Instead of moaning and groaning about empty nests, expanding waistlines, and lost libidos, women over age fifty should write something. Now is the time to release the passionate muse that has languished for years beneath responsibilities for raising children, establishing careers, maintaining homes, retaining happy marriages, and campaigning for political causes and charities. Middle-aged women have stories to tell, so they should convert the empty nest into a writing den, substitute the chocolate with a salad (just kidding), and receive self-confidence from writing so they feel sexy enough to find that lost libido. This is a win-win situation.
Here are some suggestions to inspire the writing process.
1. Write what you know. I couldn’t write well about a vegetarian, Socialist, nuclear physicist who sleeps with his/her dog and listens to rap music. Can’t do it. But, I thoroughly enjoyed writing Menopause Sucks because I’ve been there and it does! And, I laughed every time I wrote a sentence such as, “Let me tell you why you sneeze, fart, and wet your pants at the same time.” And, my fingers literally flew over the keyboard as I wrote about hairy toes, night sweats, and recommended sex toys. Yes, write what you know!
My recent book, Midlife Happy Hour – Our Reward for Surviving Careers, Kids, and Chaos, explains how to stay relevant after age fifty, and how to balance midlife without falling over. I wrote it from my home office, often in pajamas at 3:00 am. The room originally was a bedroom, but I painted the walls red, added a desk and chair, full bookcases, gratuitous plaques, fun artwork, my typewriter collection, and immense amounts of clutter. There are many advantages to being older, wiser, and within steps of a bathroom and refrigerator.
As always, there is a caveat. If you’re writing historical fiction or a detailed novel, research the facts about a certain era and write a story that fits. You weren’t a member of the Clan of the Cave Bear and you didn’t run away with a peasant boy from the 17th century, but with enough investigation, you can always imagine the scenarios and write a compelling story. Just don’t name an ancient heroine Mandy.
2. Take advantage of, no… exploit, the serendipity of your life. Develop fascinating characters modeled after your belching piano teacher, or your uncle who refuses to discuss his war wounds but smashes beer cans against his forehead, or the passenger in the airplane seat next to you who laughs in her sleep, or your child who cries when the Disneyland Nightlight Parade stops. You are surrounded by juicy writing prompts. Keep a notebook handy to write quotes and facts to use later. Start with a private journal and progress to a public blog. That byline could become a lifeline to revitalizing stagnant energy.
3. Read your work out loud. You will discover sentences, paragraphs, and complete pages that no one will understand or ever read again. You’ll find that preposition lounging at the end of a sentence that screams: I’M A HORRIBLE WRITER! READ NO FURTHER! Also, make note to delete exclamation points and unnecessary capital letters.
4. Believe that all the words tumbling around in your brain MUST get out or you will explode! Yes, you hear voices, but it’s your characters demanding that you set them free. If you’re fiddling with non-fiction, then quick, spew forth those creative ideas on napkins, notebooks, old envelopes, typewriters (I still have some), and even a computer. Write. Write. Write. You’ve read plenty of crap that others have written, which is proof that your work will be OK. One more tip: limit your time online. The Internet will suck out your will to live, let alone write anything.
5. Continue to read and learn. Emulate your favorite authors. Janet Evanovich makes me howl with laughter and want to read more. On the other hand, E.L. James causes me to wish I were a vegetarian, Socialist, nuclear physicist who sleeps with my dog and listens to rap music. Her bestselling novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, is a hotbed of horrible writing featuring such provocative lines as, “Desire pools dark and deadly in my groin.” If I have anything pooling in my groin, I better run to the bathroom. Personally, I prefer two shades of grey during my romps in the hay: lights dim and lights off.
Writers should be honest enough to admit they need editors, smart enough to know their cousin shouldn’t design the book cover, and strong enough to read rejection letters and negative reviews without getting depressed. They can continue to hone their craft by attending writing workshops, joining literary groups, registering, for writing retreats, mingling with other authors, and finding a space to write. And, they should say out loud every day, “I am a writer.” Then they must go write.