Notes on Napkins

musings for songwriters

It’s Never Too Late to Write a Great Song


“I’m still learning.” – Michaelangelo, at age 87

Songwriting is a craft that you can begin working on at any stage in your life. Unlike recording artists, who often have pressure to look and dress a certain way or to be a certain age, songwriters never have to “look the partBluebird cafe.” Even in Nashville where it’s common for a songwriter to become “famous” among the locals, nobody cares how old they are, if their vocals are perfectly pitched, or what size dress they fit in.  They can show up to play a gig at the famous Bluebird Cafe in a t-shirt and old jeans (not even black ones) and their songs speak for themselves.

Great Nashville songwriters like Harlan Howard, Richard Leigh, Bobby Braddock, Tom Shapiro, Jeffrey Steele, Al Anderson and Gretchen Peters were, or still are, cranking out hits for young recording artists in their 50’s and 60’s (and that list is just off the top of my head). Singer songwriters like Elton John, Sting, Dylan, Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Cyndi Lauper all continue to write new material and reinvent themselves well into their prime. So, if you’re reading this and have a desire to write songs, nothing is stopping you. I would only add as a caveat that you have to be willing to continue to learn, to grow, and to be open to your surroundings…but that’s not rocket science.

For a little more inspiration, here’s a short list of diverse folks who accomplished great things at a more “mature” age. I culled this list from and a couple of Google searches and admittedly haven’t fact-checked it, but it seems right to me!

  • J.K. Rowling was 30 years old when she finished the first manuscript of Harry Potter.
  • Mark Twain was 40 when he wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, and 49 years old when he wrote “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
  • Rosa Parks was 42 when she refused to obey the bus driver’s order to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger.
  • Suzanne Collins was 46 when she wrote “The Hunger Games.”
  • Charles Darwin was 50 years old when his book On the Origin of Species came out.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci was 51 years old when he painted the Mona Lisa.
  • Ray Kroc Was 53 when he bought the McDonalds franchise and took it to unprecedented levels.
  • Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat.”
  • Colonel Harland Sanders was 61 when he started the KFC Franchise.
  • Ronald Regan entered politics at age 55 and eventually became the oldest person to ever become President, at the age of 69.
  • Artist Paul Cézanne was 56 years old when he was given his first art exhibition.Grandma Moses
  • J.R.R Tolkien was 62 when the Lord of the Ring books came out.
  • Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at age 73.
  • George R.R. Martin was 63 when HBO purchased the television rights for his A Song of Ice and Fire series and launched the mega-hit “Game of Thrones” for which Martin actively writes and produces.
  • Grandma Moses started painting at age 76. Three years later her art was hanging at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Write on, friends!


Author: Sara Light

Sara Light has been writing professionally in Nashville since 1996. Her credits include the John Michael Montgomery title track and the hit single "Home To You" which received an ASCAP airplay award in addition to being named SESAC song of the year for having garnered 2 million spins on radio. She also composed songs for the musical "Urban Cowboy, The Musical" which opened on Broadway in March 2003 and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score." Sara has always combined her love of teaching with her love of songwriting and has given countless songwriting seminars throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 2001 she co-founded, along with her husband Danny Arena, the online educational website Besides being one of the main administrators (and now bloggers) Sara teaches Song Feedback and Lyric Writing at

6 thoughts on “It’s Never Too Late to Write a Great Song

  1. Oh Sara, you are an inspiration!!

    You must have read my mind and maybe others but you sure sent this article out at the appropriate time. I was wondering if I should continue on this writing adventure that I have fallen in love with, at this stage in my life? Especially after my co-write experience. You know that ghostly music aoooh aoooh aoooh lol Well, I won’t put it in my pipe and smoke it but I will key it in my computer and print it.



    On Sat, Jul 23, 2016 at 1:43 PM, Notes on Napkins wrote:

    > Sara Light posted: ““I’m still learning.” – Michaelangelo, at age 87 > Songwriting is a craft that you can begin working on at any stage in your > life. Unlike recording artists, who often have pressure to look and dress a > certain way or to be a certain age, songwriters never” >

    • Gwen, I’m so glad this article came at the right time for you! I’m inspired by you too for following your heart and taking on a new challenge.

  2. I don’t feel like I’m that good. I only write Christian songs. I am 68 and don’t have a strong background in writing.
    I feel God has put words in my heart to write down. .
    I got a contract to sign for two of my songs don’t really know if this is good or bad.
    I don’t play any musical instrument.
    In September I start piano lessons.
    August 13, I go to my first songwriting workshop.
    Sometimes I feel like I am over my head and friends and family shy away from my excitement about writing songs.

    • If it’s in your heart, you should try it. By the way, no matter what age you are, friends and family generally have a hard time understanding our passion to write songs. I would also recommend that at the same time you educate yourself on the music business so you can proceed with caution and spend your time and money wisely.

  3. Way to go! Good luck.

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