It’s Never Too Late

The best writing advice I ever received wasn’t exactly writing advice at all. It was a little quote I read it on an ugly gift shop magnet 10 years ago. It was such good advice that I still have that little magnet all these years later. I keep it on the fridge as a reminder. I think of it whenever I start feeling too sorry for myself. I think of it whenever I get too focused on what I cannot do.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

George Eliot

The advice came from the English novelist George Eliot, who it turns out was actually the English novelist Mary Ann Evans. A woman who chose a male name so that her work might be taken more seriously.

I know, it isn’t real writing advice. It isn’t about grammar, constructing a scene, “killing your darlings”, or building a daily habit. It isn’t about the process of writing, the struggle of writing, or the triumph you feel after you have written. It isn’t even about how to become an author or sell your story. Nonetheless, it has been the best writing advice I have ever received. It is the reason I write at all.

In this world, only the young have any hope. You are too old for everything by the time you are 25. If you haven’t done it — wrote a hit song, topped the bestsellers list, won a gold medal — it’s over for you. You will live a life where you are painfully ordinary. A life where you make no difference in the world and are forgotten soon after your sad and lonely death. And if your youth was marred by abuse, tragedy, or poverty, you can hang up your hat by the time your 15. The world will have given up on you.

By the time I was 15, I had dropped out of high school and everyone knew I would end up either “flipping burgers”, in jail, or dead. I wasn’t even sure I would see 25.
And then I see this ugly magnet in a gift shop somewhere I can’t even remember anymore. Telling me:

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been”

I wasn’t sure I believed those words but I wanted to. They sounded nice. They sounded like they came from a world where good things happen to good people and everyone is given a chance to make up for the past. It sounded like they came from a place that didn’t exist on this Earth.

I wanted to believe that that little girl inside me still had the chance to do something amazing and good. I could still be happy, I could still make a difference, I could still inspire others. So, I set out to get better. I worked on myself. I found love. I learned something about the world. For years, I grew into myself and all the while I never forgot those words.

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been”

Who might I have been? I might have been a lot of things, but I wish more than anything I might have been a writer. I might have been someone who had something interesting and beautiful to say. I might have been someone who could weave words to make the hardest man weep. I might have been someone who shined a light in the dark. I might have been someone who filled the world with feeling and reminded people what love was.

I am 31 years old now and standing far from that dream. I have to find out what kind of writer I’d like to be and how to be it in the rawest and most authentic way. I have to read as much as I can and learn from the masters of the craft. I have to keep my focus and never lose hope Most of all, I have to write, write, write all day, every day.

I have a whole lot of work ahead of me if I ever want to get there but I wouldn’t be trying if I hadn’t been for that silly magnet and that quote. If Mary Ann Evans hadn’t spoken to me across time and space to tell me that I could still be something. That it wasn’t too late, it is never too late to be who might have been.

If she hadn’t told me that I still might be a name on the cover of a book that will change the world.

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Originally written for The Writing Collective on Medium

 

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Lisa

Hello! My name is Lisa. I find the human condition fascinating and I often write stuff about that. I blog at zenandpi.com but you can also find me on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, and if you like what I do, consider signing up for my newsletter. Thanks :)

15 thoughts on “It’s Never Too Late”

    1. I’ve gotten so many responses from people much older than me! You all have been more inspiring than my George Eliot quote. It’s beautiful to see so many chasing their dreams :)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow. I’m so sorry that you grew up thinking life was over at 25 or maybe 15. I’m so sorry that nobody took the time to encourage you, and to show you that Great Things sometimes happen in the everyday – helping a stranger, being part of a larger group, teaching. I’m sorry that nobody introduced you to others who’s “greatness” happened late in life, like Grandma Moses, for example.

    AND I can’t wait for your books to come out!

    Like

    1. Society puts a lot of pressure on teenagers to choose the course of the rest of their lives before they are capable. Many are taught that one wrong step could mean a life of hardship. I made a lot of wrong steps. I’m lucky I have a passion that didn’t require that I made the right steps when I was younger (although it certainly would’ve helped lol) and I can still do something great. For so many, life can feel like it’s over as the hurdles are much higher to jump later in life. I know it can be done but I mourn the loss of what could have been. I wrote this for so many others who feel that way too.

      I can’t wait to publish my books either! One day, if I can stay strong enough and determined enough. Thank you for reading, as always :)

      Like

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