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I Became a Writer at 40. Here’s What I’ve Learned

become a writer at 40

  • May 5, 2022
  • / Articles     Writing
  • / By Eleanor Plackett

After the outbreak of COVID-19, many of us were forced to reassess our values and consider whether we had been happy and fulfilled in the first place.

I was one of them.

I had been a TV Producer for 20 years, starting from the bottom as a runner—my first job involved spending 14 hours a day in an old plane hangar helping people find the toilets.

Two decades later, I was working on some of the UK’s best-known shows with a book full of contacts. But I decided to turn my back on it all—while raising a toddler. 

To live my dream of becoming a freelance writer. 

In January 2022, on my 40th birthday, I decided I was never going back to my old career. That I was going to become a writer.

So I removed all my details from job sites, stopped responding to potential employers, and focused entirely on becoming a writer. And despite only working part-time, I have already achieved my goal of being paid to do it!

I was terrified to make the jump, but I was able to overcome my fears. 

So here’s what I learned from this process and how you can do the same.

Lesson One: Changing Your Mindset Can Change Your Life

career change writer

Remember the collective Corona nightmares the planet was having during quarantine? Multiply that anxiety by ten and add in some imposter syndrome.

That was me. 

Even though I knew I wanted out of my old career, it still felt sad to leave it behind. Like so many of us, I’d worked hard to build it. 

Climbing the ladder. Making contacts. Missing holidays and celebrations with loved ones. Doing work at lower rates because that’s “expected.”

We live in a society where our identity is so tied up with our jobs that I cared what it would say about me to “quit.” And the truth is, starting over is scary. 

But I had so many transferable skills, and once I figured that out, it changed everything.

You’d be amazed at how many of life’s baseballs you have already smashed out of the park. When I decided to pursue writing, I sat down and took a long hard look at what I’d achieved previously.

The problem?

Aside from the writing part of my old job, none of my experience seemed relevant.

With writing, it’s not just what you say. It’s the way you say it. You have to be able to persuade people. 

As a TV Producer, difficult conversations are par for the course. With contestants we suspected of cheating on game shows. Or with upset children that are about to burst into tears on live TV.

On an average day filming, you could find me: 

  • Counselling co-workers who were in floods of tears
  • Fixing a photocopier that last fulfilled its potential in 1998
  • Convincing an Olympic gymnast to wear more clothes during a world record attempt

I even had to roll my sleeves up and paint a ceiling on a makeover show once.

I discovered that writing is a multi-platform business . You’re wearing different hats daily. You’re a storyteller, a producer, and a data analyst, all rolled into one. As well as being creative, you need to communicate effectively with clients, multitask, and problem solve.

So take time to look back on your past achievements. Compile a list of all the skills you used in your old job. And while you’re there, add all the amazing ways you’ve overcome obstacles in your personal life. Then compare this expertise to the skills a freelance writer needs.

Moreover, don’t forget to talk to colleagues. They might remember a time when you were a total boss at work or provide insights into what skills you bring to the team.

You might need to think outside of the box. 

Problem-solving is coming up with creative solutions. Here’s one of my examples from my time in TV. 

If you can :

  • find someone a gluten-free pizza with no cheese
  • watch them discard it after one slice
  • keep a smile on your face

Then you can take a dry piece of information and make it more interesting and easier to read.

Lesson Two: You Can Multiply Your Time

Time management ADHD writers

How on earth will I find the time to become a writer? 

This was the question that kept me awake at night.

I had to start a brand new career from scratch. I had to build a website. I had to find clients. But, as a writer in my 40s, I now also understand the value of my time.

It’s not just about getting things done faster and being more productive—although I can’t get enough of that stuff—but also about recognising what and who is deserving of those valuable hours.

So here’s how to make more of the time you have.

A few years ago, I watched a Ted Talk by Rory Vaden called “ How to Multiply Your Time .” It was life-changing. 

By thinking about how we use our time today, we can free up hours in the future. It allows us to multiply our time by asking four questions about every item on your to-do list.

  • Can I eliminate this task?
  • If I can’t eliminate this task, can I automate it?
  • Can it be delegated, or can I teach someone else how to do this?
  • Should I do this task now, or can I do it later? (Vaden calls this strategy “procrastinate on purpose.”)

An example of how this works is setting up online bill payments. You can’t find the time to sit down and set this up for every bill, enter your bank details, or download the app. And yet, you do spend a significant amount of time paying all those bills when the due date comes around every month!

My son is in nursery three days a week. My partner works full-time in a children’s hospital. I still have all the same household chores, life admin, cooking, and shopping tasks on my to-do list as I did before I became a writer.

Instead of endlessly searching for inspiration for mealtimes, I made a list of a week’s meals and placed a repeated weekly delivery. 

I dedicated fixed times to do the cleaning each week—a 30-minute slot when I’d completed a key writing task. By cleaning more regularly, I ended up doing less cleaning. Oh, and I finally got round to automating my child nursery payments. 

Apply this process to your to-do list. Don’t forget to reassess your list from time to time. Are there new tasks that you could gain time back on? Is there any you can delegate?

Lesson Three: Work With People With Similar Values

career change writer

As a veteran freelancer, I have 20 years of experience dealing with irrational fears. 

Obsessing over why you never got the callback. Wondering why someone is getting up the ladder faster than you. Asking yourself how the boss can get away with being so damn rude to everyone.

As a writer starting later in life, I have more belief in my abilities than I ever did as a 20-year-old.

So the last thing you need is to work for people that bring those toxic attitudes to the table and reinforce those limiting self-beliefs.

My old industry often had the inability to accept that everything cannot be done RIGHT NOW. Sometimes, the end goal became more important than the people making it happen. 

People should not be crying in the office. Or scared to be the first to leave on time. Or afraid to ask for a fair rate.

Becoming a writer at 40 means I can recognize which opinions matter and which don’t. It’s given me the opportunity to align myself with brand new employers who share those values. 

When I pitched this article to Craft Your Content, I had a busy few days ahead with my toddler. I’d have no time to work on the pitch I sent for at least a few days. 

Imagine my delight when I received an email acknowledgement with this line at the bottom:

PS – We respect and admire your boundaries around personal time. If you receive this email while you are “offline,” please respond when it is convenient for you.

This one line encapsulates why I am making this move to be a writer. 

A company that has never heard of me, let alone met me, is prepared to respect my boundaries. Shouldn’t you be affording yourself that same respect?

So how do you discover what your values are?  Use this mindfulness technique.

Have a personal mantra.

A positive, affirmative statement you say to yourself for motivation or encouragement. Picturing what you want your life to look like will help. 

Mine is simple.  

Why not me? 

That’s right. Why not me? Many people are making a successful living out there writing. Why can’t I be one of them?

Use these great tips to get started on coming up with your own. Dig down into everything you have already achieved and enjoy it.

Lesson Four: Ditch the Guilt

career change writer

Since I became a parent, the sensor on my guilt-o-meter has gone through the roof. 

Almost three years in, and despite having a supportive, hands-on partner, I still find it tough to sit down and do something for myself. Even when I’m alone.

I feel selfish.

In fact, “mom (or dad) guilt” is very common. 

We are scared that others will judge us as parents. That we will mess our kids up. That we’re not great at being a parent or at our jobs. Just average at both.

In this article , Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, child psychotherapist, identifies how to let go of these feelings, specifically for working parents.

One of the areas she addresses is being “good enough” at home. Instead of being a perfect mom and being held accountable to an impossible standard, it’s best to concentrate on being good enough.

You deserve a creative outlet. You deserve to do a job that makes you happy. And writing can also provide for you and your family’s future.

And if you’re not a parent, you can apply this concept to your working life. 

Because anyone who wants to quit a solid job to follow a dream will feel guilt at some point in their journey.

So how can you focus on yourself and carve out time for you to write?

This is how I manage to quiet the noise and obligations and write. 

  • Set specific times each week in which you’ll work. 
  • Set timers for tasks, writing and non-writing related.
  • Say no to things.
  • Use the “ multiply your time ” technique mentioned earlier.
  • Don’t stop what you’re doing at the ping of every new email.
  • Complete your Most Important Task first.
  • Write your to-do list for the next day.
  • Recognize your progress.
  • Repeat your mantra.

Don’t Be Scared to Start Over

Making a huge life change can seem overwhelming. I said goodbye to everything I ever knew; two decades of hard work, and the people I’d spent it with. No wonder, then, that when I thought about becoming a writer, I felt dread—that existential nightmare type of dread that keeps you awake at 3 a.m.

I knew what I needed to do but I couldn’t start. Truthfully, I had forgotten how to do anything else. 

Yet here I am. I never imagined that I would be getting paid to write already, that my future at work would feel exciting again.

By changing your mindset, making more time, understanding your values, and letting go of guilt, you will become a writer.

About the Author Eleanor Plackett

Eleanor is a content writer for hire. Her experience in digital marketing and blog wizardry helps her create content that gets businesses noticed. She loves to write articles that help people like you supercharge your career and achieve work/life balance. When she isn't saving you time or improving your SEO ranking , you can find her chasing after her toddler and trying to finish a cup of tea before it gets cold. Connect on Linkedin or say hi on Twitter .

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Amanda Hampson

Never too late: ‘In my late 40s I realised writing a novel had become like Everest’

Amanda Hampson always dreamed of writing, but it wasn’t until age 50 after a complicated life and ‘all sorts of jobs’ that she was able to publish her first novel

Name: Amanda Hampson Age: 66 Debut novelist at 50

I had always thought that I would be a writer. I grew up in a relatively isolated place in New Zealand. My parents always read. We used to go to the library every Friday. That was a really important part of my life. I had signed up as a cadet journalist at the local newspaper thinking ‘“OK, this is the way you get in”. But that was all – pfft – gone.

It was 1971, but it may as well have been 1951. I was 16 and pregnant. My parents didn’t support me. I had to leave home. I initially lived in one of those hotels, you know, where old men live. Then my parents put me in a home for unmarried mothers. I ran away from that, and I was pretty much on my own.

I had just turned 17 when my son was born. I could go home on the understanding that I went home alone. I had absolutely no choice. There wasn’t a single mother’s pension back then. Girls did not have the choice of keeping their children. I didn’t go back to school. I gave up my son for adoption and didn’t find him for 21 years.

It was a terrible period. People talk now about the “good old days”, but there were a lot of things about it that were really bad.

I worked in all sorts of jobs. I worked in government office jobs. I got married very young – I was only 19 – and we went to live in London. I worked as a car cleaner. I worked in a garment factory. Then we came to Australia and I worked in office jobs again and got into the events industry. I worked in that for years.

I was writing just for myself, and reading.

When I was in my late 40s I realised that writing a novel had become like Everest. And the more wonderful books you read, the more intimidating it is. I thought “I’ve just got to start, because if I don’t do this I’ll be really disappointed in myself”. It was like a green flag moment. I just got on and did it, and ended up doing it for about five years.

I was working and looking after kids while I wrote The Olive Sisters. My children were quite young. My daughter was born when I was 39 and my youngest son was born when I was 42. So I think that’s why it took a fair bit of time.

I’d get up very early. Even now I often get up at 5.30am. You’ve got those little puddles of time you find to write in. My children still joke about how I would say, “OK, I just need an hour without interruption.” And then the door would open very, very quietly, and a whisper: “There’s no milk!”

That book was accepted by Penguin. I was 50. It was amazing.

It’s not like people go “Amanda Hampson! She’s got a book out!” You’ve got to go out to booksellers. Doing all sorts of things to get your book out there.

As much as anything it’s about giving something your best shot. You get better at that as you get older – doing something to the absolute limit of your capability. The Olive Sisters ended up a bestseller.

You think that if something’s a blazing success it will just be up, up, up. After the first book I separated from my partner and had two children, who were 10 and 13, to look after. The next book came out, and it was not such a big success. In the meantime The Olive Sisters was optioned by an American producer for a movie. I was given the opportunity to write the script, and that went on for years. In the end, the finance just didn’t come through.

So many things in life are about getting back in the saddle. Just over and over again. That’s my experience.

I am prone to making rash and impulsive statements. I had said to my eldest son – we had become great friends – “When you turn 40, I’ll take you anywhere in the world. Just you and I.” As a writer, I had no idea how I was going to finance that, but I thought it was important. Then he rang me one day and said: “New York Marathon.” And I said, “Right. I’m in.” I had never even run for the bus. So I started training. It took a year and a half. It’s like writing. You run one kilometre, then you run two. I had a sore knee the entire time I was training. Then we went off to New York and it was just the most amazing experience. I was 59.

About six months after the marathon my youngest son, who was 17, said: “Mum, let’s go and do the Camino de Santiago.” He got injured after three days and went off to France. I continued walking the 800km alone.

When I separated from my children’s father I decided that being a parent was more important than having a relationship. But I really came into my own on that walk. I finally came into being completely comfortable with being single. I think a lot of women of my generation are not. We were under enormous pressure to get married, have kids, have a nice house. But I think for older women being single – it’s pretty fantastic.

I really love the idea of writing about women of my generation, finding independence, and finding what they want for themselves. When I wrote my first novel my protagonist was 50 – it was not that fashionable back then. There’s a lot of books being written now with older characters.

I had a young tradesman here the other day and I was working on the computer. He said to me “What did you used to do?” Well, I literally levitated out of my chair. I said “Listen, buster” – which is not a phrase I’ve ever used before or since – “I didn’t used to do anything! I’m still doing it!”

My sixth novel is out in May. As long as I keep enjoying it, I’ll keep writing. I don’t think I’m going to write 50 books. But maybe a dozen.

Amanda Hampson’s latest novel Lovebirds is available now through Penguin

  • Life and style
  • Never too late
  • Australian lifestyle
  • Parents and parenting
  • Australian books

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‘Emerging’ as a Writer — After 40

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become a writer at 40

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Jenny Bhatt | Longreads | November 2018 | 20 minutes (4,950 words)

I. Separation Rites (Phase 1)

“All my life I have lived and behaved very much like [the] sandpiper — just running down the edges of different countries and continents, ‘looking for something’, having spent most of my life timorously seeking for subsistence along the coastlines of the world.”

— Elizabeth Bishop; Words in Air

In early 2012, I was at a dinner with my work team in Silicon Valley. It was an unusually warm late-winter evening in shimmering downtown San Francisco as we settled around our large center table in a popular and packed Italian restaurant. We’d had a long few days at an off-site conference working through some complex issues related to a newly announced business transformation program. Amidst the clinking of dinnerware and happy chatter all around us, the much-needed glasses of wine helped ease us into lighter non-work banter. Someone — it might even have been me — started a conversation asking everyone what they would do work-wise if they had the absolute freedom of choice. That is, if money, time, talent, and skill were no object, what would they rather be doing instead?

Slowly, shyly, each one of these people, with whom I worked daily, opened up about their deeper joys: gourmet cooking; ice-cream making; theatrical singing/performing; organic farming; fashion blogging, etc. The animated faces, wistful voices, resigned smiles, and gentle shrugs — their entire range of honest emotions will stay with me forever. It was one of those sudden time-stood-still moments and, within it, we had stumbled unexpectedly onto a crucial personal connection: the universal human desire for deeper meaning and purpose in our lives.

That evening also helped me make up my wavering mind. Before the end of the month, I would hand in my notice. On the day I left, I wanted to turn around, like Jerry Maguire in that famous office-leaving scene, and say to those same team members: “Who’s coming with me?” (I did no such thing because my reasons for leaving the new job after only three months also involved a few more complicated variables beyond a need to start over.)

So, after nearly two decades of working across corporations in Europe and the US, I began my middlescence as a 40-year-old free agent. It helped that I had already sold my home in anticipation of purchasing one closer to the new job, and did not have any financial debt for the first time in nearly two decades. Also, I had some savings, a small cushion meant to get me through what I had thought and hoped would be a brief transition period into the next phase. And my relationship status was: single.

What I wanted was to write full-time. Or, rather, I wanted writing to be my main mode of being in and engaging with the world. But I hadn’t simply awakened one morning and decided this. Up until that point, I had been writing part-time for some-30 years, snatching what time I could during weekends and vacation. I had accumulated a modest publication history: a national award for a short story at age 10; a short story and a poem in a children’s print magazine at age 14; two short stories and five literary essays in an online magazine by age 29; an essay in a print anthology at age 30. From my mid-20s to my mid-30s, I had also worked on my craft through several writing courses and workshops at a couple of well-known Midwestern universities and one semester at a low-residency MFA before assorted factors led to my dropping out.

The life of a first-generation naturalized immigrant, though, is typically held hostage to their citizenship status. I was 38 when I finally received my citizenship after multiple hurdles along the way. Until then, as much as I fantasized about a literary career, I needed to earn a steady living. And I could not afford to be anything less than a model employee — hardworking, ready to take on any position or project, and near-indispensable — to stay safe from the periodic house-cleaning layoffs so loved by corporate America, which could put my immigration status in jeopardy.

Not a single one of those writing milestones, then, had occurred along a straight, smooth trajectory. For each one accomplished, there were several others missed. Most were hard-won while progressing up unsteady career ladders within the engineering, marketing, and management consulting fields. Many were interrupted while wending my way through three continents, six countries, five US states, six companies, twenty homes, and two long-term relationships. All along, there have been heavy personal tolls for persisting as a slave to two masters: the paying career and what I called my “writing hobby.” And there have been the usual lifelong roadblocks that other women from similar backgrounds will recognize: a socio-cultural conditioning rooted in a patriarchal upbringing in India; the ongoing discrimination faced as a woman of color working in white-male-dominated industries; the drawn-out process of securing citizenship of a country where I felt most at home; the never-faltering aim of wanting to be financially and emotionally independent with “a room of my own.”

I had accepted all of the above as necessary rites for frequently crossing borders both physical and metaphorical. Navigating my paths across as a minority, I had become an expert at code-switching and coping with the daily micro-inequities. In America, I had learned to perch smartly on the hyphen of my Indian-American identity, ready to hop to one side or the other, depending on who I was with or what I was doing.

Till, as a single and childless 40-year-old woman of color, I found myself slipping unwarned down a steep slope toward the verge of disappearance. In workplace, family, and friend gatherings, I was deferring more frequently to the younger, or the coupled, or the oldest. My lone voice carried the least weight at any given time. Beyond a loss of vote and visibility, it felt like an erosion of my self.

This midlife pivot was about more than making time to write. It was also my biggest mustering of courage to reclaim and re-assert my place in the world.

II. Separation Rites (Phase 2)

“It’s not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it’s the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses.”

― Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

When Walter White of Breaking Bad needed to start a lucrative new career, all it took was an enterprising young partner with appropriate connections, some easy-to-acquire laboratory equipment, and a Winnebago out in the desert. And, of course, a whole lot of attitude. For the rest of us trying to switch to new careers and ventures — lucrative or not — things are not quite so serendipitously scripted.

During the first two years of my new freedom, I developed a meticulous, thorough discipline of writing-related activities versus actually writing: running an online literary magazine and taking a year-long course in personal finance. I was hedging my bets by learning skills to bide me through the journey from obscure to established writer. Unable to give up the habits of my corporate schedule, I worked for 16-17 hours every single day of those two years while entirely avoiding submissions to other publications. The literary magazine grew to 500+ subscribers and 200+ contributors and got mentions at a couple of well-known media sites. All the stock investment portfolios I was managing exceeded average market growth rates too. And my personal finance blog grew well enough that a couple of my entrepreneurship articles went viral when shared on other sites. I did write a third each of two separate novels, but put them away quickly, lacking the confidence to know if they were any good.

After nearly two decades of working across corporations in Europe and the US, I began my middlescence as a 40-year-old free agent.

My mother’s sudden passing in India in 2014 was the big jolt that shook me out of my entropic state. During the three months or so before, we had been having frequent discussions about the folk-tales and stories her father had told her in childhood, and his own unpublished translation works. She had proudly shown me, via video chat, her small set of custom-made glass-covered bookshelves with her favorite Gujarati writers’ works. The language was difficult for me at that time, so she had offered help if I was interested in doing some translation work. My constant memory of those days is of her wide smile as she looked into the iPad camera and sipped her morning chai on the porch swing. From the nearby trees and hedges, mynahs, bulbuls, pigeons, and robins chirped, cooed, and warbled along with her. In the Bay Area, multi-tasking with dinner or online browsing, my responses to her alternated between a distracted “sure” and a slightly guilt-ridden, “But I need to write my own stories first, na.” This was simply idle chitchat, I thought, with her one daughter who did not care for domestic exchanges about cooking and children. And, of course, we had both imagined there would be plenty of time.

During her last rites in India, as my siblings and I cried and laughed through our many memories and stories of her, I ached inside for not taking her seriously about the stories she had wanted to tell; that I had not given due consideration to her own tentatively re-emerging literary yearnings, late in her seventh decade.

Throughout those two weeks, when jet lag meant lying awake at night untangling knots of worries, I forced myself to face two stark facts: per my personal financial plan, my current account would be empty in a year if I continued to pay California rent and expenses; there were no guarantees in life and I could go just as easily without much to show for my existence.

By mid-2014, I sold off almost everything I owned in the US, packed all my books and some other essentials into a shipping container, and moved back to India after nearly 25 years, renting a spare apartment my father owns. Since leaving as a teenager, I had visited often enough for family events but never considered returning for any extended period. My plan was to work on a couple of books and return to the US once I was able to make a modest living from writing.

This second separation phase of my midlife reboot had even more ritualistic aspects with the selling and giving-away of my belongings — from toaster to car — and physically traveling to another continent to start over again. It felt more definitive and enormously significant. At the same time, despite knowing my physical destination well enough, having spent my formative years there, I still had a sense of being lost because of not being able to make out a horizon ahead.

III. Liminal Rites

“I was numb, but it was from not knowing just what this new life would hold for me.”

― Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

India had made notable socio-cultural progress due to the political liberalization begun shortly after my leaving in the early-1990s. Still, I had not expected it would be easy for a single, 40-something woman to live alone in a Tier II city. Having lived and worked in other countries where, in a couple of cases, I could barely speak the local dialects, I had anticipated re-assimilation issues, though on a lesser scale. Beyond the heat, pollution, traffic, men staring, etc., I had mentally prepared for other daily inconveniences rooted in the sexism, classism, casteism, colorism, and corruption I had known while growing up. The privilege, I told myself, of being able to move to a place with some immediate family just a few miles away would outweigh any trade-offs.

But instead it was the acceptance issues within this family that took me by surprise. During the first two years, they were awkward and uncomfortable when introducing me to others due to a lack of the usual labels of career, or husband, or children. We came to an unspoken agreement to say I was a tech consulting executive on a break.

As we are not a family of readers or writers, there was also general speculation about what I was planning to accomplish and how I was going about it. One of my siblings openly criticized my move at every opportunity, even gaslighting me in the bargain. A couple other siblings often questioned my plans directly. My father and brother once offered seed investment money to start a small business — in their opinion, it would be a more productive use of my time. My father had a cardiac health scare (unrelated to my choices but adding to the overall tension among us all.)

These were times of high conflict — partly because I was accustomed to an unquestioned independence, but mostly because my move and career change would have been non-issues if there had been a male partner by my side. A year after I moved to India, my youngest sister and her husband also left their full-time jobs to travel for a couple of years. No one in the family has questioned them quite so intrusively and insistently. The interpersonal tensions between us were like heavy chains drowning me deeper into my internal sea of roiling uncertainties and fears.

become a writer at 40

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About this time, I also began to drift away from my friends from my corporate life. The miles stretching between us were more than physical because my literary work was of little interest to them. I took a couple of online creative writing courses and joined a couple of online writing groups with the hope of joining some like-minded communities. Not only did these require a lot of time investment but the asynchronous communication via chats and posts did not feel particularly helpful at the time. I was completely off the social and the literary grid — both in the US and in India.

To make some local friends, I joined my residential society’s managing committee as one of several volunteers. That was short-lived because the otherwise all-male committee shouted at each other so much that they rarely agreed on anything. The police even came out a few times to settle physical brawls. And the committee men’s wives viewed me as a suspicious anomaly even as they tried to engage me to arbitrate proxy arguments via Whatsapp on behalf of their sparring husbands. I stepped away entirely when, at one committee meeting, tempers ran so high that one of the men threw a chair across the room and it came within inches of where I was sitting. None of the other men stopped his ranting or removed him from the room — most simply carried on yelling too. This volatile microcosm of Indian society where slurs based on caste, class, color, and creed flew openly between educated urban men and women was troubling for what it revealed about our collective humanity. But, more than anything, they made me retreat into my filter-bubble even more.

Through all these physical and emotional disruptions, I was working to examine themes in my writing that I had not done before. Things were no longer as black and white at this stage of my life and that made writing about them harder. My writerly preoccupations were also starkly different in India than they had been in the US. Given the headspace I was in at this time, my responses to even normal questions during everyday conversations were halting and long, as if I was encountering certain ideas for the first time or had a tumult of them all at once and having to sort and think them through out loud. As much as this drained me physically each time, it often annoyed certain family members too. Then, every negative interaction with them felt like it sliced off more brittle, jagged pieces of me.

Soon enough, I sealed myself off as if at an elite, secluded writing residency. Structuring my own DIY MFA, I invested 16-17-hour days, again, in reading and writing.

And I finally cut my hair short and let it go gray. I had been coloring my hair since my early-20s. This was also one of the things my family had been nagging me about. So, in a way, it was a quiet rebellion because I couldn’t articulate how much they had upset me. It was not a decision I made lightly because, in Indian society, it meant crossing another threshold from “Sister” to “Aunty.” Despite everything, it felt like a much-needed release.

By mid-2014, I sold off almost everything I owned in the US, packed all my books and some other essentials into a shipping container, and moved back to India.

The rites I went through during this phase left me feeling more dislocated — as if I did not belong anywhere and that both society at large and my own family had no use for someone like me. Yet, even as I was closely scrutinizing my own values, flaws, and frailties during this time, I became firmer than ever in my commitment to the choices I had made.

All that said, 2014 and 2015 were the two loneliest, most agonizing years of my life. Even now, as I am still in India, there are occasional reverberations that toss everything up again.

IV. Incorporation Rites

“Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places.”

― May Sarton

Writing is about a response to the world and can only be done by periodically engaging fully with it. I could not remain in the intense liminal state of isolation and fragmentation forever. The darkness, rich and fertile though it was, had to give birth to something new.

I began sending the fragile offshoots of my writing to literary magazines. There were plenty of rejections though some included personalized feedback and kind encouragement — all proving to be much-needed nourishment.

Finally joining social media more actively, I connected with a few other emerging writers. And I began to follow some role model writers, whose daily words shone like rays of inspiration. More recently, when I reached out looking for debut women writers over-40, thousands responded from all over the world — many with heartbreakingly personal stories of the odds they’ve had to fight against. These, too, have been vital fortification.

There was so much of India I had not seen before I had left the first time. The country had gone through many rites of passage of her own. I began to travel to different parts — sometimes with family, oftentimes solo. As a tourist, I didn’t mind being the invisible observer and it struck me that, for a writer, this wasn’t such a bad thing either. Whatever the case, I became more comfortable with the lingering worries that had started at 40 — of disappearing and becoming nothing after midlife; of dying, like my mother, before my writing could amount to anything.

Eventually, all the light and sustenance got through and a few acceptances, paid publications, and small award nominations and shortlists flowered.

When I had enough polished stories for a book-length collection, I sent that out into the world too. Again, there was a cycle of rejections and near-acceptances. Some agents and editors even wanted the books I had mentioned as works-in-progress instead of the completed one I was querying about.

The first book deal I got, after several hiccups, was for one of those works-in-progress. Though I had not been querying for it, it seems fitting that the book is a literary translation of one of my mother’s favorite writers’ works, which she had mentioned often in those months before passing. This deal also helped me cross a significant respectability threshold within my family. “Literary translator” is a more tangible identity for them to present to others than the vague one of “writer.” So much of our identity is not about how we see ourselves but how others see us.

I was offered a second book deal, for my own short stories, three times before I nearly put it away for good. Each time, I walked away because the publisher and I were not a good fit. This book has been decades in gestation, not just the past few years, and with plenty of sacrifices along the way. Entrusting my book-baby to a multi-year professional relationship with a publisher has been a fraught decision. And my search continues at the time of writing this.

These two books have been prolonged rites of passage and taught me a lot about both the US and the Indian publishing industries. One of the biggest setbacks was discovering how publishing gatekeepers everywhere see “debut” and “emerging” as synonymous with “young” for various commercial reasons; how they prefer the know-it-all assurance of young writers over the no-certainties perceptiveness of older writers; how they want overnight debut bestsellers rather than works distilled from complex and varied life experiences.

A few years ago, the writer Zadie Smith was on the Desert Island Discs podcast. Having once been a 22-year-old wunderkind with an award-winning debut bestseller and now a writer in her 40s, she said, “. . . there’s no replacement for experience. You can’t fake it, you can’t fictionalize it. It won’t develop your heart, it won’t develop you as a person. It’s a kind of game that you can play on the page but it’s not the same as being alive. Being alive is a very radical thing; it’s much more difficult . . .” Listening to this podcast again recently, I realized I’m still integrating those radical, impossible-to-fake lessons and insights gained over the last six years. Doing so is also a critical rite of passage before I can truly begin the next new journey.

Two things, I know now, can definitely be true at the same time: an emerging writer can also be a middle-aged writer. My midlife literary growth was spurred by both a keener sense of temporality and finally wresting the space and time needed to achieve a requisite level of skill. As a late-blooming woman writer of color, it took reaching a certain age to shore up the confidence, conviction, and resources to work on my craft and send my work out. There was no script so I made my own plots and paths, which was challenging but also liberating. I was not able to rely much at all on formal support networks — educational and cultural institutions typically award their mentorships and fellowships to either young or highly-qualified writers. My informal support networks have been hit-or-miss. Because of all this, the acts of writing, submitting, and getting my work published continue to be deeply political for me.

become a writer at 40

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Researching other midlife-and-beyond women writers has shown me that a late bloom can be brilliant and enduring because of the lived-in wisdom composted from our richly-seasoned experiences. In both our lives and our writing, our preoccupations are no longer about seeking acceptance for a particular self (the sum of our perceptions, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, etc.) or identity (the persona(e) we present to the world.) We are more driven to explore, through our writing, the many selves we now know are possible even if some of them cause us inexplicable churn and are transitional.

I think often of the folk-tale that Toni Morrison began her 1993 Nobel acceptance speech with — about an old, blind woman approached by the younger folks of her community wanting to test her wisdom. The question they ask pertains directly to her disability — her blindness — which also sets her at a disadvantage to all of them. They want her to answer whether the bird held by one of them is alive or dead. Though she cannot see, she understands what they’re doing. After a long silence, she tells them she does not know the bird’s condition but she knows it is in their hands. Morrison explains that, with her response, the old woman is bringing attention to how the young people are using their power to mock her helplessness and not taking their responsibility toward the bird’s life seriously either. She goes on to say, “So I choose to read the bird as language and the woman as a practiced writer. She is worried about how the language she dreams in, given to her at birth, is handled, put into service, even withheld from her for certain nefarious purposes. Being a writer she thinks of language partly as a system, partly as a living thing over which one has control, but mostly as agency — as an act with consequences. So the question the children put to her: “Is it living or dead?” is not unreal because she thinks of language as susceptible to death, erasure; certainly imperiled and salvageable only by an effort of the will.”

Two things, I know now, can definitely be true at the same time: an emerging writer can also be a middle-aged writer.

For women coming to writing in midlife and beyond, it is a similar act of agency. Our stories are also in danger of death and erasure. Writing them takes a political and a rebellious will after having repressed our voices and words for decades due to longstanding socio-cultural biases and prejudices. To paraphrase Morrison, our midlife creativity is radical because it re-creates us even as we create our works. Every bit of validation or praise is hard-won because we have to work that much harder for our visibility and voice as we get older.

Morrison’s Nobel speech goes on to describe some back-and-forth between the old, blind woman and the younger people. It ends with them asking the old woman to pass along her history to help them get strong; to tell them about what the world has been to her and what it is to be a woman observing from the margins and the edges of towns. These are stories that always need to be told and heard and read.

Reflecting on my earlier transitional/liminal phase, I see how my sense of self had shattered so completely that I needed to rebuild it piece by piece with old and new skills, interests, ideas, and opportunities. I had to plumb deeper, range further, expose some tender nerves, and break through long-calcified mental maps of personal and socio-cultural boundaries.

So this messy, solitary process of becoming a writer in midlife has been much like Adrienne Rich wrote in “Diving Into the Wreck”: “And there is no one/ to tell me when the ocean/ will begin,” where “I have to learn alone/ to turn my body without force/ in the deep element.” Rich went on to add: “I came to explore the wreck./ The words are purposes./ The words are maps./ I came to see the damage that was done/ and the treasures that prevail.” I am still sifting through the damage and the treasures of my evolving ideals, values, and relationships. And the words emerging from all that wreckage continue to guide the shapes and textures of my stories; they sustain me.

There will be, no doubt, more rites of passage to move from “emerging, midlife writer” to “established writer.” One aspect I’m exploring is how to become a better literary citizen. That might require an immersive, full-time literary degree program back in the US or starting or joining an indie press for other marginalized writers or both. Hopefully, there will also be a kindred spirit to travel the rest of the trail with. Nothing has been straightforward, easy, or predictable so far and I don’t expect the rest of it to be so either.

The French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep, used the metaphor of a large house with many rooms and corridors to describe how society is comprised of many groups. When a person moves from one group to another, (s)he passes from one room to another, crossing certain thresholds, territories, cultures, and more. Such a passage is often accompanied by rites — structured or unstructured; personal or communal; secular or sacred. Van Gennep and other cultural anthropologists further defined three types of rites of passage: separation rites; transition/liminal rites; incorporation rites. Examples of each type have existed within ancient civilizations. And, even today, nearly all societies have ceremonial rituals to mark the passage from a particular life phase or social status into another.

Growing up with patriarchal Hindu traditions in India, we observed many important rites of passage as ceremonial rituals. I never cared for how they subordinated women to men and abdicated individual responsibility to the “divine.” But their origins, meanings, and adaptations have always fascinated me.

One coming-of-age ritual for young boys was the sacred thread ceremony, signifying entry into the student phase of life. Of the several elaborate steps involved, I recall how the boy is presented with a platter of four symbolic or talismanic items. The one item the boy selects is supposed to indicate the shape of the rest of his life. In ancient times, the boy would keep the chosen item with him throughout his student phase as a reminder or guide for his thoughts, words, and deeds. The specific items and their meanings vary in different regions of India. In the western state of Gujarat, among my people, these items are as follows: a book or pen symbolizing knowledge; a comb and mirror symbolizing physical wellbeing; a knife or dagger symbolizing valor; and some coins symbolizing financial wellbeing.

For women like me moving into our middlescence (or beyond), it seems apt that we have a set of symbolic items to carry along during our passage. Rather than choosing only one, let’s take them all. I propose a ceremonial ritual with friends and family that involves a platter filled with the following as guides for the journey ahead: a key symbolizing a room of one’s own; some coins symbolizing financial wellbeing; a compass symbolizing one’s true north; an anchor symbolizing the strength to hold fast in any storm; and a preferred piece of silver jewelry symbolizing both kindness or compassion from others, and the ability to age with style.

Jenny Bhatt is a writer, literary critic, and literary translator. Her non-fiction can be found in The Atlantic , BBC Culture , Literary Hub , The Millions , PopMatters , Scroll.in , and more.

Editor: Sari Botton

Also In the Fine Lines Series: Introducing Fine Lines Gone Gray An Introduction to Death Age Appropriate A Woman, Tree or Not Dress You Up in My Love The Wrong Pair

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Enchanting Marketing

Writing advice for small business

How I Became a Writer in My 40s

by Henneke | 160 enchanting opinions, add yours? :)

How I Became a Writer in My 40s

When you look at my blog, it’s easy to think that writing comes easily to me, that I’ve always been a writer.

But that’s not true.

I’ve never thought of myself as a writer.

Many writers say that they always wanted to be a writer. They wrote poems when they were young. They kept diaries through the years. They dreamed of being a published author.

I’m not like that.

At school, I wasn’t good at writing essays. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t understand why my essays were average or worse.

I never wrote poems. I never dreamed about becoming an author. I never felt like I was creative. And I only kept a travel diary when I went backpacking for 5 months in China when I was 20.

Throughout most of my life, I probably wrote as little as possible.

But something changed …

In 2011, content marketing was becoming popular.

I was working as a marketing director at a small company, and I realized I had to learn how to write better.

I read a couple of books on content marketing and writing. I took a course. I studied blog posts and sales pages to figure out how other people put a piece of writing together.

I discovered that writing isn’t magic.

I could learn how to write, how to share my ideas, how to structure my writing, how to engage readers and be more persuasive.

I also fooled myself …

I told myself that writing a blog or a sales letter wasn’t real writing. It was the kind of not-quite-real-writing that I could master as a non-creative person.

I had to tell myself I wasn’t really writing so I could start writing.

When Copyblogger published my first guest post in April 2012, I gained confidence in my writing skills. I realized it was time to escape corporate life and get rid of the boss I hated. It was time to fly out and start my own business.

I didn’t really know how I’d earn my money. Maybe some consultancy. I had some savings, and I was planning to take a sabbatical to figure things out and recover from the years of corporate stress, office politics, and bruising budget fights.

I also wanted to write a few guest posts to raise my online profile.

I left my job at the end of September 2012, and to my surprise, I got quickly hired as a freelance writer. It wasn’t a career I had envisioned. I still didn’t see myself as a writer, and I hadn’t thought anyone would hire a non-native English speaker as a writer.

About 9 years later, I have published two books, coached several hundred people, and created a portfolio of popular writing courses .

How did I become a writer?

When I was growing up, my teachers and parents gave me the impression I wasn’t good at writing. I wasn’t creative, and it wasn’t something I could learn.

These negative messages stuck with me for many years.

But talent is overrated. I was far more capable of acquiring new skills than I realized.

Why am I sharing this?

I’d like to tell you that you don’t need to feel like a writer. You can just write.

We all write, don’t we?

Whether it’s emails, social media updates, blog posts, sales pages, or books—each piece of writing, no matter how tiny, is an opportunity to share our thoughts and to create something that didn’t exist before.

As Stephen Fry suggested :

We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.

You don’t need to call yourself a writer. You can just write.

A remarkable transformation

When I quit my job in 2012, writing was a challenging, stressful task. I was full of doubts, and I often procrastinated all day before I finally sat down to write.

I don’t know why I persisted.

But slowly, I learned to make peace with my inner critic . I learned to sit with my fears , and to move forward regardless. I learned to tiptoe through the hard parts of writing.

In the last 3 years, I have struggled with low energy. I’ve worked only two hours per day, as my body is healing from trauma.

Somehow, writing has become the most joyful part of my days. It doesn’t matter whether I’m slow, anxious, exhausted, or foggy all day. While writing, I feel alive. I feel connected to the best part of myself.

And I always imagine you— yes, you! —cheering me on. You encourage me to keep writing and to keep showing up. You help me feel safe and alive. Thank you.

Am I now a writer?

Perhaps. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. I write and I love writing .

I’d like to tell you this …

It doesn’t matter whether you feel like a writer or not. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. How tired or energetic. How fearful or courageous. How doubtful or confident.

You can write. You can learn to write better, to share your ideas, to educate, inspire, and connect with your readers.

No one is born a writer.

But we’re all human, and we all have stories, experiences, and wisdom to share.

Happy writing, my friend, and thank you for reading.

become a writer at 40

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Reader Interactions

Leave a comment and join the conversation cancel reply.

become a writer at 40

October 23, 2023 at 12:56 am

Oh, I love this. So encouraging. I’ve always had writing in the background while doing my day job. It was late before I realized I wanted to make a career out of it. But I’m glad I did. It’s fulfilling, and I earn better.

become a writer at 40

October 23, 2023 at 10:45 am

I think that making a career out of writing later in life helped me appreciate it more. It’s like getting a second life. So glad you’ve found your way, too. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

September 23, 2023 at 3:33 pm

Thanks Henneke. Very inspirational. Writing is indeed a lifetime of growing, learning, and adapting. Following our hearts and our instincts. A journey full of curves, bumps, roadblocks, frustration, that only the very determined will survive. You have survived and thank you for continuing to share your experiences with us.

September 24, 2023 at 4:38 pm

Yes, I agree. It’s not an easy journey but it’s worthwhile to keep going. I hope you’re continuing your journey, too!

become a writer at 40

September 14, 2023 at 11:40 am

Thanks for sharing this, Henneke. It really inspired me and gave me some direction.

You said you had experience in marketing. I have almost none. How important do you think this is in order to become a content writer? I have the same question about SEO. Most job ads for content writers require “great SEO skills”. Again, mine are basic. What would you do in my position? Thank you!

September 15, 2023 at 7:36 am

I would start with learning SEO. There is a great deal of free information available. For instance, MOZ have a free beginner’s guide which is a good starting point. You’ll also find many SEO experts on LinkedIn, sharing tips and advice freely.

For marketing, it’s probably most useful to start with content marketing strategy. You may have studied some of that already?

become a writer at 40

March 23, 2023 at 10:47 pm

It rings bells to my ears that i am not alone when it comes to struggling to find a mind map where to start.i usually have amazing ideas but the beauty of words that could doll up my so called very vivid ideas never come to life.i make cut-pieces of words that never happens to complete a whole piece.i feel i can write good sentences.amazing word chains ,but when will i pick and give something complete,something accomplished. I juggle alot between genres to know exactly what i quite want to write. You are a beacon of light i see as i am approaching 40 and my mind does not want to rest me.i cant help struggling to find right words choice. Pls write back i want you to tell me how to finally start.

March 25, 2023 at 10:43 am

Good writing never happens in one go, so maybe give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. Let that draft simmer for at least 24 hours or maybe longer, then start looking for what’s good already, what you need to throw, and what you need to improve. The revision process works best step by step. Start with the big picture before looking at writing good sentences. When you focus too much on each sentence, you may not get the story line right.

become a writer at 40

January 11, 2023 at 10:56 pm

Thank you for sharing this. We (and others around us) can tell ourselves some pretty big lies. I’m glad you finally realized how amazing you are. I love your blog and your writing. Keep going

January 12, 2023 at 11:09 am

Thank you for your lovely comment, Daniel.

become a writer at 40

November 15, 2022 at 3:33 pm

Whenever I needs a motivation I read this.

November 15, 2022 at 3:51 pm

That warms my heart. Thank you for letting me know, Emma. And happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 2, 2022 at 2:22 pm

Henneke, thank you! Timely words, just like the universe, generous, challenging, inspiring, right like rain. You are the same. You are a wonderful person and it’s a pleasure to spend time with you. What a treat, that you have shared your authentic loving heart and your go getting insights!

November 2, 2022 at 2:31 pm

Awww, what a lovely, warm-hearted comment, Lee-Anne. Thank you so much. <3

become a writer at 40

October 27, 2022 at 10:49 am

Thank you for sharing your story. Inspiring 🙂

October 27, 2022 at 10:52 am

Thank you, Melissa. Happy writing!

September 14, 2022 at 3:27 am

Thank you Henneke for your reply I was not expecting it. Thanks for the much-needed motivation. Keep Shining

September 10, 2022 at 6:26 pm

Thanks, Henneke, I feel encouraged already. I thought I should feel like a writer to write too. However, when I sit to write, my fingers move, and I sometimes wonder where they are going. Then I realize, I have written something.

September 11, 2022 at 4:14 pm

No need to feel like a writer — that feeling may come over time. Just keep writing (and enjoy it!)

become a writer at 40

August 30, 2022 at 8:08 pm

A wonderful post, Henneke. I find in your story my story. I write in a foreign language: Italian is not my mother tongue, because my family spoke slang (a type of Venetian language). And I have never thought to record a podcast (about the criminal case I have been working for years). When I was a child I stuttered like… King George VI. But some women during my life told me that I have a very nice and intriguing voice. And, incredible, a charming woman recently said that she likes my accent. Oh My God – I thought – if my voice is nice and I have a story, why don’t I have to record a podcast in my foreign language like Henneke did with her posts? I will follow your example, dear Henneke: chatting with my inner critic and try to give voice to people that feel themselves as I feel myself about rights and justice. Thanks for you advice!

August 31, 2022 at 10:59 am

I’ve always been more nervous about speaking English than writing English. I’ve never been able to get rid of my Dutch accent and I’ve been teased a lot about my accent. But I’ve found, that as long as you speak clearly and people can understand you, it’s okay. It’s still a sensitive point for me. Why can’t we just celebrate all our accents and our ability to still communicate with each other?

become a writer at 40

August 22, 2022 at 5:37 pm

Great price of content, Henneke! Loved reading the post. Keep it up and thank you for sharing.

August 22, 2022 at 7:33 pm

Thank you, Kevin. I am glad you enjoyed this.

become a writer at 40

July 21, 2022 at 8:56 pm

Henneke, I feel inspired by you I really feel the writer must write about themselves too.

Thanks for sharing

July 22, 2022 at 9:56 am

Yes, that’s a good point. The most interesting writing is often personal. Thank you for stopping by, Melissa.

become a writer at 40

May 30, 2022 at 5:59 am

I am going thru trauma and I lost my job due to covid. I am working the hours I can for a Tyrant boss who has me do her job my job and blocks me from getting the pay I was promised & earned. I am trying to recover while living with narcolepsy, lupus & some sort of ADHD(judging from all my unfinished home projects). I’ve been told my life is more entertaining than some of the best Mexican dramas. I would like to write to be free and make money. Your post is inspirational

May 30, 2022 at 12:35 pm

I’m so sorry you’re going through such a difficult time. Writing is a great way to manage your own time, work only the hours you can work, and free yourself from a boss (although clients can be difficult, too!).

become a writer at 40

March 30, 2022 at 3:10 am

Hi, I’m Rich. I’m in my 40’s too and recently started my own blog in addition to my job. I loved reading you, it’s so inspiring. I just wanted to post it. Thank you Henneke

March 30, 2022 at 10:02 am

Thank you so much, Rich. I appreciate your comment. Happy blogging!

become a writer at 40

January 26, 2022 at 6:50 pm

Nice post, so inspiring. I try to write every day (in my own mother tongue), but I never show it because I feel embarrassed, … How can you fight this feeling? Thanks to share your experience!

January 26, 2022 at 8:39 pm

Fighting such feelings can be exhausting. Try to acknowledge your fears and understand that it’s normal—all writers have to face their fears. Next, try to find tactics to take a step forward and tiptoe out of your comfort zone. For instance, show it to just one person you trust. Or if there’s one social media platform where you’re hardly active, can you post it there?

Remember, if you get negative feedback, it’s not personal. See whether the feedback makes sense or not. If it doesn’t make sense, discount it. If it makes sense, try to improve next time.

We often identify with our writing but you are not your writing. Our task as creators is to write and when we’ve finished a piece, start the next one.

Also, no piece of writing is ever perfect.

I wrote more about dealing with my inner critic here: https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/my-inner-critic/

And about dancing with fears here: https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/writing-fears/

Writing every day is already a great start!

become a writer at 40

January 9, 2022 at 12:25 pm

It’s good to see so many people appreciating you.

January 9, 2022 at 1:04 pm

Yes, I’m grateful for that.

become a writer at 40

January 6, 2022 at 6:42 pm

Hello Henneke, good morning. Happy Year of much prosperity, successes, and much health, mainly. I want to thank you for all the posts that I have received from you. They are very teaching and motivating to start us as writers or simply how to write. I have always liked to write but I have never dared to believe that I should be a university student. I opened a blob precisely for that, but there I have it stuck waiting for me to decide. I have spent my life procrastinating and starting things and not finishing them, among other defects that have accompanied me for many years. But Henneke would love to try. I have no resources, that is not why I mean that everything should be free, although your publications are very valuable. I wish you have an excellent day and a lot of peace. Sincerely: Ricardo R Ramirez R

January 7, 2022 at 10:52 am

Hello Ricardo,

You don’t need a university education to write. Many writers have skipped university, and many are mostly self-taught. I’ve been to uni but didn’t learn to write at uni. If anything, I’ve had to unlearn bad writing habits I picked up while at university. Academic writing isn’t always the best writing.

Procrastination can be unlearned. It takes time and practice. It helps to try nurturing a regular writing habit. Start as small as possible. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Pick something you like to write about. Tell yourself it’s only an experiment, and try to write just 15 minutes a day.

You don’t need to turn writing immediately into a career. Start small and keep going.

Wishing you many moments of writing joy in 2022. Happy New Year!

become a writer at 40

January 3, 2022 at 12:12 am

Hello,Henneke! You are indeed a whiz of a writer.

I have chosen you as one of writing heros with Jon Morrow of Smartblogger.

I have your pictures and I dream of writing effortlessly persuasive as you exhibit in your writings.

I hope to write you someday to share my writing samples with you as I keep move through the gears.

Health and prosperity to you,mom.

Solomon ,with love from Nigeria.

January 3, 2022 at 10:13 am

Thank you, Solomon. What a lovely compliment. I’m honored to inspire your writing.

By the way, the process of writing is never effortless. The writer puts the effort in so the reading feel effortless.

Happy writing, and best wishes for the new year!

become a writer at 40

December 28, 2021 at 1:31 am

As a fellow 40-something just delving into the world of copywriting and proofreading, I really appreciate this. Unlike you, I have always dreamed of being a writer BUT until recently, I didn’t think there was any point because I thought the only way I could be a writer was to be a fiction author. I also thought I’d never amount to anything but a teacher, but I suddenly found myself without a classroom or a desire to be in one after 13 years. Writing found me when I was at my darkest. Procrastination is and always will be an issue for me as well. Same with imposter syndrome. But I’m pushing through it. Thanks for showing me that it’s possible.

December 28, 2021 at 12:08 pm

I’m glad you’ve found your way to writing, Jill. There are so many different ways to write which we don’t learn about when we are young.

By the way, I used to think that one is a procrastinator as if procrastination is an inherent trait. But I’ve learned procrastination is a habit and can be unlearned. It takes time and practice but can be done. There’s more possible than I ever thought.

Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

December 23, 2021 at 8:08 am

Enjoyed reading this post, Henneke! Thanks for sharing 🙂

December 23, 2021 at 9:38 am

Thank you, Sampada. Good to see you! 🙂 I hope you’re keeping safe and well.

become a writer at 40

December 12, 2021 at 6:27 pm

You are an inspiration for everyone out there who gets afraid when taking a new step.

December 12, 2021 at 6:55 pm

Thank you, Robert. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 24, 2021 at 8:33 am

You’re the best for imparting your excursion to us. It truly gave us knowledge into what your identity is and made you more human. Your article has consistently assisted me with acquiring some points of view about myself. I concur with you, the ability is exaggerated, and you can obtain new abilities at whatever stage in life. I’m truly happy that you forged ahead regardless of the cynicism.

November 24, 2021 at 9:51 am

Thank you for your lovely comment, Kim. I’m glad you agree that we can all acquire new skills later in life. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 19, 2021 at 3:30 am

Hi Henneke,

It was such an inspiring post! Thanks a lot for sharing your journey with us. It really gave us insight into who you are, and made you more human. Your article has always helped me gain some perspective about myself. I agree with you, talent is overrated, and you can acquire new skills at any age. I am really glad that you continued on despite the negativity. Thanks a lot for reminding me that I can write, I have bookmarked your post to read on difficult days. Thanks again.

November 19, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Thank you for your lovely comment, John. I’m glad this helped you gain some perspective. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 15, 2021 at 2:41 pm

November 15, 2021 at 2:50 pm

Thank you, Ken. I appreciate your stopping by! 🙂

become a writer at 40

November 15, 2021 at 11:38 am

Indeed very good post-Henneke, Hard work pays off.

November 15, 2021 at 12:07 pm

I think being deliberate and focused is more important than hard work. It’s making the work (and learning) we do count.

become a writer at 40

November 14, 2021 at 12:40 pm

Dear Henneke, I love your writing style, which is simple and clear. It has a smooth flow. As for me, I am yet to discover my style, as my debut book is a complex subject matter and needs a lot of study and research keeping me up on my toes. I am experimenting with poetic prose and fiction style in non fiction. I enjoy writing too, and love the literary devices and nuances of the English language, although it’s not my native tongue either. We do have a hoard of successful writers here in our country, as we were ruled by englishmen for 2 centuries and it’s not something unique. Most of the urban dwellers tend to converse with at least 50 pc of English words. I am trying to hone my skills to the best of my abilities. and have learnt a lot from other writers. Hats off to your struggle too! And thanks a lot for the encouragement. Let us keep writing for the sake of it, and with a goal, as that will keep us pepped up and get going. Lots of love..

November 15, 2021 at 9:43 am

Yes, let us all keep writing.

It sounds like you’ve set yourself a good writing challenge. I hope it brings you joy.

Thank you for stopping by, Rajashree. I appreciate it.

become a writer at 40

November 13, 2021 at 1:44 am

Hi Ma’am Namaskar 🙏

It’s always fascinating to read you. Knowing about that you too are a late starter in writing had given me a reason to feel comfortable. I’m of almost 50 and only this year in 2021 I published my maiden book (novel).

The novel titled ‘Kicks of Nostalgia’ is the collection of the anecdotes from of my college days, it can be called a memoir or autobiography.

When I started I was hesitant but once i started i felt that I’m getting fuelled with so many ideas that I decided to write my novel in volumes one each for my there years of life at my college from where I was graduated.

I loved writing my book, it makes me feel that I’m strolling with my college days friends in the corridors of my hostel or playing soccer in the stadium.

Ma’am I know that flaws were there in my maiden book but I also know that there is always a scope for improvement. I’m learning and I’m improving. Now I’m on the halfway of the second volume of my novel.

I feel happy to tell you that your articles are so enlightening, every time read you i feel enlightened, happy and relaxed.

Ma’am it’s available on Amazon also in paperback and in Kindle as ebook.

Please keep writing the enlightening writing tips. You don’t know that how many people get enlightened and benefitted from your writing.

My regards to all in your family. Wish you all the best🙏

Vijay Bisht India

November 13, 2021 at 5:28 pm

Congratulations on publishing your first book, Vijay. That’s fabulous.

And I’m impressed that you’ve already started writing your next book.

I wish you much writing joy!

November 15, 2021 at 12:55 am

So nice of you Ma’am Your words mean a lot to everyone you respond. Have a great day Regards

become a writer at 40

November 11, 2021 at 10:08 pm

Thank you for this post, Henneke. I needed to hear this because writing gives me joy too!

November 12, 2021 at 11:05 am

That’s so lovely. Happy writing, Swetha!

become a writer at 40

November 11, 2021 at 6:05 pm

I always love your blog posts, but this is the first one I’ve felt the urge to comment on… mostly because I resonate so much with what you’re saying!

I never got good grades in English, and essays were the things that always pulled me down. Even recently, I got near perfect scores in everything except the essay section on my IELTS.

But somehow, I managed to leave all that behind and start writing blog posts for clients… and they seem to genuinely like what I write!

I guess the point of this was just to say that I’m where you were before, still trying to find my place and struggling to call myself a writer (especially when my uni friends go, “Oh, this essay will be easy for you since you’re a writer!”) Your story is so, so inspiring!

November 11, 2021 at 7:29 pm

People that think that writing is easy are usually people who are bad at writing. Even when we become experienced writers, writing remains hard.

Thanks so much for stopping by to share your story, Ananya. Keep writing and you’ll find your place. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 11, 2021 at 4:53 pm

HI, I have followed you for many years and have loved it. I recommend your site to anyone wanting to learn to write. I wish you had been my English teacher in school. It would have saved me years of misery!! With your guidance and suggestions I have become a successful art blogger. My blog will be 13 years strong this January. I now write articles for art magazines as well. But the biggest change is I now describe myself as an Art Writer. (Coming from someone that dragged herself through every English course she ever took, that is amazing.) Keep writing, the joy you feel is there in your work.

November 11, 2021 at 7:27 pm

Thank you so much for stopping by to share your story, Wendy. How wonderful that you’re now writing for art magazines, too. Are you enjoying your writing more, too?

become a writer at 40

November 11, 2021 at 4:03 pm

That was lovely. I especially loved the quote. Thank you for sharing this. I do consider myself a writer since I’ve been writing forever but mostly for myself. When I tried copywriting, however, it was a whole other story because I haven’t persisted and I let my fear masked by procrastination get the better of me. Which honestly is a real shame.But I’m glad you continued and that writing brings you joy and life now.

November 11, 2021 at 7:25 pm

Isn’t it interesting how we are okay with different types of writing? The idea of writing something for myself is completely alien to me. I wouldn’t know where to start. Yet, writing copy was probably the easiest for me to get into. Perhaps because of my background in marketing?

I hope that writing is bringing you joy, too, Amelle. Thank you for stopping by to share your story.

become a writer at 40

November 11, 2021 at 5:37 am

One of the best pieces of advice and motivation for newbie copywriters. When I was starting(I’m still a newbie though) I was very under-confident and one of the books that helped me a lot and which still read, again and again, is “Blog to Win Business”. Easy way to find your “VOICE & STYLE” And how to find Ideal clients with easy-to-understand restaurant examples. Thanks for this amazing blog post and I’ll share this with those who are starting out. (As there are rumors that only native-English speaker can be a good copywriter:)

November 11, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Vinish, and for sharing this blog post with others who it may help.

I’m glad you’re enjoying my book Blog to Win Business. Happy blogging!

become a writer at 40

November 11, 2021 at 4:26 am

I have enjoyed, appreciated and learned from you from your very first e-mail. I responded to your first e-mail for one reason. Your voice. Who you are. The values you hold and live. The quality of life you strive to exemplify, your gentle strength, your heart, all came through the words you put in that email. ( And, yes. I still read and re-read your grammar lessons. There is not a better grammar teacher on this planet than you!) I pray your health is much improved. And, I am really glad your became a writer. Grace and peace

November 11, 2021 at 1:37 pm

What a lovely comment. Thank you, Curtis. And thank you so much for your kind encouragement through so many years.

I think I get stuck with writing about grammar. I like to teach some parts of grammar, especially as it relates to voice, but a lot of grammar bores me.

become a writer at 40

November 10, 2021 at 8:49 pm

Thank you for this, Henneke! I always really enjoy reading your posts & I think you have mastered the art of clear, succinct content!

November 10, 2021 at 8:53 pm

Thank you so much, Katie. That’s a lovely compliment. Thank you for stopping by.

become a writer at 40

November 10, 2021 at 7:50 pm

I so needed to hear this. Learning to write copy is my escape plan from a long corporate career. Your words nudge me forward 🙂

Thanks for the encouragement and reassurance that it’s OK to not feel like a writer…….yet.

November 10, 2021 at 8:46 pm

It also turned out to be my escape route out of a corporate career. I just didn’t realize it at the time. No need to feel like a writer, just keep writing and go for it. I’ve never regretted starting anew.

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

become a writer at 40

November 10, 2021 at 5:10 pm

Amazing text, Henneke! It has just translated my deep feelings

November 10, 2021 at 9:14 pm

Thank you, Paulo. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 10, 2021 at 4:11 pm

Thank you for this! Not only are there nuggets of inspiration, but I enjoy your writing style. I study the way you write!

November 10, 2021 at 5:14 pm

Thank you, Celia. I appreciate your compliment. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 10, 2021 at 4:04 pm

It’s never too late to enjoy a happy childhood.

Or the wonderful world of living creatively.

Recently while enjoying, “Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success,”-Ron Friedman, I thought of how great you are at sharing how you break down delicious writing examples.

Thank you for your ideas and inspiration.

Yes, that’s so true: “It’s never too late to enjoy a happy childhood.” I’ll remember that. It does feel like my inner child is finally happy.

And yes, I love reading good writing and then breaking down why it’s so good. It’s one of my favorite types of posts to write, and I also think it’s an essential part of learning to write better.

Thank you, Phil. I appreciate your compliment.

become a writer at 40

November 10, 2021 at 1:39 pm

November 10, 2021 at 5:12 pm

I remember reading advice from a writing coach in my early years of writing, and he also said, just call yourself a writer—as if that was the precondition for building a writing habit. I think it’s the wrong way around. Just do the writing, then feeling like a writer will come. Thank you for stopping by, Grace. Happy writing!

November 10, 2021 at 7:32 am

Dear Henneke, thanks for your human and deep post. “While writing, I felt alive. I felt connected to the best part of myself”, you writes in your article. It’s true. I am writing my first novel (inspired by that Italian criminal case) and I feel happy when I give life to the people of my story. I have always avoided to write a novel. I am a journalist and journalism works with facts, not with stories that are not true. Some teachers since I was 17 years old encouraged me to write stories, but I thought that there were too many writers (and many are bad writers, without humanity). Now you teach us, Henneke, that perhaps somewhere there is someone who doesn’t need a new writer (or a composer, or a filmmaker), but a person who writes their story that can educate, inspire, make other people less alone. Thank you, Henneke

November 10, 2021 at 8:49 am

How exciting that you’re writing your first novel!

How can there ever be enough writers? I’m glad you changed your mind on that.

I like your point on writing a story to make other people less alone. I often find company in books and love following along in people’s journeys, whether real or imagined.

Thanks so much for stopping by again, Maurizio. I appreciate it.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 9:47 pm

This is so inspiring! Thank you so much Henneke. I’m certainly one of the many cheering you on. I’ve learned so much from you and am looking forward to much more. Thanks for being you!

November 10, 2021 at 8:46 am

Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Soul, and for cheering me on!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 7:53 pm

You never fall to inspire.

Regards Trevor

November 9, 2021 at 8:45 pm

Thank you, Trevor. I appreciate your compliment.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 6:56 pm

You did not imagine we were cheering you on! We were. You imparted more to us than facts about copywriting. You imparted your self. You were—and always will be—ours.

And that goes beyond a skillset. That is art.

Awww. Thank you, Katherine. You’re right. I do know you’re always cheering me on. Thank you for all your kindness and encouragement.

November 10, 2021 at 3:21 pm

You are most welcome! 🙂

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 6:41 pm

I was surprised to read that English is not your first language. Why did you choose to develop your written English skills instead of in your native language?

I’m asking you this because I’m currently working on a book in English, which I started writing while living in Costa Rica. Where I worked only in Spanish or English.

However, I changed my website when I returned to Montreal (with a new project) and now write in French, including a blog since my contacts are mainly in that language now.

However, I like to write in all three languages, but I feel torn when it’s time to sign up for online courses to improve my writing skills. I tend to prefer English, but I wonder if this is a good thing? If it would be better to do it in French from now on. I have already written a book in Spanish, another in French and now in English.

I would really appreciate your opinion on this.

Thank you for your good advice on improving our writing.

November 9, 2021 at 6:47 pm

I never considered writing in my native language (Dutch). I live in the UK and read mostly English. The writing course I took was in English, too. So, writing in English always felt the most logical thing to do. Besides, most Dutch people can read English so I didn’t really feel the need to write in Dutch, too.

I now find writing in English much easier than writing in Dutch. I can write in Dutch but it takes me longer and I feel more uncertain whether I’m choosing the right words.

So, I much admire your ability to write books in three different languages. That’s fabulous!

I don’t know which language you should pick. You could either approach it rationally (where’s the biggest opportunity for your work?) or follow your intuition (writing in which language do you enjoy most?). Or if it’s specifically about choosing a course, which course do you think best matches your needs? You can usually apply what you learn in one language to another language, too.

November 9, 2021 at 9:00 pm

Thank you Henneke for your prompt answer. I really appreciate it!

Writing to you also opened my mind to another truth. It’s by taking the time to see how we feel that we can better define our specific needs.(It’s what I’m teaching people to do)

You are such a great example of what is possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Henneke, Thank you so very much for this post. Including Stephen Fry’s comment was pure inspiration on your part and a path changer for me.

Being a verb, rather than a noun, will make this adventure less stressful and more fun and joyful.

Yes, it’s weird how nouns come with so much baggage (and stress!). It’s much easier to ignore the nouns and just do the verbs. Happy writing, Dennis!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 5:33 pm

It is some time since I first came across your Blog, and indeed since we met up – how many years ago was that?

You have consistently written relatable, inspiring, fun posts during that time. I don’t have an online business now – I simply read your articles because they are so good. (I also point lots of people to your site).

Like you, I was told in school that I had little creative talent. But you know, these days I spent a lot of time painting, creating patterns and selling them! So that Stephen Fry speaks a lot of good sense.

It’s great to hear that you’re on the mend Henneke – here’s to a full recovery. 😘

November 9, 2021 at 6:40 pm

Gosh, yes, I have no idea how long ago that was. I do remember how lovely it was to meet you and your sister, and it was in the middle of winter.

I love that quote from Stephen Fry. I read it a couple of years ago, and I often remind myself of it. It seemed to fit this post perfectly.

So glad to hear you’re spending your time painting, creating patterns, and selling them. Here’s to us all discovering and enjoying creativity!

Thanks so much for stopping by again, Caroline. It humbles me to know you’re still reading my blog. Thank you.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 5:22 pm

For the most part, writing has always been a part of my life in one form or another. It did prove somewhat therapeutic during the recovery phase following a traumatic accident as I wrote to keep my mind occupied. To make a very long story short, what I’d scripted during that eventually period proved to be my first manuscript and netted two novels (one published April 2020 and the other pending release) some eleven years later. There’s so much that occupies my mind writing has become necessary for me to function.

November 9, 2021 at 6:23 pm

Congratulations on your two novels! That’s fab. And also good to hear how writing proved therapeutic during your recovery. Thank you for sharing your story, B.G.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 5:20 pm

Oh my goodness, I’m so appreciative of you sharing your story. Your “before” sounds just like me..writing as little as possible (including and especially social media), and your “after” is so encouraging because I just turned 40 and I’m looking to really start expressing more. THANK YOU

November 9, 2021 at 6:19 pm

I still write very little on social media as I prefer writing my blog. I don’t even have a Facebook account. So, don’t a low social media profile stop you from starting to write more.

Thank you for stopping by, Angel. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 5:10 pm

I think people can do whatever they truly want. The question is about the level and to what extent it’s being done. What we think most about is what we’ll become. Becoming a freelance writer and author is my goal. Thank you for the inspiration!

November 9, 2021 at 6:12 pm

I admire people who know what they want to do and think that anyone can do what they truly want. It’s not how I’ve grown up. I think it’s a cultural difference. It’s just not how the Dutch think (at least most of them). Happy writing, Denise!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 4:59 pm

Henneke, I have been reading your blogs from 2015 when I started leading a content writing team for an ecommerce store. The way you describe writing: The breaks, the rhythm, the continuation, and the consistency is simply remarkable.

November 9, 2021 at 6:10 pm

Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Sharjeel, and for reading my blog for so many years!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 4:16 pm

Dear Henneke,

I love reading your blogs, and have taken your course on copywriting. You are an inspiration for me to keep working with creative combinations of words to make an object interesting. I’m staying true to who I am, but some sites want you to write at a 5th grade level, and maybe by my trying to be creative, and too profound, I might not win over some readers. Thank you for your story. You are delightful!

Jan Maitland

November 9, 2021 at 6:09 pm

Thank you for your kind words, Jan.

5th grade sounds quite challenging. I think my writing is mostly around 7th grade but I haven’t really paid attention to it for a long time. I should check it out again!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Hi Henneke, I agree with Diana – this is wonderful and inspirational. I too direct people in my writing classes to your website. You have such a kind way of making people feel accepted and less alone in their struggle to write (or to get through whatever they may be struggling with). Thanks for all you do.

November 9, 2021 at 6:07 pm

Thanks so much for your kind words, Rachel, and for sharing my work with your students. I much appreciate that.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 3:53 pm

This story of yours is exactly what I needed. I have been an on-again, off-again writer for years, and as a non-native English speaker I have spent TOO much time worrying about my writing skills. Instead, I should have put all the energy into improving those skills.

Thank you for your virtual, gentle push!

November 9, 2021 at 6:06 pm

Yes, I know the feeling—spending too much time worrying and not enough time actually doing what we want to do. Having to cut down on my working hours made me realize how much a time waster all those worries are, so I learned to just get started and then to keep going, step by step.

Happy writing, Jelena, and thank you for stopping by.

become a writer at 40

Hi Henneke I loved reading about your journey to becoming a writer. Reading your posts over the years has cultivated my writing muscle and I am now working on an eBook. My biggest takeaway from you has been on how to use words as ‘seasoning’ when writing. You are quite masterful at this and I often refer to your article about making words that ‘dance’ to inspire me. What a brilliant fiction writer you would make,Henneke. I hope that’s on the cards for you in the future.

November 9, 2021 at 6:04 pm

I really don’t know, Poovanesh. Fiction writing still feels like the kind of “real” writing that isn’t for me. Maybe one day I get an idea and want to try it out. For now, I’m just happy writing my blog 🙂

It humbles me to know that you’ve kept reading me. Thank you.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 3:10 pm

What a wonderful and inspirational blog post! Your words have a lasting impact in helping others move forward with their writing goals. Over the years, I have enjoyed your posts and incorporated your tips into my instruction for copywriting students. (I teach for Continuing Education in Canada) I encourage students to visit your website.

I share this with you as you never know the reach you can have with your content.

All the Best and thank you, Diana

November 9, 2021 at 3:36 pm

Thank you so much for your compliment, Diana, and for sharing my writing with your students. I much appreciate it.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Oh, Henneke!

I loved this article and enjoyed reading it all the way. That’s the magical part of our writing, you just are engaging and so entertaining even when you are opening your heart and feelings to us. You are very inspiring to me! English is my second tongue so I´m not as confident, but your story makes me feel less critical of myself and willing to write… like I´m doing right now haha Sending a lot of love and vibes your way!

November 9, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Lucia. I’m glad you enjoyed this article. Sending lots of love your way!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 2:36 pm

Well, whether you consider yourself a writer or not… I am a fan! Thanks for sharing your story and inspiring so many. And hope your healing comes soon.

November 9, 2021 at 3:34 pm

Thank you so much for inspiring and encouraging me, Margie!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 2:24 pm

No one is born a writer. Too right!

Yes! How can a baby be a writer?!?

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 1:57 pm

Excellent success story, thank you for sharing

I’m glad you enjoyed it, Prashanth.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Hello Henneke,

This is an inspiring message to me. I’ve seen my friends venturing into writing but I’ve always shied away. I later decided to become a freelancer. I’m struggling with writing, sending pitches and other marketing strategies. My rate of procrastination is too but I believe I’ll overcome it soonest. Thank you for your inspirational content. I’m improving my writing day by day.

It sounds like you’re on the right track, Michael as you mention improving your writing day by day. That’s how it works. Step by step. And the same approach can help overcome procrastination, too. Try not to worry about any big goals and focus on working on your next step only. Do the work that’s right in front of you.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:51 pm

Hi there, Henneke, I read your newsletter the moment your email dropped into my inbox. As others also have mentioned,( you don’t need me to say this), I find your writing effortless with an easy flow of words. I am 71 going on 72 staying in Mumbai, INDIA. Like you, I am also non-English. Your writing surely makes me and others think that we too can take to writing in English. Believe me, we would be none the worse for it! Here’s wishing that you get over your trauma as soon as you possibly can! Looking forward to receiving your newsletter more regularly. By for now, Best regards, Ram Iyengar

November 9, 2021 at 1:09 pm

Thank you for your kind message, Ram. I’m trying to stick to a fortnightly publishing schedule now. Let’s hope I can keep it up!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:47 pm

What a lovely message this is. And so true. Thank you

November 9, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Thank you, Kim.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:43 pm

Geweldig hoor, Henneke, vooral die quote van Stephen Fry heeft er goed ingehakt bij mij. Keep up the good writing!

Ja, die quote is goed, hè?

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. Reading about your journey to becoming a writer has given me the push (more like a shove) that I desperately need to stop procrastinating and just start writing.

November 9, 2021 at 1:06 pm

Yes, please do start writing, Leannah. Just focus on one tiny step at a time—even if it’s 10 minutes a day.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:27 pm

Love this! Thank you for sharing.

November 9, 2021 at 1:05 pm

Thank you, Valerie.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:25 pm

You are incredible, every email and post is helpful. Your contributions had been so powerful that I cherished them like a secret.

Then one day….

I felt guilty for keeping your helpful tips from others.

I shared it with 24 of my other team members!

Hope that was Okay.

Yes, of course, that’s okay. I much appreciate your sharing my tips with others. The more readers, the better. Thank you, David.

become a writer at 40

Awesome article. Glad you realize that I (as a reader) am always there to support you and want you to succeed as a writer!

November 9, 2021 at 1:03 pm

Thank you, Waqar. I’m grateful for all support.

become a writer at 40

No one is born a writer. How true is this. Thanks Henneke for sharing your learnings through these wonderful years. Keep on writing because we enjoy it too much. A big hug from Argentina.

When you think about it, it’s kind of obvious that no one is born a writer, isn’t it? Any met a baby who can write? So, why is this myth so stubborn?

Thank you for your kind words, Fran. Big hug back to you.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:22 pm

Thank you for sharing, Henneke. You are my absolute inspiration! And sometimes we need a reminder that if you want to be a writer – be a writer. Don’t shy away from it. And the words will come. With practice and consistency and useful tips from Henneke, but they will come.

November 9, 2021 at 1:02 pm

Yes, it’s the practice and consistency that matter. It’s the doing (writing) that matters not the being (a writer).

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Inspirational, indeed.

Please share links to books you’ve written.

Kindly suggest books on writing.

November 9, 2021 at 1:01 pm

Thank you, Naseer.

Here’s an overview of my books and courses: https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/books-and-courses/

And here’s a list of recommended books on writing: https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/best-books-on-writing/

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:19 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your story! Your resilience and determination are impressive and I wish you well with your physical and emotional recovery. If the past few years have been you at half-speed, just imagine the possibilities when you’re at full-strength! Thanks as well for your encouragement to those of us who are wondering – “Can I become a writer, could I really do it?” Your website snd business have helped give me an educational foundation to start from and begin exploring my way, I just need to overcome the procrastination challenges! Best wishes to you!

November 9, 2021 at 12:59 pm

I wonder sometimes, too, what’ll happen when I work again at full speed. But then I remind myself to make the most of right now, and that helps me to keep going and to enjoy my writing—even if it’s only a little.

Thanks so much for your kind words, Tree. Procrastination is tough but it can be overcome. What helps me most is focus on one tiny step at a time and not thing about the (big) goals. One tiny step. The work right in front of me.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:16 pm

You have been a big inspiration for me, and it was after reading your posts that I grew more as a writer.

This article is again an inspiration.

Thanks for sharing.

November 9, 2021 at 12:56 pm

Thank you so much, Anmol. Happy writing!

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:15 pm

Thank you for sharing this, Henneke! I love reading your posts and emails. Your honesty and humility have always been so refreshing! Hope I can also write the way you do.

Thank you so much for your kind message, Carol. I appreciate it.

become a writer at 40

Thank you for sharing this. We (and others around us) can tell ourselves some pretty big lies. I’m glad you finally realized how amazing you are. I love your blog and your writing. Keep going 💛

Thank you for your kind words, Brittany. You’re so right about the pretty big lies. It took me a long time to see the lies for what they were but now I feel extra grateful for the time I can spend writing.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:12 pm

Hi, I love your writing skills,very simple and easy to understand. I am sorry to hear about your Trauma,I hope you are doing good.

Keep doing good work, you are my inspiration:)

November 9, 2021 at 12:54 pm

Thank you, Leeza. I will keep going. I’m enjoying my writing too much! 🙂

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:04 pm

Thanks for your inspiration. English is my second language too. My writing skills is like a 3rd grade kid but I am in my 40s. So I have a lot of work to do in order to become a writer. Do you have any suggestions where should I start? What books should I read to help my writing skills? Thanks

I’m sure your English writing skills are better than you think.

If you want to improve your English writing, then it’s most useful to work with a language coach or editor. They can point out the mistakes you’re making and explain them so you can try to avoid them in future. Otherwise, just reading a lot helps. Reading can help increase vocabulary and improve understanding of sentence structure and rhythm. Any reading will help—just read what you enjoy.

If you want to improve your writing skills (rather than your English), here’s a list of recommended books: https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/best-books-on-writing/

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 12:00 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this!! I’ve always wanted to write but have very little confidence that I could.

November 9, 2021 at 12:02 pm

I was the same. I didn’t have any confidence either. I built that confidence slowly over the years.

become a writer at 40

November 9, 2021 at 11:58 am

I absolutely believe you!

I’m sorry you suffered a trauma, I hope you’re getting better day by day. 🤗

November 9, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Thank you, Kim. I am getting better! And I started working a little more, too. It feels so good!

become a writer at 40

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Why can’t life begin after 40 for a writer?

Without knowing it, writes fiona gartland, as far as the market was concerned, i’d already timed out.

become a writer at 40

Fiona Gartland: if under 40 had always been the rule, we would not have heard of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or The Little House on the Prairie from Laura Ingalls Wilder

Fiona Gartland's face

Last year, at a writing festival in rural Ireland about 60 attendees sat listening to presentations from publishers and agents. It was the kind of segment that has been popular on the writing festival circuit for quite a while now. The attendees hear a lot of familiar advice from people in the industry, both domestic and overseas. And there are occasional insights into the metamorphic and precarious state of the publishing industry.

At this particular event, there was a lot of advice about presentation, synopses and introduction letters, how authors should market themselves and their books, and the common mistakes made by aspiring novelists.

Some presenters included anecdotes involving awful submissions they’d received. There was one story about a submission of three chapters with ketchup on the pages that stuck them together. Another speaker described a submission lazily forwarded with the rejection note of a previous publisher still attached. And a third story was about the increasingly angry stream of emails received by one of the agents that followed a polite “thanks, but no thanks”.

become a writer at 40

Attendees laughed along like insiders, sure they would never make such mistakes. Of course no one in that room would have dreamt of trying to enter into correspondence about their work with a publisher or agent once they’d received their rejection letter. Certainly, like any other sane person, those gathered there could take “no” for an answer.

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No one would ever consider sending manuscripts to multiple publishing houses simultaneously instead of waiting for rejection or acceptance from one house at a time. And if a book had been self-published on the internet, no one would have insulted the professionals present by passing the book off as entirely fresh.

An hour into the session, the questions and answers element got under way. The usual inquiries were made: did the speakers have a preferred format? Double-spaced; Times New Roman; unjustified.

Do they accept self-illustrated children’s books? No; yes; maybe.

Any advice for a writer with multiple rejections? Consider joining a writing group; read more; put your work aside and try again later.

How much will I get paid if I do get accepted? Not a lot; not a lot; not a lot.

Still, despite the bucket of cold water that rinsed away any lingering illusions of self-sufficiency through writing, enthusiasm remained. The work was the thing, after all, and if publication did not bring money at least it would bring satisfaction. The atmosphere was relaxed, the tone conspiratorial; cloud-filtered sunlight softened the room. It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Then someone asked that question about age. Are you more likely to take on a writer who is under 35? Eh; well; yes.

“The fact is the market finds younger, first-time writers a more attractive sell.”

Ouch! At least half the attendees were on the wrong side of that line, some more wrong than others. That flickering flame of hope, on which all writers’ festivals feed, sputtered then. Just as well it was Sunday and there was nothing left but a reading by the local poet.

On the drive home I thought of my own efforts at writing, a novel I had been tipping away at for a while, first for pleasure and then with the hope of eventual publication. Without knowing it, as far as the market was concerned, I’d already timed out.

I thought of all those lists that are published of promising writers; “up and coming under 30”, “40 under 40 you must read”. I know encouraging young writers is important and anything that contributes to that is good. The publishing world is hard to crack and those starting out need all the help they can get. Young writers need to be nurtured. The “voice of a new generation” must contribute to the world.

But if under 40 had always been the rule, we would not have heard of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or The Little House on the Prairie from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe would never have entered the collective imagination and where would we find Mary Wesley’s Camomile Lawn?

English author Joanna Walsh, who runs @Read_Women, has argued that ageism in publishing silences minorities and women in particular because women are more likely to be the ones who spend part of their lives caring for children, which makes finding time to write more difficult. She says “older women are already told every day in ways ranging from the subtle to the blatant, that they are irrelevant and should shut up”. Placing age barriers, for example for writing awards, is arbitrary and “a particularly cruel irony” for those unable to write in their youth, she says.

Some men, too, take time to find their voices, particularly if they’re from disadvantaged backgrounds. And some struggle very hard to quieten the self-criticism that must be put to one side long enough to complete a first draft. Others don’t discover the urge to write until other urges have waned.

Though not analogous, a comedy drama with Woody Allen comes to mind in which he plays The Front, ghosting for blacklisted writers during the McCarthy witch hunts in the 1950s. He becomes very successful and is asked why he started writing so late.

“Well, because in order to write you gotta get experience and you gotta live, and life is experience . . . so I had to, you know, get that experience.”

The fact he was someone only pretending to be a writer does not diminish his argument in my view.

Not everyone finds a voice in their youth. There are generations who only learn or are free to write in later life. It doesn't mean what they have to say is any less valuable or any less worthy of hearing. So give us "aged out" writers a chance. We might surprise you. Fiona Gartland has been a journalist with The Irish Times for 13 years. She lives in Dublin with her husband and four children. In the Court's Hands is a murder mystery based in and around the Criminal Courts of Justice. It is published under the Poolbeg Press Crimson imprint and launched this evening at 6pm in Hodges Figges, Dawson Street, Dublin . All welcome

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Janey Burton

by Sarah Tinsley

It’s hard to believe that youth isn’t the key to everything. We’re sold the idea that looking as young as possible equals beauty. That staying in touch with the things young people find important will keep us relevant in society. For older writers, it can often feel like you’ve simply left it too late. You might feel your ideas are no longer relevant, that people will be horrified at the thought of reading a book by an ‘old’ person. But what if your age actually gives you an advantage?

I’m here to tell you that being over 40 is fantastic for a writer. I didn’t get my first short story published until I was 35, and my first novel, The Shadows We Cast , came out this year, and I’m 42. I think it’s been an enormous benefit to me. I’m also in very good company. The up-and-coming creatives of the day have nothing on you. Here are five huge reasons why, as an older writer, you’re already ahead of the game as a writer when you’ve clocked four decades of existence.

While I’m not an advocate of ‘write what you know,’ there is something to be said about the number of years simply existing in the world. It might mean that there is a whole area of life and the world that you are a specialist in. The hours you’ve spent on anything from waitressing to teaching to accounting will not only have given you fodder for the creative mill, it will also have given you insight into a range of personalities and situations. Toni Morrison used her editing experience when she published her first book at 40, and Kit de Waal used her background in law and understanding of the care system to write My Name is Leon , published when she was 56.

Undoubtedly you’ve lived through some tough times by now. While of course this is true of people of all ages, perhaps being able to look back over the span of your years will give you a perspective you couldn’t have grasped when you were in your twenties. In my workshop Turning Yourself Into A Book , I encourage writers to draw on a range of memories and experiences to craft both fiction and non fiction writing. It’s often the older writers who have the most unusual or inspiring stories to tell. Make the most of all of your experiences as an older writer and use them to sit back and feel like a wise inhabitant of the earth.

Drawback: Older writers might find it harder to find networks of support for their writing. Don’t miss out on opportunities to share and develop your work, there are plenty of online networks to be found that can be squeezed into your schedule!

With any art there will always be the struggle between creating it and getting paid for it. The good news is that, by the time you’re in your forties, you’re much more likely to be in a stable place financially. You might lack the free time of someone younger with less responsibilities, but you’ll also be less likely to need to rely on your art as a source of income.

When I was a teacher, I actually found that the steady income and regularity of my job helped me to create when I wasn’t working, and I’m not the only one. From Agatha Christie to Franz Kafka , many older writers continued to work even after their writing had made them successful.

In the same vein, maybe you won’t find you need the validation that comes with payment in order to make you feel like a ‘real’ writer. If you put this together, it should enable you to feel freer in creating whatever you want, rather than feeling tied to expectations of what is going to make you money. My fortnightly Scribbles workshops encourage writers to experiment with their writing and make bold choices . I’ve definitely found this is easier since I’ve become an older writer.

Drawback: If money from writing isn’t a necessity, you might use it as an excuse not to submit to high paying/profitable places. Don’t be afraid to shoot just as high as you would be if your rent was dependent on success!

Because we’ve figured everything out by 40, right? Well, perhaps not. But through living longer, we’re far more likely to have experienced a raft of disappointments, setbacks and tragedies. I don’t like the phrase ‘thick skin’ as it implies you’ve become desensitised to emotion, but I do think you will have built up a raft of coping strategies and comforts in the face of difficult times.

Writing will, unfortunately, always come with rejection. Hopefully your armour of emotional coping mechanisms should mean that they won’t affect you as much. Or, perhaps more importantly, that you won’t let rejection define you in the same way you might have when you were younger. In this way, you can see your rejections as your writing having not found its true home yet, rather than an indication that you need to give up.

Drawback: Being ‘new’ at something later in life can be an uncomfortable experience. Older writers often find that imposter syndrome is a real struggle. Remember that you are in a very strong position as an older writer, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in the things you create.

Self-Understanding

On introducing myself to a new friend at the age of 22 I told her I was a singer, composer, writer and artist. Even at the time she asked me, ‘which one?’ Of course we continue to grow and change throughout our entire lives, but it’s likely that we will have a better idea of what we want once we’re over 40. Not only that, but we have a better sense of how we work, what motivates us and what’s important to us. That makes the path to success as an older writer so much easier – if it’s something we really want we’re going to prioritise it, and we’ll know whether or not we should be writing first thing in the morning or last thing at night. My coaching services help writers through the process of writing a book, and a big part of that is understanding themselves, rather than just knowing how to get the words down. Age is definitely a bonus!

Drawback: A slight stereotype, but all this knowledge might lead to a lack of playfulness. It’s important to remember that art comes from play. Allowing ourselves to joyfully experiment should always be part of the toolkit.

Lack of Peer Pressure

One of the things I’ve been delighted with from moving into my thirties, and then my forties, is that I care less and less what people think of me. Leaving the house was a fraught and anxious time in my teens when I agonised over what to wear and that thing I said to a popular girl last week. If you’re not worried about what other people think, you’re more likely to be true to your unique writing voice and not worry that you don’t sound like the popular writers. I dedicate a whole area of my website to sharing the work of other writers, confident that we’re all contributing something important to the literary scene.

Being an older writer should also lead to you being less of a perfectionist. If you’ve decided this is what you want to do, and that you’re running out of time to do it (you’re not, but it’s hard not to feel like that) then you’re more likely to get it out there in the world rather than waiting until it’s in a perfect state before you share.

Drawback: It can be intimidating when faced with young writers. Remember that you are not trying to inhabit the same space as them. You have your own, individual style and voice. The writing world has a you-shaped hole in it, you just need to fill it.

So there you have it. While the TikTok and Insta culture blossoming around us might make us feel ancient (and by all means get involved, I also know older writers who have done so with great success!), it’s important to remember that every writer is unique. What you are bringing to the artistic world is just as new, fresh and exciting as anything a younger writer has to offer. Because there is only one You in the world. As long as you stay true to that, nothing you write will be dated.

Sarah Tinsley is a British writer, author and writing coach living in France. She provides resources, workshops and feedback and coaching services to a range of writers. Her short fiction has won awards and been published widely, including Mslexia, Litro and the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her first novel The Shadows We Cast was published in 2022 and won the Spread the Word/Bookouture Prize in 2019. She also created Write By You, a company that runs writing projects for diverse, young female writers in North London. You can connect with her on Twitter or Instagram @sarahtinsleyuk and her website is www.sarahtinsley.com

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

by Lauren Sapala

Age 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.”

Guest post contributed by Lauren Sapala. Lauren is a writing coach who specializes in personal growth and artistic development for introverted intuitive writers. She is the author of  The INFJ Writer  and currently blogs on writing, creativity and personality theory at  www.laurensapala.com . She lives in San Francisco.

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Thanks for sharing!

Reblogged this on Historical Fiction Addicts and commented: A little encouragement for the writer’s who think age matters…only if you are wine does it matter. Otherwise, go! Write!

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Your categorizations certainly resonate with me and my experience. Thank you for posting this.

My pleasure.

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How to Start Freelance Writing at 40 – and Make Money

  • March 2, 2016

These tips on how to start a freelance writing career at 40 are screaming to get out of me! Why? Because I’m taking this epic Artist’s Way writing course, and the facilitator told us it’s never too late to start writing. Even at 40, or at 50, or 60.

start freelance writing at 40

“Freelance Writing at 40” image via notonmystreet.com

That was the good news. Yes, it’s awesome to know about various writers who didn’t start writing until they were in their 60s and 70s. (By the way, this means you’re well ahead of the game if you’re looking for tips on starting a freelancing career at 40.) The facilitator also told us about painters like Grandma Moses who started painting when they were ancient and marathoners like 92 year old Harriette Thompson who started running when they were even more ancient.

But, the teacher didn’t tell us HOW to start freelance writing at 40, or marathoning at 90. As I mention in Making a Career Change at 40? 10 Things You Need to Know , it is really hard to switch career tracks when you’re in “midlife.” We have kids, aging parents, neighbors with trees blocking our view of the ocean, taxes, and health issues that range from bunions to breast cancer.

We also have fears, insecurities, and the biggest BUT of all: self-doubt. That’s the other thing the Artist’s Way course facilitator talks about. We are our own worst enemies because we let our own stuff stand in the way.

And that’s the focus of my first tip on how to start freelance writing at 40.

But first, let me tell you something. I started freelance writing when I was 36 years old. I had just gotten married and moved to Bowen Island, which is a tiny island in British Columbia. My previous jobs included teaching Grade 8 Language Arts at a school for missionaries’ kids in Africa and working as a Mentoring Coordinator for Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Calgary.

And I went back to school at 42. I was tired of freelance writing and blogging for “Quips and Tips” (which I rebranded as Blossom), so I got my Master of Social Work (MSW). And then I went right back to blogging. Two six-month practicums in the social services field was enough to send me right back to my beloved writing career!

So while I didn’t start freelance writing at 40, I definitely know what it’s like to make career changes in the middling part of life.

5 Tips on Starting Your Freelance Writing Career at 40

My first suggestion is mostly psychological. The next four suggestions are highly practical and actionable…

1. Get out of your own way

If you’re searching for tips on how to start a freelance writing career at 40, I suspect you’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time. Am I right?

Something or someone is holding you back. Perhaps it’s a buffet of somethings and someones. An ocean of reasons – some real, some in your head – why you can’t start a freelance writing career. But now that you’re looking at 40 (or you’ve seen it come and go several times), you’re ready to do something about it. Or, at least you’re ready to search for tips on starting a freelancing career.

To get out of your own way, you need to know what you’re putting in your way.

  • Are you a “blocked creative”? Get The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – and actually DO all her exercises and activities.
  • Do you know nothing about how to start a freelance writing career? Read The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowman.
  • Are you confused about what kind of freelance writing niche to pursue? Read 88 Money-Making Writing Jobs by Robert Bly (one of my absolute favorite sources of information about how to start a freelance writing career at 40 or 50 or 200).

You want to learn how to make money as a freelance writer. If you don’t do it now, then when? Stop letting your doubts, fears, insecurities, and weaknesses get in your way. All writers and all humans beings are doubtful, scared, insecure, and weak! And yet, we write.

2. Study books on how to start a freelance writing career

For me, learning how to become a writer was the best part of my experience as a freelancer for magazines. I wrote for Reader’s Digest, MSN Health, Flare, and even More . I learned a lot and got a mild kick out of seeing my articles published in magazines…but it wasn’t terribly fulfilling for me. I never cared about seeing my articles or my name in print. I still write for alive magazine – and in fact, I have a feature article in their print issue this very month! They send me assignments about three times a year, and pay me $500 per assignment. It’s sweet.

The reason I was very quickly successful at starting my freelance writing career was because I spent hours reading books about freelancing. I don’t love freelancing so I quit pitching article ideas to editors after a couple of years. I love blogging and I love learning – as evidenced by my two undergraduate degrees and one Master degree. I’m still blogging and learning, but I’m not writing for magazines anymore.

If you want to know how to start a freelance writing career at 40, you need to read books about the business of writing. You don’t need to love learning the way I do, but you do need to know how to learn.

3 quick tips on how to start a freelance writing career at 40:

  • Don’t bother with getting a journalism degree
  • Get off the internet
  • Read print books about the freelance writing business.

You don’t have time to waste. Do you?

4. Think freelance writing career , not hobby

When I first started freelance writing, I called myself The Adventurous Writer . That helped me think of myself as a “real” writer with an actual career.

How to Start Freelance Writing at 40

How to Start Freelance Writing at 40

And then my husband Bruce kept talking about my “writing career.” That freaked me out at first, but then I began to think about my writing that way…as a career , not just a dream, goal, or even a way to pay the bills. It changed how I organize my workday, what I focus on, and what types of magazine assignments I accepted.

If you’re serious about starting your freelance writing career, you need to call it your CAREER. Maybe not out loud yet, but definitely in your head. And definitely in your Morning Pages (which you’ll start writing as soon as you start reading The Artist’s Way ).

Starting out as a freelance writer at 40 is serious business. It requires effort, discipline, energy, and an investment of time and money. If you treat your freelance writing career with respect, it will return the favor. If you honor your work, it will honor you.

5. Kick failure in the not-so-sweets

Part of being a successful freelance writer – and getting out of your own way – is learning how to overcome failure, recover from setbacks, and focus on your long-term vision for your career. At 40, you know success doesn’t happen overnight. You know you’ll have to struggle to achieve your goals because good things rarely come easily.

You know you’ll be rejected, but you’ll make choices that take you in the right direction. You’ll choose to learn how to start a freelance writing career at 40 instead of choosing to Like something dumb on Facebook. You’ll choose to practice writing instead of choosing to try out that butterscotch cookie recipe on Pinterest.

One last bonus tip on how to start a freelance writing career at 40

Before you decide to take a writing class, quit your doctoring job, or have another child – ask yourself if that choice moves you towards your long-term career goal or a short-term desire to scratch an itch or please someone.

Choose activities, people, and even memories that take you TOWARDS your goal of freelancing as a career. Everything you add to your life needs to take you one step closer. And, start thinking about what you can delete from your day that takes you one step away from being 50 and ignoring my advice on how to start a freelance writing career at 40.

Resources for You: The Freelance Writer

how to start a writing career at 40

The Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published  is an essential resource for beginning freelance writers. I always learned from the “how to start a freelance writing career” chapters at the front of the book – they always included tips for pitching articles, invoicing editors, managing financially on a freelancer’s sporadic income, etc.

If I was starting my freelance writing career today, I’d definitely invest in The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work, and Thrive on Your Own Terms  by Zachary Petit. When I wrote an article for Writer’s Diges t, he was the editor I worked with. Now he’s at Print Magazine , I think.

Question for you

For me, learning how to become a freelance writer was more interesting and fulfilling than actually being successful at freelancing. This is partly what made me a success: my curiosity, willingness to learn, and ability to motivate myself to work even without a boss. Or an immediate paycheck.

What have you recently learned about becoming a freelance writer at 40? Who – or what – is holding you back from giving it your 100%?

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3 thoughts on “How to Start Freelance Writing at 40 – and Make Money”

It’s never too late to fulfill a dream, even being a writer after the age of 40! Really inspiring post. People should never give up their dreams 🙂

This was a very helpful and inspiring read. I extra double appreciate the list of book recommendations. I ordered them all! It feels good to get started on a new, more independent path doing something I actually care about and enjoy. Thanks!

I think the tip about looking at freelance writing as a career rather than a short-term job is huge. It’s hard for a lot of people, if they make the move to work at home, to respect their own business.

A few things that have really helped me and the writers I’ve coached are:

– Have a plan for each day. Don’t just dive in and put out fires all day – set a few goals so by the end of the day, you know you’ve accomplished something.

– Work on your business consistently. No matter what it is, every business needs marketing – and that should be done every day… even if you’re busy.

– Build systems so you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel. If there’s a task you expect to have to do more than once, document how you do it. Ultimately you may be able to outsource it – and by having the documentation done, it’s a lot easier to train someone to help you.

Thanks for a great post.

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