The benefits of being an older writer

Reading time: About 4 minutes

Do you ever worry about it being “too late” for you to write? Perhaps surprisingly, there are many benefits to being an older writer… 

I am in my 60s. Old enough to understand acutely that my time is being whittled away by both age and gravity. But here’s the good news: Writing has become significantly easier and more interesting — more fun! — with every additional year.

My son started his working life as a musician and I know from him — and some of his much older friends and colleagues — that musicians never stop their work. In fact, they get better at it with age. And their habit seems to lengthen their lives, making everything more pleasant and interesting.

I think writing operates in exactly the same way. Here is my analysis of the benefits of being an older writer:

  1. We have more life experience: In life, we all face times of strife. Understanding that we’ve survived these occasions can inform our writing, giving us more to write about and a greater understanding of human motivation — useful for both fiction and non-fiction writing.
  2. We are more mindful of taking advantage of every opportunity: When time is running out, we become better able to focus on achieving what’s really important to us. If there’s a chance to do something important or interesting, we’re less likely to let it pass by, thinking, “I can always do that later.” After all, what if there is no later? Carpe diem!
  3. We don’t care as much what others think: When we’re younger, we’re more apt to fall under the spell of societal expectations and norms. Everyone has a house and a car and 1.5 kids, so we should, too, we figure. But an older writer is more likely to understand that everyone is different, and we’re usually more able to respect our own likes and dislikes and value our own opinions.
  4. We’re better able to let go of “perfectionism”: The young often have high standards. But while it’s okay to expect a lot of ourselves, it’s not smart to focus on trying to make things perfect. In fact, as Voltaire put it, “The best is the enemy of the good.” When we have a sense that time is running out, we’re more likely to just get things done.
  5. We have much clearer priorities: Younger people lead incredibly pressured lives, juggling responsibilities such as mortgages, young kids and aging parents. They’re pulled in a dozen different directions, and jobs like “writing” often end up far down the list. When we’re older, however, many of those responsibilities have faded, and we have time to devote to those tasks that are most important to us.
  6. We find it easier to manage our emotions: One of the biggest benefits of aging is that we’re no longer at the behest of our emotions. We understand feelings come and go — changing in a heartbeat. If writing seems hard now, we can continue working, knowing that 20 minutes from now it may appear easy again.
  7. We have a better sense of self-worth: Self-worth appears to increase with age, perhaps because of all that we have seen and learned after decades on this earth. We’ve seen some smart people fall and troubled people succeed (e.g., Albert Einstein). As a result, we’re more likely to understand that we’re all human beings facing similar challenges. We don’t define our self-worth by what we do, but by how we behave.
  8. Writing can make us happier: This is particularly true if the writing focuses on our own goals. Research by Laura King shows that writing not only makes us happier but also makes us healthier.
  9. Writing leads to better thinking: Did you know that Warren Buffett, Richard Branson and Bill Gates are all serious writers? They use writing as a way of refining their ideas and articulating their thoughts. The act of taking what’s in our brain and committing it to paper forces us to document our logic and explain our reasons. This discipline, by definition, makes us better thinkers.
  10. Writing gives us a way to handle hard times: No one escapes this life without some challenges. For people like neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, who died of metastatic lung cancer, writing his luminous book When Breath Becomes Air allowed him to have more time with his wife and gave him the chance to have a child before dying at 37. But you don’t have to be on death’s doorstep to be facing hard times. A dysfunctional boss or client, a troubled kid or sibling or an angry partner can all be annoying enough. Don’t just stew; write about it!
  11. Writing keeps us sharp: Writing increases brain plasticity, which means it enhances our ability to change. This flexibility plays an important role in furthering brain development and reducing decline. A brain with more plasticity will do a better job of retrieving words, memories, references and thoughts than a brain with less plasticity. (Besides writing, I’m also working on my French for precisely this reason.)
  12. Writing is relaxing: If you associate writing with your grade 11 English class (which you hated) then you might not think of writing as relaxing. But it can be. Instead of focusing on the result, pay more attention to the process. Like any repetitive activity (e.g., knitting, walking, doing yoga) writing is a task that can help relax you. Resolve to make writing an activity that makes you feel better.
  13. Writing helps us become better learners: Most writing forces us to use our critical thinking skills. Even if we’re not writing about something scientific, we need to name problems, gather and analyze ideas, prepare hypotheses and form arguments. We are never too old to learn.

If you have procrastinated about writing because you fear you’re “too old” or that you don’t have enough time, re-evaluate those thoughts! And be aware that artists never need to retire. We keep working because we love what we’re doing.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Oct. 10/19.


Need some help developing a better, more sustainable writing or editing routine? Learn about my three-month accountability program called Get It Done. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear from me within 24 hours.


My video podcast last week addressed how many words you should try to write each day. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


What do you think are the benefits of being an older writer? We can all learn from each other, so please share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. And congratulations to Kim Isaac, the winner of this month’s book prize, for a comment on my June 25/24 blog. (Please send me your email address, Kim!) If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/24,  I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, BetterPlease, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. (It’s easy!)

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