Jeanne: (Your Writing) Life Begins at 40

Depositphotos_153459928_s-2019Or 50, or 60, or 70—or even older.

One of the great things about writing is that there’s no cutoff to when you can start. If as a child you dreamed of being a professional baseball player or a prima ballerina, you’ve probably already missed your window of opportunity. The ability to write, on the other hand, stays with us as long was we can conjure thoughts. If fact, it can be argued that there are distinct advantages to waiting till you’re a little older to start writing.

Here are five reasons why writing may actually get easier with age:

1) You know a lot more about life when you’re older than you do when you’re young. As we age, we collect experiences. As we go through life, we constantly revise our understanding of how the world works, based on new experience and new evidence. You have never before been as wise as you are right now.

2) You have fewer family responsibilities. After your kids grow up a little and life slows down, freeing up time to write. I once heard an editor tell a room full of writers that the only people she believed truly couldn’t scrape up enough time to write were those with small children. Infants, toddlers and elementary school children are a lot of work, and it’s not work that can be put off. Once your kids are teenagers (or even older), they’re a lot more hands-off, freeing up time for you to create fictional worlds.

3) You know a lot more about people. Most of us understand other people better when we’re older than when we’re young. Many of us had a boyfriend or two back in high school or college that seemed like he might be The One. Now, looking back from the vantage point of maturity, we can see a dozen clues that would tell us, right off the bat, that he wasn’t Mr. Right. We now know the difference between a real smile and a fake one. We know that people are much more apt to lie about things than we ever would have believed when we were eighteen. And we’ve learned that people have greater depths, greater compassion and greater resilience than we ever could have imagined back when we were in college.

4) You step away from the rat race. Once you reach a point in your career where you know what you’re doing, most jobs become less time and energy consuming. And once you realize you’re never going to be CEO, there’s a little more breathing room—and brain space—to focus on other things.

When we’re in our twenties and thirties, we’re often running as fast as we can, trying to prove ourselves, trying to learn the ropes, trying to get ahead. As our careers level out in middle age, this can free up time and energy to attempt a more creative endeavor—like writing.

5) You know yourself better.

I’m not going to pretend that learning to write fiction is effortless. It’s not. The amount of stuff you have to master—plotting, setting, dialogue, characterization, not to mention the business side of things—is immense. But, just as you learned how to read people, how to do your job efficiently, how to raise kids, and how to navigate the world, you can learn all these things.

Because you know yourself so well, you also know the most effective ways for you to learn. There are a host of teaching modalities out there for learning the craft and business of writing—books, classes, conferences, podcasts. Through learning all the other skills you’ve mastered in life, you know which approaches work for you and which ones don’t.

I know I’ve shared this quote here on Eight Ladies before, but it’s my absolute favorite, so I’ll share it again:

There is no such thing as old age. There is, as there always was, just you. Carol Matthau

Stop making excuses. There has never been a better time to start your writing life than right now!


12 thoughts on “Jeanne: (Your Writing) Life Begins at 40

  1. One thing I’ve been happy about since this pandemic began is that with writing, I have a daily activity that I enjoy. Plus, it takes a lot of time, and that’s something we all have in plenty these days.

  2. My writing life almost began at 40. My employer was taken over, I decided to move on, and found myself with some free time and a little money. I’d always intended to write *one day* and thought the time had come. Then out of the blue I was offered a fun and interesting part-time job. I took it, thinking I’d found the perfect setup–enough work to pay the bills but enough time to write. Yeah, no. After about six months that part-time job became full-time (and more than full time) and stayed that way for nearly a decade. I learned a lot but when my 50th birthday came around and I still hadn’t done any writing I knew it was time to make changes.

    So my writing life began at 51 and for me it was perfect timing–for all the reasons you list above. Plus, also, the advent of indie publishing made writing fiction even more empowering and enjoyable (though arguably even harder work). I’m so glad I took the plunge and I plan to write for as long as my brain and body will permit 🙂

  3. Yay! This is very inspirational! I’ve been a writer for a very long time, but not what would be called a successful writer — no books, only novellas; nothing of note published for years; my most successful stories have been seen by maybe 100 eyeballs.

    But there’s still time, thank goodness for that.

  4. Pingback: Getting Started With Writing As A Business – Sarah Scribbles

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