It took me 34 years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I give myself a break since the first 25-30 years of a person's life are meant for experimentation, exploration, and adventure. Year after year, friends from high school and college settled into their various professions, got married, started families, and more or less seemed content with their lives. I, on the other hand, still searched for the elusive moment when I would know exactly how I wanted to spend my life. I took a lot of paths, climbed a lot of peaks, and hit just as many plateaus.
During those years I co-founded a family business that would end up keeping me busy for more than a decade, and continue into my 30's. My schooling consisted of business management and culinary arts; hardly prerequisites for what I would end up doing with my life. Despite the success that comes from hard work and perseverance during difficult economical times, that "moment" continued to evade me.
Then it happened. Two years after I published my first book, I had that moment. Of course I had already known I wanted to write, but it started out as a hobby, not a career. Then in my 34th year while trying to meet a partriculary grueling deadline and wondering how I ever talked myself into becoming an author, I realized my own future. Undeterred by the crazy deadlines, weeks of revisions, and those mind-numbing hours of fear believing that you have no more stories left to tell, I pressed on.
No one knows how long it takes to become a great writer. Many of those whom we consider great will likely say that they continue to learn daily, they suffer from doubts, and miss deadlines. They're also likely to confess that writing is the best and worst thing to ever happen to them, and they can't imagine doing anything else. At least, that's what I would say, and I'm not one of the greats.
Writers are human, too, with all of the craziness that comes with daily life. Sometimes we don't know how to get through the day, let alone finish a book, but we do it.
A question I'm often asked is "What advice would I give a new writer?" I've shared my "wisdom" with those who ask, but I rarely feel qualified to impart what I've learned because I'm still learning. What I can tell them is that no matter how smart you are, how much you've written in the past, how much you read, or how dedicated you are, there will always be someone smarter, better read, and more dedicated. There will always be someone more successful. Don't compare yourself with other writers. Seek to learn from them, emulate them, and respect them, but don't compare. A writer's voice is their own, comparable to no one.
You'll stumble, fall, and wish you had chosen another path, but the only way to rise to the level of those you admire is to press on.