the biggest timesuck) making serious errors of judgement in my personal life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      I hear you can get thrown out of bars now for not making serious errors of judgement in your personal life as a twentysomething, Susan. At least I’ve heard that’s the case, because I was never in any danger of it applying to me. I believe it was on my 17th spectacular error of judgement that I got a laminated membership card from the Vintner’s Association.


  26. May 19, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    In my twenties, I was a wall-flower–painfully shy–and a home body. As a baby boomer I tsk tsk that wasted time. Now, I’m a late bloomer. 😀 😀 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  27. annerallen
    May 19, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    In my 20s I was actually writing all those terrible novels you listed in that hilarious post you linked to. I was traveling the world, putting off making any decisions, doing the hippie vagabond thing and scribbling away on that thinly disguised travelogue. Then I got a job in a bookstore and started writing the angsty self-exploration ones. OMG was that stuff awful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      I love the thought of you writing angsty introspection, Anne. The beauty of it all is that at the time, we were all looking at our scribblings thinking ‘Wow. This is so deep. Like, Duuuude.’ The terror of it all is that I now worry I’m going to be looking back in another 10 years at myself now, thinking ‘Oh, dear. I turned from an arsehole into a dick’

      Liked by 1 person

  28. May 19, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    I spent my twenties becoming grossly over-educated. Well, and having babies. I’m in my late thirties now and thankfully well on my way to getting over both of those hurdles. Come on creativity!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 19, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Yes indeed, Sarah. I must get me some of that. Do you know where I can get it? Now that the global recession is over, we must be able to buy creativity somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. May 19, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    They say if you can remember what you were doing in your twenties you weren’t really there. Oh wait…

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 20, 2016 at 9:19 am

      Yes. I think we might need to talk to Stephen Hawking about this one, Bernie Rose.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. May 20, 2016 at 2:51 am

    My 20’s – Clueless, married, kids, full-time job. No writing at all, Tara, until I was 50. I think it’s almost impossible to compare centuries, though. The publishing industry is totally different, and families need two full-time wage earners. Writing requires incredible commitment unless one is wealthy, retired or lucky. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 20, 2016 at 10:41 am

      I agree, Diana, but it still doesn’t explain why musicians are so successful in their 20s. Making it in the music business requires the same sort of commitment and single-mindedness. Although I suppose it only takes 3 minutes for somebody to listen to a break-out hit song, whereas getting somebody to read your book is a much tougher ask!

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 20, 2016 at 2:03 pm

        Plus you can listen to music while doing other things and we are all so busy. Reading requires setting aside time.

        Liked by 1 person

        • May 20, 2016 at 2:49 pm

          And for the big agents and publishers. it’s something they’re rarely willing to give without having heard of you first. I know what we’ll do. We’ll befriend some famous pop stars and get them to ask people to read our stuff. (Seriously, it’s probably easier than the other route)

          Liked by 1 person

  31. May 20, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head (somewhere in there), Tara. It’s a sense of urgency that’s lacking. I knew I wanted to write when I was in my 20s, but most of it was spent going to concerts (I do have an impressive list of popular – and not-so popular – musicians I’ve seen), chasing girls (who sadly could run faster than me), and drinking. As my 50s loomed, my sense of urgency loomed with them, though I’m still not writing as much as I should. There is a plan, though…

    Liked by 1 person

  32. May 20, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Far too busy in my twenties with small children, and no time… and the point brought up earlier in the comments, I had no idea I could actually do what I’d always dreamed of as a idealistic child, which is write books! By the time I realised that ‘self-loathing’ could turn into something productive and I could actually be what I wanted to be, I needed another decade to hone my craft! lol. So, I’m one of those blooming in my forties!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 20, 2016 at 10:43 am

      She who blooms last blooms longest, Lisa. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  33. May 20, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    Read Tara Sparling’s wonderful post on an intriguing subject: why modern writers who “make it” are so much older than in past generations….”James Joyce had written the genesis of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by the time he was 22, and finished Dubliners before he hit 30. Franz Kafka was dead at 40, leaving behind a considerable body of work. Ernest Hemingway published The Sun Also Rises at the age of 27.” Now read on! Thanks Tara, and Chris Graham, for leading me here.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. May 20, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Sorry, Tara. You have the sick bucket all ready and everything, but I seem to have misplaced my list of great achievements from my twenties. All I can remember about it offhand is that it’s about as long as the list of great achievements from my thirties and great achievements from my forties.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      You made a list? I scribbled one thing down on the back of a beermat once when I was 27, but then somebody used it to mop up something sticky, and that was the end of that. I envy you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 21, 2016 at 12:14 pm

        All three of the lists I mentioned contained the roundest possible number of achievements and didn’t actually require any paper.

        Liked by 1 person

  35. May 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I spent the first part of my twenties at university, then spent a season working at a ski resort, then decamped to Australia, where I worked several shitty jobs until I found one slightly less shitty. I remember buying a lot of clothes and drinking a lot of drinks and faffing around – to be honest, if I’d written any books then they would have been unremittingly awful (and then bestsellers, no doubt).

    On a serious note, I don’t think I could write the stories I write now without the life experience I’ve had. So, while I wish my skin and my thighs were firmer, I’m a lot happier and more grounded than I was then. Plus I don’t drink so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 20, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      It’s funny, Helen, for so many people, their twenties are a wasted decade of drifting and drinking, and yet to hear current commentary, you’d swear it started with millennials. One thing never changes, and that’s the complaints about the next generation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 20, 2016 at 3:15 pm

        Yes, so true – I didn’t really know anyone who had it ‘together’ in their 20’s. And the complaints about every generation except the one we belong to are nothing new, I agree 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  36. May 20, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    This is a great post. I appreciate the humor behind it, but it’s interesting that it’s noticeable. I think interest in reading is fading, and maybe they’re designing video games or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 21, 2016 at 9:32 am

      That’s an excellent point. We talk of distractions from writing, but not about a general decline in reading. If not designing video games, perhaps the energies of twentysomethings are being poured into lists like ’10 things only people who’ve dreamt of bare-knuckle boxing Barney the Dinosaur will understand’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 21, 2016 at 2:16 pm

        It’s a new world. Someone has to create all those memes. I wonder if it’s hurting Hallmark.

        Liked by 1 person

  37. May 23, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I can smugly state I had no idea I wanted to write, in my 20s. Too busy killing brain cells, so I suppose it was a choice I made somewhere along the line, maybe, I can’t remember… My 30s opened as untouched as a painter’s canvas and I was really to spill color all over it. And I’ve been spilling color like a dervish. Then I read this post, of course. And realized I’m way behind schedule and it’s all pointless and even if I wrote 1000 words a day, I’d never make up for lost time…
    Ah well, choccy biccie?
    Cheers, T.

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      Hold on until I finish this piece of tart and read 5 woefully-written articles about the Billboard Music Awards last night, Jackie. And then I’ll be right with you.

      Which decade is it that we’re supposed to get focused again?

      Liked by 1 person

  38. June 1, 2016 at 11:43 am

    When I was in my early 20s, I remember freaking out at the successes of Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson who are both around my vintage. It coincided with my becoming a fugitive from making an effort while spectacularly underestimating the power of my unlocked potential. I’m still only 23 most days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 1, 2016 at 11:55 am

      I had a similar experience when I was around 22 when I found out Mark Philippoussis was a few months younger than me, and I didn’t even play tennis. Child prodigies are one thing, but successful people in their 20s are a curse and should be kept inside at all times.

      Liked by 1 person

  39. June 1, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Of course, I mean.. overestimating. There I go again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  40. July 8, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I’m in my 20s! 20 years of age to be exact. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 7 and watched the biographical film of Iris Murdoch. I then wrote many many bad short stories, very weak beginning of novels I never finished. Going through secondary school and starting at university I did become swept up in the need to get a ‘real’ job and started putting my mind to becoming a journalist, joining socieities and applying for journalist work experience placements e.t.c It was only when I took a year abroad out of my studies in Paris that I finally had the time to write a ‘proper’ full length novel. Though, the fact that I study English Literature and Creative Writing probably has a big effect on my writing ambitions. I agree, think the need to secure a real working job definitely has alot to do with why there are so few of us in our 20s focused on becoming serious writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 8, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      I suppose that’s always been the case, though, April, so my question was more regarding why we have fewer big writers in their 20s nowadays in comparison to the past. But yes, we’ve all been in the same boat, so I can empathise!


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