Category Archives: Aspiring Writers

Writing After Age 50–It’s Never Too Late.

It wasn’t until I took a children’s literature course in college that I discovered the “Little House” books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The series was published decades earlier between 1932 and 1943. I was a late bloomer joining the Little House Fan Club. Laura was a late bloomer herself. She published the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, when she was 64.

Maybe, like Laura, you are older than 50 and thinking about writing a book. It could be you don’t know where to begin and the path to publication feels overwhelming. Talent has no expiration date. You are never too old to learn.

Henry Ford said—
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

There are advantages to being an older writer.

  • You’ve collected years of life experiences younger writers might not have, for example growing into a deeper relationship with your spouse through years of marriage, raising your children to adulthood, making it through heart-wrenching valleys and soaring to the heights of celebration.
  • If you are a reader, you’ve likely read thousands of books equalling thousands of examples of good and bad writing.
  • You have more time now to write than when you were younger.

So, where to begin?
First, think about these questions:

What do you want to write?
Why do you want to write?
What rewards to you expect from writing?
Think about the skills and talents you acquired that moved you forward from your first job to where you are today. How might you apply those to starting a new career as a writer?

Next, recognize that writing for publication is a business. It takes work, ambition and fortitude to get published. Most important, it requires learning. Study and learn the steps to getting published traditionally or by self publishing. There are many guides online to get you started.

One of the best resources, in my opinion, is Jane Friedman’s web site. Jane is a writer and consultant with more than twenty years experience in the publishing industry. You will find tons of free advice and resources on her page.

Remember to stay current. Avoid boarding the mental time machine that spits out phrases like, “When I was young . . . back then . . . I remember when . . .” Don’t put a date stamp on your forehead. Even if you plan to write a memoir or an historical novel find an angle that feels new, fresh and exciting. Keep up with current trends. Connect with younger writers who can provide you with a fresh look at writing and publishing in the 21st century.

Finally, set realistic expectations, and stay positive. You’ve worked hard all your life. This is your time now. Enjoy writing. Love it at its core. Author, Annie Proulx, said, “You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page.” Write for the joy of writing.

“No one has ever achieved anything from the smallest to the greatest unless the dream was dreamed first.” —Laura Ingalls Wilder

You’ve dreamed of being a writer. It’s never too late to get started turning that dream into reality.

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You Are Never Too Old to Be a Writer

You got mail Granny writing message to her grandchildren through the Internet
A friend said to me recently, “I wanted to be a writer when I was young. I even studied journalism, but then life got in the way. Now, I’m too old to write.”

This woman is, let’s just say, older. We’re about the same age.

“You’re not too old to write!” I said. “I’m older—and I write.”

“But you’ve worked in publishing your whole adult life. It’s your career.”

Age should never deter a person from pursuing a dream. Whether it’s writing or anything else. But age might require a dream to be modified. As our conversation continued I asked if she wanted to write for fun or for publication.

She said, “I’d love to be published.”

“That’s possible,” I said. “But first you should write because it’s fun and it’s something you want to do. There are no age limits on creativity. In fact, now that you’re older, you have more experience to draw from and that can mean richer content.”

She had reached an age when she didn’t need to juggle her writing time with raising kids and a job and other life-gets-in-the-way things. I pointed out that now she had time to write and finally pursue her dream.

“Don’t allow age to be your enemy, ” I said. “Don’t listen when it says, ‘You’re too old to write’. Just write because you love it—but if you want to get published, you’ll have some work to do.”

We talked a lot about technology. She had slipped behind keeping up with the software writers use not only to write but also to edit and track changes. She didn’t know about the vast array of online learning opportunities. She wasn’t familiar with social media and how to network there. She hadn’t considered the ways the publishing business has changed in the decades since she’d studied journalism or that most publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts.

“Whether you want to self-publish or go the traditional route, you’ll need to dig in, learn, and get up to speed,” I told her. “Writing is a creative art, and it requires mastery. Write because you want to write, but then be willing to learn how to write even better. You’re never too old to take classes, to join a local writers’ group, to get on social media and connect with writers of all ages . . . and you’re never too old to get your work published.”
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Maybe, like my friend, you are older and thinking about writing for publication. You are more prepared for the journey now than your younger self might have been. You are better equipped to use skills you’ve honed with age, skills like patience, perseverance, good judgment, problem solving, self-motivation. Add those to your talent and creativity.

Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty when she was in her 50s.

Laura Ingalls Wilder made notes and started writing her Little House books when she was in her 40s, but it wasn’t until she was in her 60’s she published.

Frank McCourt after retiring from a teaching career wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, Angela’s Ashes. He was in his 60s.

Richard Adams told bunny stories to his daughters. They asked him to write the stories down. Later in life, those stories amalgamated into a book, Watership Down, published when Adams was in his 50s.

istockphoto-850836736-612x612Bump up your confidence level. Dust off that old dream. Decide how to modify it to align with where you are right now at your present age.

Don’t allow age to become an issue, instead use it to your advantage. You are much smarter and wiser now than you used to be. Do your best to think and act young, because if your writing does get published you will likely be working with editors younger than yourself. Stop saying you’re technologically challenged and feeling overwhelmed by it, instead commit to learning the technology one step at a time.  “I’m too old to write,” is an excuse. You are never too old to be a writer, and it’s not too late to get published—if you are willing to do the work.

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“Do I Need a Degree to Become a Writer?”

question“Do I need a degree to become a writer?” It’s an ambiguous question I get most often from writers who want to be published. The answer is “no”.

Do you need a degree in English, creative writing, journalism or literature to become a published author? “No.”

Do you need to study the craft of writing to become an even better writer?
“Yes.”

There are many paths to publication. Sometimes work or study in a field other than writing sparks a person’s desire to write and leads to a writing career.

Harper Lee studied law in college. What she learned in Law School led her to write To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize award-winning novel about a lawyer and racial injustice in the 1930s.

830664Barbara Kingsolver wanted to be a classical pianist, but instead she studied biology and earned a Master’s degree in ecology. She transitioned into writing freelance as a help to editors. On her website, Kingsolver writes, “. . . editors knew they could send me into a biotech lab or epidemiology office, where people seemed to be speaking in tongues, and I’d come out with a printable story in lay-person’s English. I was glad for my training.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a medical doctor who supplemented his income by writing. His Sherlock Holmes character made Doyle one of history’s most famous mystery/crime writers. Doyle said Holmes was inspired by the real-life figure of Joseph Bell, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, whom Conan Doyle met in 1877 and had worked for as a clerk.

51eubGSrthL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Kurt Vonnegut studied anthropology, but was unhappy with his college classes. His wife, his first muse, encouraged him to write. After becoming famous, Vonnegut spoke up in support of writers with non-literary backgrounds. When he heard writers talking about sending notices to college English departments about literary opportunities, he suggested, “Send them to the chemistry departments, send them to the zoology departments, send them to the anthropology departments and the astronomy departments and physics departments, and all the medical and law schools. That’s where the writers are most likely to be…I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature.”

Finally, I offer myself as an example. No, I’m not famous or even a well-known writer, but I’m published and happily self-employed freelancing. I studied music in college. In my sophomore year, I switched my major to elementary education. A required children’s literature class led to a Master’s degree in library science. I loved writing, but I hadn’t thought to pursue it as a career. I submitted several writing samples to Golden Books in Wisconsin, and I was offered an editorial job. I learned the business of publishing there and then I set out on my own to freelance.

Do you need a college degree to become a writer? No. But to get published you need talent, willingness to learn by self-studying the craft, practice and, of course, patience.

Write and learn.
The world is your classroom. 

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If you are on Facebook, Check out my page where I post articles
and inspiration for writers.

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