Mighty Author

Is It Too Late To Become a Writer? No Age Is Too Old

August 7, 2023

For some jobs, your age does matter, but it is never too late to become a writer.  Many of us love writing, but due to other commitments in life, we simply do not get the time to commit to developing into skilled writers.

As long as you have determination, then you can become a writer at any age. Many famous writers began writing after their 20s, such as J K Rowling in her early thirties, Mark Twain was 41 and Millard Kaufman, a cartoonist, published his first book at 90!

Older Writer at Typewriter

If you are still interested in becoming a writer, why not go for it, whatever your age?

With enough perseverance and dedication, you can reach your dreams eventually.

To be a success, you just need to make sure that you have developed the necessary skills before trying to become a writer.

Writing is a craft that can be learned if you put your mind to it and put in a lot of effort. You should be clear about your objectives and remember that positive thinking can help you achieve positive results.

You need to have a strong desire to succeed in writing, which will provide the necessary drive for you to keep trying until you are successful.

What is stopping you?

The answer is likely you!

You are probably your own worst enemy.

If you want to write, don’t stop yourself just because of age or lack of experience. All it takes is determination and the drive to succeed.

Don’t use the excuse of your age to stop you from writing because that is all it is.

Anyone can write if they have enough passion for writing. It’s never too late to become a writer as long as you are determined.

If you genuinely believe in yourself and have self-confidence, this will go a long way in helping you reach your dreams.

Producing good writing is definitely not an easy task, but it doesn’t need to be so complicated and frustrating.

Acknowledge that you need to learn this new skill. Start by breaking it down into the different skills you need to learn and begin with a few hours a day to accomplish your goal.

Start by picking on skill that you need to improve and work at it.

Keep building these skills on each other and start combining them together as you become more confident about them.

Pretty soon, you will have what you need to complete a whole book.

Remember to get constructive feedback on your writing as soon as you have something to show.

Some of the basic writing skills that you need to master include:

– Ability to write compelling dialogue for different characters 

– Learning how to structure any scene effectively

– Understanding how to develop solid plot lines and character arcs

– Learn how to create strong, interesting and engaging characters

– Create believable settings in your writing

– Learn the basics of grammar, punctuation and spelling

– Develop a unique style of your own as a writer

There are plenty more skills that you need to learn, but these are some of the basic ones. You can learn these skills by enrolling in online courses or attending workshops, seminars, and of course, there are plenty of resources online.

Remember that there is no easy way to succeed as a writer, but if you’re willing to work hard at it, then you will get positive results in the end.

Becoming a successful writer can be a very rewarding career choice. You get to discover worlds in your mind that most people will never see and tell stories that others may never hear of otherwise.

So get out there and start creating!

It’s never too late to become a writer. As long as you’re committed to writing and passionate about your craft, then anything is possible.

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Woman sitting at a computer. Text: 5 Tips for becoming a writer after age 40

5 Tips for Becoming a Writer After Age 40

Are you over forty and wondering if it’s too late to become a writer? I was forty-six years old when I began writing for publications. If you enjoy writing and would like to pursue publication, I’d like to encourage you with five tips. But first, let’s address the question of how to begin.

How Do You Begin a Writing Career?

S-l-o-w-l-y. This is what deters people from ever getting started. But if it’s something you want to try, you have to start somewhere. And it’s like learning how to ride a bike. It’s awkward and wobbly when you first begin. But, with practice, it continually improves.

If you’re considering a writing career, then most likely, you’ve already been doing some writing in your life—writing in journals, preparing presentations, or jotting down story ideas.

The next step for most writers is to write for magazines and online publications. You can find learn about writing opportunities by searching the internet for websites such as The Write Life or by checking out resources like the Christian Writers Market Guide .

When I began my writing journey it was inconsistent. I was still homeschooling, leading a Jr. Historian club, teaching kids at church and in co-op classes, and serving as a part-time administrative assistant. Life events and chronic pain issues also played a part. My husband and children have always been my top priorities, so my writing time was sporadic.

The one thing that was consistent was my desire to learn and keep moving forward. I carved out time each year to attend writing conferences. Bit by bit, I learned about the writing industry. Nothing has prepared me more than taking classes. Even so, I have to make time to practice what I learn.

I have a creative brain with lots of ideas. Many nights I can’t sleep because my mind is swirling with snippets. Contemplating snippets is one thing. Crafting them into stories is another!

Getting ideas down on paper in a sensible, grammatically correct, yet entertaining way is challenging. To me, that’s the fun of it! But, there have been many times when I’ve had to file a piece of unfinished work away to simmer—sometimes for weeks. Sometimes for years.

Hearing that, you may think you’ve not got the time necessary to pursue writing. Ask yourself a few questions before tossing your dream into the dumpster.

What do I want to accomplish in the next twenty years? Does a desire to write keep floating to the top of the list?

Am I willing to learn new skills even if it takes me a little longer to master them?

Not knowing if my writing will ever be published on a large scale, do I still want to pursue learning the craft and aim to write something worthy of passing on to the next generation?

If you answered yes, then consider these five helpful tips:

Tip #1: Educate Yourself

Discover writing conferences in your area or in places you can travel. Don’t stress. There are writers at all stages of their writing careers there. Take classes and learn as much as you can. Check out online writing classes. You may want to consider online master classes via Write2Ignite or attending the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in western NC. There are numerous others throughout the world.

Tip #2: Make New Friends

If you attend a writing conference, don’t hide in your room between classes. Connecting with others in the writing and publishing industry is immensely rewarding. One of the best things you can do is build friendships. A network of writing friends encourages one another. They help extend each other’s reach to possibly more readers of their work.

Writers help sharpen other writers’ skills. My critique group has definitely helped me become a better writer. Check out writing critique groups and find one that’s a good fit for you. You can learn more about these through an online search and at writing conferences.

Tip #3: Start Blogging

The topic of blogging could require several blog posts telling how to set up a website and begin blogging. All we have time for in this post is emphasizing the importance of blogging, especially for a beginning writer. I know that sounds overwhelming to some of you. I had no desire to blog when I first heard this advice. I floundered around with blogging for two or three years before finding my focus.

Learn everything you can about blogging. Hire help if necessary. Blogging not only hones your skills as a writer but is a way to reach a multitude of people. If you never get a book published, your heart messages are still being projected into the world. You never know the power your words may have. Be a light when you write.

Tip #4: Be Social

Writing requires much work. But it’s not just about writing. If you’re pursuing book publication, publishers need help getting the word out about who you are and what you write. It’s expensive to publish and distribute books. Most book publishers today won’t consider your manuscript if you’re not already building a base of readers. They want to see you’re involved on social media. Notice I said “involved,” not engrossed. I know you’d rather write than engage on social media. I get it. Truly, I do.

But did you know approximately 4 MILLION books were published in 2022? How will people learn about you and your book in that massive sea of books? It’s a daunting task. You can see why publishers need writers to come alongside them in getting the word out.

However, the majority of what you post will not spotlight your book. The focus is to educate, entertain, or inspire your readers. It’s not about promoting yourself. It’s about using your words to help meet the needs of others. That’s wise whether you’re pursuing publication or not.

Research various social media platforms to find a few you can focus on building. Grab a tech-savvy young adult to help get you started. Consider taking a class at your local community college or watching YouTube tutorials. If you have the means, you can hire someone to take care of social media for you. Just make sure it’s someone you trust to uphold who you are, what you stand for, and what you write.

Social media is not evil in and of itself. As in all things, people make choices in how they use it. Again, be a positive voice in a negative world.

Woman waving to computer screen.

Tip #5: Keep Moving

If you’re over forty, you may feel like you’ve got to work like a mad-dog to get your writing career started. Get to work, but keep moving physically!

As we age, we tend to slow down. After months of physical therapy, I’ve learned the importance of moving more. Many writers battle trying to work with an internet sloth service. I did that for twelve years and feel like it aged me twenty! Thankfully, we recently resolved the slow internet issue. Still, we writers can spend too many hours scurrying down internet research trails or typing for hours when the creative brain is on fire. To avoid further health issues, I have to set myself a timer when I’m working. I write for about an hour, and then I step away from it for 20 minutes. The breaks are good for the brain and the body. Plus, it’s a great time to catch up on chores or call your mom.

Self-motivation and perseverance are required if you want to become a writer. A writing career is typically a slow and steady progression.

Last Thought on Becoming a Writer

Writers continually search for words that more accurately portray what they want to say. “Career” may not be the right word to use if it percolates thoughts of a job that pays your bills. Even if you devote 30-40 hours a week to writing for various publications, it may not pay all your bills. In other words, don’t quit your day job just yet–especially if your food, electricity, and water are depending upon it.

The most successful authors living solely off of their writing income have been writing for a long time. But there are always exceptions. Take note of these successful authors who started their writing careers later in life:

Mark Twain (Age 41)

J.R.R. Tolkien (Age 45)

Laura Ingalls Wilder (Age 65)

Anna Mary Robertson, “Grandma Moses,” began painting at age 78. She published her autobiography when she was 92 years old.

So, it’s possible! Writing for publications is not a hobby. It’s a job. Call it a career, if you like. Many writers say it’s a calling.

If you’ve dreamed of becoming a writer, there’s no time like the present to begin developing it into a reality. You’ll never know if you don’t try.     


Head shot photo of Sally Matheny

Motivated by the power of story, history, and His Story, Sally Matheny’s passion is telling the next generation wondrous things.

Her nonfiction writing appears in worldwide, national, and regional publications. SchoolhouseTeachers.com features two of her WWII history units. In2025 , End Game Press will release Sally’s first nonfiction picture book,  T is for Together: An Introduction to the American Spirit of WWII.

Learn more at  SallyMatheny.com ., where you’ll find encouraging blog posts, book reviews, and free resources.

Tender Heart Prayer Book cover. Text: Book Review and Giveaway! sallymatheny.com

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Tama Fortner

Wonderful advice! I’m so glad we met at one of those conferences. 🙂

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Sally Matheny

Oh, me too, Tama! You’re a blessing!

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J.D. Wininger

I’m still trying to fathow how in the world you’re over 40 already Ms. Sally. 🙂 Wonderfully encouraging words ma’am. There’s still hope. God’s blessings sweet sister-in-Christ.

You’re too kind, Mr. J.D. Thankful you’re continuing your writing journey even in the midst of ranching and health issues. The words you craft on your blog inspire, encourage, and educate so many folks!

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tell your stories, love your life

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“Am I Too Old to Be a Writer?”

hands of author over 60 on laptop writing

I’ve heard this question from people in their 70s, their 60s…and even their mid-50s . It used to surprise me. After all, becoming a writer later in life is very common. When I asked people on Twitter to share their stories about becoming a writer after 40, people chimed in right away ( you can check that out here . )

And take a look at some famous authors who started late. This is by no means a complete list, obviously—just a handful of examples!

Writers Who Started Late

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula at the age of 50.

Anna Sewell wrote Black Beauty in her mid-50s.

Annie Proulx, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her second novel, The Shipping News , published her first one— Postcards —at 57.

Laura Ingalls Wilder got her big literary break in her 60s with Little House in the Big Woods .

Frank McCourt was 66 when he got his memoir Angela’s Ashes published. It won the Pulitzer Prize.

Delia Owens wrote a few memoirs, but didn’t publish a novel until she was 70. Where the Crawdads Sing has sold over 10 million copies to date and is going to be a major film. (Delia and her now-ex-husband have a disturbing history, but that’s a post for another day.)

Harriett Doerr published her debut novel Stones for Ibarra when she was 74. It won a National Book Award.

As impressive as all these examples are, many of them are from the past, and I think it’s also important to remember that aging just is not what it used to be. There are lots of scientific studies now investigating why the rate of human aging, including cognitive decline, has slowed from past generations.

The Advantages of Being an Older Writer

Older writers have more life experience.

This is obvious, but it’s a big advantage. An older writer has often had more jobs and more life transitions. They’ve virtually always had more joys and more heartbreaks. And they’re likely to have more character inspiration: they’ve usually met more people, read more books, and seen more movies and TV shows than a younger writer. They have more firsthand experience of history.

Older writers have been younger, so while they might still need to do cultural research to write, say, a contemporary YA novel, they still remember all the selves they used to be.

When I was a college undergraduate and learning how to write, I struggled to understand grown-up characters with families and jobs, and I saw my classmates do the same. Other than my parents and their friends, I had a hard time understanding what adults out of school were like . And as a reader now, I sometimes come across otherwise talented authors who aren’t able to see elderly characters as whole people; the age of their older characters defines them. Older writers aren’t likely to have these problems.

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Older Writers Are Often More Resilient

In my freshman year of college, my poems were rejected from the campus literary magazine. I was devastated and vowed to give up poetry.

It didn’t last. I went on to get an MFA in Poetry and publish poems in dozens of magazines. But the point is, one rejection rocked my world.

Looking back, I can hardly believe I used to be more sensitive. These days, a rejection elicits a “huh, oh well” from me. But being in the work force for decades, living through more actual losses, and just fielding plenty of rejections and no’s of various kinds, gives a person perspective.

Obviously, this varies from person to person, but I do think more life experience helps a person take things more in stride. And because writing and publishing can be such a challenging road, this can really make the difference.

Ageism is On the Wane in the Literary World

Ten years ago, and even five years ago, there were more contests, awards, and grants reserved for writers under 30 or under 40. Media outlets were more in the habit of publishing lists of writers under 30 or under 40, while showing no special attention to older writers.

Some age-based contests and opportunities have been discontinued. Even the Yale Series of Younger Poets contest quietly dropped the age requirement, at least officially. I think it’s important to question ageism in the writing world where it still exists, like I did on Twitter yesterday regarding the Bard Fiction Prize ( you can see that tweet here ). But more and more, people are becoming enlightened and realizing there’s no place for age discrimination in writing.

I was at a Zoom writing meetup this week and met two guys who may have been a little older than me who were both learning about screenwriting and pitching. I don’t know how much ageism is in the script writing world, but they weren’t fretting about it. Which brings me to my last point…

You’re Never Too Old to Learn Something New

Older people are just as capable as younger people of learning the ins and outs of writing. Plus, it’s actually good for middle-aged-and-older brains to learn new things! Whether you’re studying ballroom dancing, the Korean language, story structure, how to use Scrivener, or how to promote your books on TikTok, having to really concentrate to figure out something makes your brain sharper in all other spheres of your life, too.

I hope this post encourages some writers to go ahead and follow their dreams!

You’ve Never Been More Ready Than You Are Now.

Are you someone who started writing later in life? Are you like me—started young, but you’re just now hitting your stride? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments! Thanks so much for reading, and have a great week!

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38 thoughts on “ “am i too old to be a writer” ”.

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I started writing after I retired and have now self-published three books. I have learning to create my own website, blog and social media accounts. I am currently working on my fourth novel.

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Right on. Some of the work continues to go over my head but I’ve definitely learned a lot. Congrats and good luck on #4

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You’re doing so much! It’s impressive!

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I am inspired!

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I was over 60 when I published my first middle grade book and now have a series of 9 books. You are never too old to write a book!

Good for you! I totally agree.

I love that. And you’re so prolific, Darlene!

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Hi Bryn. After working with the Police in Scotland for over thirty years, I retired in 2010, aged fifty-four. I started to remember so much about the work I had been involved in and the people I met along the way. I wrote down everything I remembered, and the more I wrote down, the more I remembered. I have been travelling for the last nine years, and I have met so many people from all over the world. I also wrote down details of my experience with those characters. On reaching sixty, I decided to write a book about my life. My two daughters, now age thirty-three and thirty-seven, were young girls when I dealt with so much grief in my Police career. I couldn’t tell them then about my work. I wanted to tell them in a book, but there was too much to tell. I didn’t want the book to be all about me, but I did want to write about my experiences. When I started writing the book five years ago, it was only a pastime and not a priority in my life. The problem was that I had too much information stored inside my head and written down in notepads. I wrote three books at the same time and then threw them in a bottom drawer. One year ago, during Covid lockdown, I returned to the three books and have now self-edited two and will also start soon on the third. I recently came across your videos on Youtube – Blank Page To Final Draft. I wish I had seen them earlier as it would have made my life easier. Kind regards, John

Please please put these books out there. I wish I had more than anecdotes about my parents’ younger years. There are so many exciting ways to publish or share. A blog, self-publishing, querying, etc. Might I also suggest Rachael Herron’s Fast Draft your Memoir book? I hope to see your book show up in my “new releases” email someday!

John, you have so much rich material to draw on as a writer! I think it’s great that you’re putting it in books. And I’m SO glad the videos were helpful! 🙂 Good luck with all the writing!

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Started writing at age 75. Now on my third novel, the first two got published by an indie publisher.

Excellent! How exciting.

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I have so much admiration for you!

Dave, that is AWESOME. Congratulations! Hope novel #3 is going well!

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This is an encouraging post. Thank you. Just what I needed to keep going.

You bet, Tanya—thank you so much for reading!

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Bryn – I started writing in my thirties on and off, but I don’t feel like I really understood how to craft a story and make prose flow until much, much later. I’m 59 now, and I finally feel like I know what I’m doing. Write at any age (well, maybe not three)! Great post. Thanks!

True! After twelve years of writing I feel like I finally know what I’m doing. Sort of. And I’ll be 50 this year.

Maybe not age 3? I have some grandchildren that could probably do it! Haha.

Fred, I feel exactly the same—it just took me forEVER to really get the hang of it! But so what, right? It’s going well for us now! 🙂

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As someone who is 63, I take inspiration from posts such as these.

I’m so glad, Pete. Thank you for reading!

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My friend self-published her first book at age 52. Within three years, she was making enough money off of her writing, both she and her husband were able to retire early. She writes full time now and makes six figures every year.

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I love hearing those stories.

That is SO inspiring! I love it!

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Bryn, during my retirement I have self published two romance novellas and am presently working on a children’s book. Each undertaking seems to present its new challenges, learning new skills as well as connecting with my own life experiences and plumbing the depths of imagination – living into the characters. A technique I find helpful is imagining looking out through the eyes if my characters. Writing has led me to creating my own website also.

Keith, I agree—every project has its own challenges. Congratulations on the novellas! And a children’s book and a website—amazing!

Thank you Bryn.

Thank you for reading, John!

I was 48 when I was published internationally. On my birthday–just happened to be the day the small press publisher had picked.

Congratulations Denise! What an accomplishment!

At age 40 I wrote my first novel. I followed it up at age 45 with another novel. I am so glad now that neither of them have been published yet! In the 30 years that followed I learned so much about writing, but more importantly, I learned about relationships! I have a book coach now and am getting the second one ready with both writing knowledge and relationship knowledge I hope to have a novel published in the foreseeable future. I am 72 years old. In those intervening years I have written 10 novels. I did self-publish one at age 56.

Yay! I hope you do!

Thank you Denise!

Jessie, I think I’m always telling you this, but I’m so impressed with your talent and how prolific you are!

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I checked out the Twitter posts which you mentioned, and also read all the comments above. It was disappointing that many of the respondents are younger than 60 – not pensionable age at all! I was drawn into writing four years ago, when I was tempted to enter the NaNoWriMo challenge. I aced it – writing the draft of what eventually became my first novel on 23 days – 52000 words. This inspired me to learn more about the craft of writing fiction, and I joined the Romance Writing Organisation of South Africa. My first novel – a contemporary romance – was published as an e-book on Kindle in 2020. I was 87 years old. Since then, I have published two novellas, written numerous short stories, and set up my own website and Blog. If anyone published for the first time at over 87, I should love to make contact with them.

Anne, yes, some of the commenters were still pretty young! How awesome that NaNoWriMo got you into writing. And congratulations on the publications!

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Midlife Blossoms Blog Laurie Pawlik

How to Start Freelance Writing at 50 (and Make Money!)

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Getting paid to work as a writer when you’re over fifty is easier than you think. I’m 54; my tips for starting a freelance writing career are guaranteed to help you succeed. If not, I’ll give you your money back 🙂

I’m kidding – of course you don’t have to pay money to read my blog post! And that’s one of my first tips for starting a midlife writing career: do not pay money to get into a pool of freelance writers, participate in writing communities, or join groups for 50+ freelancers. When you’re first beginning, those aren’t the best investments in your freelancing career.

A reader’s question inspired me to share these tips. Here’s what he said:

“I am considering pursuing freelance writing, an occupation in which I have little to no experience,” says Craig on Changing Careers at 40: How to Make it Easier . “I’m almost 60 years old so it’s a little late for a ‘midlife career change’ but (like Maria who commented earlier) I want to pursue my writing dreams. Laurie, I understand you worked as a writer for years. How do you recommend one start a writing career in one’s late fifties?”

Since every midlifer is different, I decided to round up a list of the best tips for pivoting into writing for a living. In his comment, Craig didn’t mention whether or not he wants to earn money as a freelance writer. It’s very possible that he’s retired and wants to write out of passion, not financial need. If so, he’s in an enviable position.

12 Tips for Midlifers Who Want to Write

How to Start Freelance Writing at 50 - and Make Money

Of all the suggestions I can share, the most important is to work on your writing every single day. Freelance writing – even if you don’t need to make money because you’re a retired midlifer – is a pursuit that takes time, attention and energy.

1. See your age and experience as a strength

As a midlife career changer, you have more to offer than a young freelancer fresh out of journalism school. Your history, experience, education, stories and season of life gives you a valuable perspective that can’t be duplicated. Not even by AI (artificial intelligence)!

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.

I was tired of freelance writing and blogging for “Quips and Tips” (which I rebranded as Midlife Blossoms), so I went back to school for my Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. 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 50+, I know what it’s like to make career changes in the middle half of life. Even better, my history makes me a stronger writer, happier midlifer, and more confident freelancer.

2. Never stop asking HOW

I took an Artist’s Way writing course, and loved meeting fellow authors and aspiring writers who were closer to 100 than 10. One thing that stuck with me was the facilitator’s encouragement it’s never too late to start writing. Even at 50, 60 or even 70.

That was the good news. She shared stories of old-timers starting different careers in their 60s and 70s. She shared the famous story of Grandma Moses who started painting when she was in her 80s and even marathon runners like 92 year old Harriette Thompson who started racing long past middle age.

But she didn’t tell us how to start freelance writing at 50+ or running marathons 90. As I mention in my blog post about changing careers and blossoming when you’re 40+, it’s hard to switch career tracks when you’re a midlifer. We have kids, aging parents, neighbors with trees blocking our view of the ocean, taxes, retirement concerns and health issues that range from bunions to breast cancer.

How do people over fifty start a freelance writing career? These tips are a great starting point for new aspiring midlife writers, but your job is to try different things until you find what works for you. How I started freelancing as a 36 year old writing for the local island newspaper for free won’t be how you do it as a 60 year old with an elderly wife who needs care.

If you don’t feel supported at home, read My Retired Partner Isn’t Motivated. Will He Drag Me Down?

3. Get out of your own way

If you’re searching for tips on how to start a freelance writing career in middle or late life, I suspect you’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time. Perhaps your whole life.

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 writing for real. But now that you only have a couple decades of good life left, you’re ready to do something about it.

It’s time to get out of your own way.

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

  • Are you a “blocked creative”? Read It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond (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 Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell.
  • Are you confused about what kind of freelance writing niche to pursue? Read Everybody Writes: Your New and Improved Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley (one of my favorite resources about how to start a freelance writing career at 50+).

Feel the doubt, fear and insecurity – and write anyway.

4. Go beyond blog posts to actual books or ebooks

The reason I was quickly successful at starting my freelance writing career was because I spent hours reading books about freelancing and starting a business. I learned how to pitch query letters, wrestled with the idea of sending multiple submissions to different editors (writers should definitely submit multiple queries, despite what some books say), and honed my professional entrepreneurial skills.

Book learning is better because print material contains more information, isn’t as distracting as online, and is easier to bookmark.

That said, however, it’s important to remember that there is no one right way to learn how to become a freelance writer when you’re starting a career in midlife and beyond. Even more importantly, writing is a business. As with any business, if you want to succeed you need to become an expert in your niche. That involves learning how a freelancing business operates – but you don’t necessarily need to go to journalism school or get a degree in writing.

You’re already on the road to getting your writing published in magazines! good, because you don’t have time to waste.

5. 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. I felt weird starting as a freelance at age 36, but looking back it seems young to me now!

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 50+ 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.

How to write your family memoir- Mary Karr

If you want to write about your ancestry and history, get The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.

You might also want to read Writing Your Family Memoirs? 10 Mistakes to Avoid . 

6. Decide which magazines you want to write for

Here’s a question from a published Christian author who has written 17 books:

“I’d really like to sell to Reader’s Digest . I was encouraged that your first article with them went through the slush pile. That’s the way I sent my first query letter a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t heard anything. How long would you advise me to wait for a response? I have another high-profile article I’d like to pitch to them, too.”

In 10 Writing Tips from a Reader’s Digest Editor , I explain the importance of knowing the magazine and the editor you’re pitching. Some editors take three months to decide on a piece, others accept immediately. Some editors acknowledge your query letter, while others don’t say a word until they assign the article.

If I was pitching Reader’s Digest  from the slush pile today, I’d probably wait three months for a decision from the editor. But, as I said earlier, there is rarely one right answer to any question when you’re learning how to become a freelance writer.

7. Prepare to fail, and to try again and again and again

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 50+, 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 50+ 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.

8. Decide what type of articles or content you could sell

A reader asked me if he should write full feature length articles with tips or humorous stories about his life. The answer is that it depends on all sorts of different factors – but the most important question is: “What type of freelance writer do you want to become?”

Once you decide that you want to be a tips-based health writer, then you can start aiming in that direction. If you’d rather write humorous stories, then you need to research the freelancing possibilities in that market.

Read 11 Types of Articles to Write for Magazines . I think the only category I didn’t include in that blog post was one on how to write for seniors’ magazines or organizations (that’ll be an upcoming article!).

How to Start Freelance Writing at 50 (and Make Money!)

9. Write for a variety of sources

Here’s another reader’s question:

“I want to eventually make money writing, and I would just love to begin a career. I would even write for free if this meant I could get paid opportunities in the not too distant future. My huge problem is how to start. Should I begin a blog (following the writing tips in your blog) and wait for it to get bigger and bigger until I can earn some money? Or should I try emailing my writing to already existing blogs or online magazines?”

If you’re in your 60s and want to write as a hobby, then start a blog. If you’re a midlifer who wants to start an actual freelance writing career that pays money and allows you to save for retirement, start pitching article ideas to magazines.

You could also do both. Don’t focus solely on blogging or solely on freelance writing for magazines.

10. Learn how to sell your writing

This is the most disappointing tip on how to become a freelance writer: you have to be a salesperson. If you’ve already had a career or two in sales, then this might be easier for you in mid to later life.

As a freelance writer you have to sell your article ideas to editors over and over again, even if you’ve written for the publication dozens of times. Even when you build a great relationship with an editor at a magazine, she might leave. This means you have to start over with the new editor, who is probably bringing her own stable of writers in with her.

I didn’t like constantly pitching articles (or writing for other people, to be honest), so now I blog for my Midlife Blossoms 99% of the time. But when an editor asks me to write an article, I say yes! In fact, just yesterday I got an assignment from alive magazine to write a 1,000 word article on chronic fatigue syndrome. Payment is $500. Sweet .

12 Tips for Midlifers Who Want to Write

That’s the beauty of building good relationships with editors: they start emailing you with article ideas, and asking if you’ll write for them.

Have you heard of Stephen King? He’s a pretty good writer. One of his least famous books is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft .

11. Use your waiting time wisely

After you pitch an editor, move right along to your next pitch. Don’t just sit around waiting for the magazine to respond! Tweak the slant of your article so you can pitch it to a different magazine. Work on a different feature article idea. Blog. Create a spreadsheet of your “article pitches sent” and your “replies received.”

One of the best things you can do when you’re learning how to become a freelance writer is create a “Pitch Calendar.” Create a plan, set goals, and set yourself up as a professional writer. This will help you succeed as a freelancer because it’ll provide structure to your day.

12. Remember that it takes years to be an overnight success

Most artists and creative types struggle financially. That’s why the majority of writers have another source of income when they’re learning how to become a freelance writer. Either they work part time or they have a job related to writing (freelance editor, blogger, social media expert, etc).

If you’re a retired 60+ year old, financially stable and not writing out of necessity, you’re both blessed and cursed. It’s a blessing because you’re not desperate to make money writing. It’s a curse because you’re not hungry enough to really make a go of freelancing.

All freelance writers have their own journey, their own race, their own road map (which isn’t always obvious until they look back). I can’t tell you if the “best” or “right” way to become a freelance writer or begin a career in writing is by writing articles or short stories, or by blogging or writing for free for online e-zines. I encourage you to seize the opportunities that are in front of you, and make the most of every chance you get to write!

Resources for Aspiring Midlife Freelance Writers

The Elements of Journalism, Revised and Updated 4th Edition: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect is the book I’d use if I was teaching journalism to students of all ages today. If you want to pursue more serious reporting as a journalist in your late fifties or sixties, learn how to write for today’s marketplace.

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.

How to Start Freelance Writing at 50 (and Make Money!)

If I was starting my freelance writing career today, I’d 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.

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.

Need encouragement? Get my weekly Blossom email

Your thoughts and questions on freelance writing in midlife and beyond are welcome below. Who – or what – is holding you back?

Hi, Laurie —

Thanks for the info. I’m a new 62 year old writer, and recently turned down work from a newspaper that was paying 10 cents per word. I was finding that the stories required too much effort for too little compensation. I’ve had some second thoughts about my decision, but perhaps it was the right decision after all. What do you think?

Thanks again! 🙂

Welcome to the Midlifers Writing Club! Congratulations on being offered newspaper writing work. I agree that 10 cents per word is too little, depending on the type of writing, research, and background fact checking you have to do.

I’ve been offered 20 cents a word from the Vancouver Sun, and 50 cents a word from the Globe & Mail. And, I know many people write for their local papers for free, just for the experience.

So I guess I’d say the ballpark is 20-50 cents a word, depending of course on the newspaper….the rate increases if you’re syndicated, well-known, or a celebrity! I bet the Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan would get far more than $1 a word if he wrote for newspapers.

I hope this helps, and wish you all the best as you pursue your midlife writing career goals.

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