Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sherrey Meyer says we're never to old to write

I'm so happy to have Sherrey Meyer back at Choices for a return engagement. I hope you'll revisit her last guest post on June 24Her words about writing to heal and the memoir writing process are always right on. 

Today she writes about writing into old age, something that I can definitely relate to. That's exactly what I'm doing and I plan to keep writing no matter how old I get. I think that's what keeps me vibrant and happy. 

Please welcome Sherrey back.

Too Old to Write? Proof the Answer is “NO!”
by Sherrey Meyer

Lately I’ve been asked by friends and family what I'm doing with my time in retirement. Since I left my position with a local law firm in 2006, I've spent a lot of time with expensive surgeons who have corrected my eyesight and repaired a lot of bones. I discount those months as paid medical leave (paid by me and my retirement fund) and explain that I'm at last fulfilling a lifelong dream of writing.

The responses I have received are jarring, startling and some even painful:

·      Aren't you too old to be writing a book?  (Excuse me?)
·      At this stage in your life, do you really want to deal with the burden of writing and then publishing a book? (I really love it!)
·      What if no one wants to publish a book by a retired legal secretary? (I beg your pardon?)
·      What do you have to write about? (Stories – lots of stories.)

And the list goes on.  I try to smile and make polite comments. However, I didn't realize there was an age limit on when a person could write a book.

At a workshop I attended last winter, one of the workshop coordinators took a moment to announce a regular attendee was no longer with us. Bill Senstrom, MD, aged 90, had passed away two weeks previously. Bill had attended his first workshop in April 2009, had published a book since then, and was about to finish his second at the time of his death. The February 2013 conference would have been his eighth (conferences are held twice each year).

Let’s do the math: In 2009, Bill Senstrom attended his first conference. That was four years prior to his death in 2013. Our friend Bill didn’t begin writing until he was 86, and he still wrote two books and published one of them!

Bill was obviously not too old to be a writer.

Another example is that of Maris Morton, who won the prestigious CAL Scribe Prize sponsored by Scribe Publications in Australia. At the time, Morton was 72 and her book, A Darker Music, was a debut novel, which went on to become a bestseller. In that year's contest, the oldest participant was 90 years of age with 22 entrants born in the 1920s and 64 in the 1930s.

When asked about writers who worry that if they're not published by age 50 it will never happen, Morton said:

"My advice would be to stop worrying and keep writing, if you really love it. If you don’t, forget it, and take up bridge, or something equally absorbing."

The CAL Scribe Prize limits its contestants to those over 35 years of age intentionally and enjoys sharing information on the range of ages drawn to its competition. You can read more here.

Take a look at this list from Huffington Post of seven famous authors who got a late start:

·      Laura Ingalls Wilder (first published in her mid-sixties)
·      Raymond Chandler (published first novel, The Big Sleep, at 51)
·      Mary Wesley (published children's books in her 50s, but her first novel wasn't published until she was in her early 70s)
·      Harriett Doerr (published her first novel at 73)
·      Richard Adams (wrote and published Watership Down in his early 50s)
·      James A. Michener (published first novel in early 40s)
·      Frank McCourt (also first published in mid-sixties)

Each of these authors wrote into their later years, some into their 90s.

Having looked at this range of ages among writers published decades ago and those publishing today, it is clear that writing has no age specific delineation. If you can write, then write! If you enjoy it, keep doing it every day or at least several times a week. If you don't enjoy it, then as Maris Morton said find something else to do with your time.

Passionate about writing? Ignore the naysayers who question age. Now, go and write!
Thanks so much, Sherrey. My sentiments exactly. Writing keeps us young - at least young at heart. I still can't wait to read your memoir. I know it will be wonderful.

Sherrey's bio
A retired legal secretary, Sherrey Meyer grew tired of drafting and revising pleadings and legal documents.  She had always dreamed of writing something else, anything else!  Once she retired she couldn’t stay away from the computer, and so she began to write.  Among her projects is a memoir of her “life with mama,” an intriguing Southern tale of matriarchal power and control displayed in verbal and emotional abuse.  Sherrey is married and lives with husband Bob in Milwaukie, OR. 
You can reach Sherrey on her websites:  Healing by Writing and Found Between the Covers or via email at


Change It Up Editing said...

Too old? Only if you think you are! Age is definitely in the mind. I spoke with a friend this morning who is having a great deal of trouble with arthritis in her hands, and it's keeping her from writing--and she's in her 40s!

Thanks for championing the over-50 crowd, Sherrey--we ALL have a great deal of life left!

Carol Bodensteiner said...

Of all the things one might be too old to do (though I have a hard time thinking of any at the moment - must be a senior moment!), writing never makes the list. As I was writing my memoir, I urged my mom to write her stories too. At 87, with macular degeration, Mom wrote many memories I cherish. Never to old to write!

ShirleyHS said...

Write on, all ye of many years. It feels great to publish my first book at age 65.

Sherrey, thanks for your spunk and your great example. I too am eager to read your book.

Madeline, thanks for inviting Sherrey.

Anonymous said...

Candace,definitely in the mind! So sorry for your friend in her 40s. We're just getting started!

Carol, I'm so glad you were able to convince your mom to write down her stories. What a treasure I'm sure they are!

Shirley, kudos to you for publishing that book. You inspire me that I will get this book published even if I've reached my 70s when I do it!

Thanks to all of you for stopping by.

Linda said...

Good stuff, Sherrey! I suspect that it's only when we get older that we have a good enough perspective and, we can hope, the wisdom to develop stories worth sharing. Keep up the good work!


madeline40 said...

Sherry's words definitely relate to me. She is right. We can write on and on and on. Thanks so much, Sherrey fro being her on Choices. You are most welcome any time. xo

Unknown said...

Sherrey, You are speaking for many of us older writers who are just seeing our lifelong dream come true. It would be sad for all that pent-up talent to go to waste because of some silly idea that we're too old. We have the experience, wisdom, and the understanding that comes with age and adds richness and insight to what we write. Here's to us older writers who refuse to let age defeat our dream to be published authors.

Anonymous said...

Linda, so good to see you here! Age certainly provides a broader perspective on some things, doesn't it? Let's just keep writing until we can't anymore. :)

Anonymous said...

Madeline, thank you so much for inviting me to Choices. It has been a delight working with you to bring this post to your readers. Miss you but trust you're enjoying your travels. Love, Sherrey

Anonymous said...

To Undecided, I could not agree more. Keep writing, writing, writing and then write some more. :)

madeline40 said...

Thanks everyone for visiting Choices and commenting on Sherrey's inspirational post. There are so many wonderful aging writers out there to emulate. I agree, Sherrey, write on, write on, write on. It's never too late.

kathleen pooler said...

Sherrey and Shirley , I had missed this gem since I was away but I'm happy I found it. What a delightful reminder that age is merely a number and there's a lot of living and writing to do in "retirement." Love your work, Sherrey and add me to the line of people waiting to read your memoir. Thanks for featuring Sherrey, Madeline. Great post!