I started writing in my early 40s – not from any desire to have something published but from a compulsion to get my thoughts on to paper after the painful break-up of a long-term relationship. My first attempts were pure therapy – I was splurging out my anger and despair. At that time had anyone told me that I was actually taking my first clumsy steps towards becoming a writer I wouldn’t have believed them.
At school I hadn’t shone. In English lessons I’d been okay but nothing special, the only subject I was any good at was art, so I was surprised to realise after about a year of unstructured, emotional outpourings that I loved writing and seemed to be getting better at it!
I joined a creative writing class near my flat in north London. There are differing views on these classes – some insist that if you’re a born writer you don’t need anything other than talent and application. From my own experience I know that not all of us are confident enough to trust in our potential or even recognise it – we need a person, trigger, support mechanism to encourage us to take the risk of allowing ourselves to try. Through that class I made writing friends who remain my friends to this day.
The first piece I wrote was a short story which I immediately consigned to a file in my desk drawer. The story didn’t see the light of day for two decades when it finally appeared in my short story collection, As You Step Outside. I was 45 before I had anything actually published: not a novel, not a biography or a story – just a very short poem. I was so happy and encouraged. That poem and other small pieces of prose and poetry kept me going till finally at the age of 50, my first novel, The Comedienne was published by Diva Books.
I am now well into my 60s and hope to have my fifth book, Mr Oliver’s Object of Desire out later this year.
Commitment to produce the best work that you’re capable of, taking joy from what you’re working on, these are not age dependent. To anyone who thinks it’s too late to start writing or begin anything that they have a hankering to do, I say – get going now!
VG Lee will be performing at Polari Up North, Saturday 5 March, 7.45pm, LBT.
Image: VG Lee reading at Polari Up North in 2014 (c Jonathan Jacob)