Becoming a Writer in Your 40s, 50s, and Beyond

bwAge can be a touchy topic for artists of all types. There’s a glamorous myth that says all the geniuses come into their talent at a young age, and by the time they’re 30 they have already reached astonishing heights of prowess.

But like so many other sexy tales that figure into writing mythology, this one has little basis in fact.

Yes, there are examples of young writers who wrote their masterpiece in their 20s, but there are also countless other examples of writers who didn’t even put pen to page until after the age of 40. Most of my clients, in fact, are over the age of 40. Through my experiences in coaching these writers who didn’t discover their true passion until later in life I’ve identified three different types. Which one are you?

Reunited—and It Feels So Good
This type of writer usually wrote a lot in her youth. She may even have won awards or gained recognition for her early writing. But somewhere along the way she got lost. Maybe it was a bad relationship, or a demanding career that offered money too good to pass up, but somewhere between her teenage years and her current day reality, she stopped writing. And after so much time passed, she resigned herself to the possibility being lost forever.

But then, life surprises her. And this time it isn’t with a bad relationship or crazy-making career, it’s with an opportunity to start writing again. This type of writer finds herself completely and unexpectedly immersed in writing her book, finally.  She might be 45 or 60, but she feels like a teenager again. Everything about this process is new. And a little scary.

Nursing a Secret Flame
This is the writer who always keeps a journal, no matter what.  He might have long ago stopped writing stories and coming up with plots for an actual audience to enjoy, but he still jots down his thoughts and musings occasionally. This writer has usually gone through a lot of stop-and-go attempts, starting a few different things over the years but never finishing them. He also continues to read avidly and has a mile-long list of writers he admires. Of all the types, this type of writer experiences the most mental anguish. Because he never stops beating himself up for not writing.

From what I’ve seen, the Secret Flames do best if they have external support. Joining a writing group, hiring a writing coach, or even just enlisting one person as a writing partner who will commit to showing up at the local Starbucks with them to write once a week—these are all options that have the power to pull the Secret Flame out of his writing funk and get him back on track with writing. The support for this type is crucial. Because they suffer the most from self-doubt, even when they start writing again they’re terrified that it won’t last.

Never Saw It Coming
These writers spend most of their lives engaged in other professions, usually careers that have little to do with creative writing. Engineers, forest rangers, politicians, healthcare workers, they come from all over the spectrum. Much of the time this type of writer has reached retirement age and is beginning to look back on her long, extremely adventurous life. She’s always had this tickle in the back of her mind that maybe someday she would write it all down. And now someday has come.

Interestingly, this type of writer is most likely to be over the age of 60, and also most likely to do really well with social media, blogging, website design, and self-publishing. It’s like writing the book opened up the floodgates of courage in their hearts and now they’re ready to tackle anything.

I’ve also noticed that intuitive writers tend to start writing later in life and I have my own theory on this. I believe that the intuitive personality takes a little longer to develop, as we gather so much of our information about the world through our intuition, which can’t be rushed. I talk about this in-depth in my book, The INFJ Writer:

“This is why many writers don’t get their start on writing until later in life. They’re waiting for their World Theory to fully coalesce and mature. Whether…writing a literary novel, or a work of nonfiction, it’s probable that the writing is focusing on people in some way. How certain characters react in different situations, or why people in real life do the things they do. Most [writers] are extremely interested in psychology and human behavior. This is reflected in the writing work they put out into the world. And the sum total of all they’ve observed and analyzed is contained in their World Theory.”

If you’re interested in reading more about writers who get their start later in life, you might want to check out:

Who Decides How Old Is “Too Old” for a Screenwriter?

Writers of a Certain Age…Is It Too Late?

Why Women Memoir Writers Need to Think Bigger

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