Second Chapters. Third Acts. Call it what you will, your sixties are a time to recreate, reclaim and often reinvent yourself. You may be retired or partially so. You did a good job with the kids and they are carving out their own lives now. Maybe you’ve left a marriage and find yourself single again.
Whatever the circumstances, the true confession that I hear so many times is, “I have always wanted to write.” And now is your time to do so.
At sixty-something you have far more experience and cred under your belt than you did when you were in your twenties. You’ve had time and cause to think about life, reflect upon its meaning and chances are, have hard-won wisdom to share.
Maybe you want to tell your life story or maybe you want to tell stories about the life around you.
I am a fiction writer. I study, experiment with and work the long-form format. And, though I do not yet have a published novel, I do have bragging rights for signing with a New York City literary agent this past year who hopefully will give me a good chance of selling my first novel.
But, there is more than one way to be a writer – and more than one way to tell a story.
If you want to write, it’s likely because you already know how. You were “that” kid in English who excelled at description and nuance when it came to short stories or essay. Or you made it through the heartbreak of unrequited love in your teens by penning poetry.
Whatever kind of writer you are, your sixties provide you with a somewhat quieter lifestyle – and that makes the perfect environment for being a writer.
So, where do you start if you haven’t done much in the way of writing since high school? Here are 7 ways to reinvent yourself as a writer:
This twenty-year-old writing classic has provided inspiration to thousands of aspiring writers. By following Goldberg’s free-writing exercises and prompts, you’ll start to discover not only your voice, but what’s important to you.
What is it that you want to write about? What lights you up? Makes your heart sing? These are always great starting points for creating a writing project that matters to you.
If you are really into this writing thing and want to go the novel route, the resources I recommend are: Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks, and Robert McKee’s Story.
Find space in a room where you can have a writer’s desk or comfy chair. Put out the symbols of writing on your desk and shelves. I have a few reference books on my desk and a stack of yellow legal pads, along with a precious cup of writing pens. The cup was made by my nephew David in a pottery class and gifted to my husband and I one Christmas. I absconded with the cup!
Even though I write on a computer, I do all of my preparation on yellow legal pads. Some people prefer to write in notebooks or nicely bound journals. If you are going to share your writing, however, you may want to enter it into a computer for posterity’s sake.
I write from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. every day. It’s important to note that I worked up to that. For heaven’s sake don’t start with three hours a day! You will most likely set yourself up for failure.
Instead start with twenty minutes a day and let it ride. Once you’ve done that for awhile and feel comfortable with your voice and are discovering what you like to write about, then start to increase your time.
It’s a little like the family dog, messy and joyful. Blogs are a great way to put your writing into the world. Invite your friends and family to follow it so you can have some readers right away.
You can post as frequently or as infrequently as you like.
Maybe your thing is grandchildren and you write about yours a couple of times a week, or your garden, your kitchen or your volunteer work. This is a good first foray into the world of writing. My personal preference is WordPress for creating and maintaining a blog.
You can sign up for a newsletter account through MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or a wide variety of others. These free accounts will allow you to send mass emails up to 2,000 recipients before you have to change to a paid account.
A monthly family and friends newsletter, replete with personal pictures, is a great way to document life for the ones you love.
There are all different kinds of books, fiction, nonfiction, short story collection, memoir, just to name a few. If you want to write a book, work your way up to it first by writing short stories or short essays. It’s a lot to take on an entire book when you’re first getting started.
If memoir speaks to you, I suggest reading Jennifer Lauck’s memoir, Black Bird to see how she did it. I wish I had my grandmother’s memoir or my mother’s. There are so many questions I had yet to ask.
Personal journals that reflect your thoughts, feeling and observations of the world are a great place to build your writing chops. Commit to writing daily and carry a journal in your purse, so that when you are sitting in a park or having a cup of coffee somewhere, you can pull out your journal and write about the world around you. I like to think of this as “contemplative writing.”
No matter what kind of writing you choose to do, whether you pick one or dabble in several, know that the world will be a better place with your words and stories in it.
Are you interested in becoming a writer? Which one of the seven writing ideas are you going to try first? Tell us in the comments.
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Thank you so much for this. I’m on the cusp of 60 and presently trying to decide on making that leap, “Turning Pro” as novelist Steven Pressfield says in his excellent The War of Art.