WHY MID-LIFE IS THE IDEAL TIME TO WRITE THAT NOVEL

Several friends of mine write books. Naturally enough, when we get together the talk often turns to the trials and tribulations of our working lives. All those long months spent alone, hammering our keyboards, our complexions light-starved, our hearts juddering with caffeine…

Oh, listen to us lot, grumbling on! We are extremely lucky – I do realise that. When I got together with a writer friend last weekend we had to admit we love what we do. And it’s particularly fitting for this – our audrey stage of life.

Why? Well, my friend Cathy and I are both empty nesters, and when children depart there’s a huge reduction in the domestic workload. I have written all my adult life, for magazines throughout my twenties, then turning to romantic comedy novels sixteen years ago. So I have produced plenty of books with toddlers and small children in the house. I’d jam on a Sesame Street video so I could crank out that final chapter, and even bribe my twin sons and daughter with a packet of Oreos so they’d play in the garden while I worked. Mostly, though, I wrote late into the night, long after everyone else had gone to bed.

I was happy to be Mum during the day – I loved it actually. However, like many women, I’d found my own aspirations squished beneath the demands of family life: cooking, housework, checking homework, ferrying the kids to activities, hosting playdates, manning the Scouts’ tea and coffee stall at the local fete… all the gubbins we take on cheerfully, but which leave little room for anything else.

When the kids leave home, we might feel a little bereft – but, on the plus side, life acquires a new calmness with fewer distractions at home. There’s so much more time to dream up plots and get down to the actual writing.

At this stage of life, I also appreciate the freedom and flexibility that being my own boss offers me. When I was younger, I took it for granted. Yes, loneliness can kick in sometimes, and recently, I mooted to my husband Jimmy that I might apply for a part-time office-based job. ‘Are you mad?’ he exclaimed. ‘Why would you give up what you have?’

I muttered something about loving all the gossip and hi-jinx I used to have with my colleagues, back in the mid 90s.
Jimmy pointed out that a teenage magazine office, with music blaring and an air of youthful exuberance, was hardly a ‘normal’ working environment. And anyway, that was twenty-odd years ago and apparently no one has time for fun in the office anymore.

In fact, while I loved office life in my twenties and early thirties, I think I’m better suited to being my own boss now.
By the time we reach mid-life, most of us have learnt how to manage our time far more effectively, and come up with strategies for dealing with cabin fever (a dog walk, a yoga class or upping sticks and working in a buzzy cafe for an afternoon).

So, if you’ve ever had a yearning to write a novel, please don’t let age put you off. When I was younger, I tried to write books to impress my friends and didn’t have the foggiest clue what I was trying to do. They were published, but weren’t terribly successful. I was floundering and trying to find my own style. Often, we find our self consciousness ebbing away as we grow older and start to acquire a ‘what the hell’ attitude. With fewer family pressures, we can just go for it.

‘Neglecting’ the family in order to finish a novel becomes less of a concern.

We are no longer swathed in guilt, or a slave to to-do lists – and, let’s face it, by the time we hit our fifties we have so much more to write about. So why not get those words down on paper? When you embark on a new chapter in life, it might be just the right time to start that book.

Words: Fiona Gibson

Fiona’s newest book, Living With Teens (ebook only, £2.99), is a parenting guide for those perilous teenage years. Published on November 7, it can be pre-ordered on Amazon now