Are you one of those baby boomers who’s looking for something new to do, something you always wanted to try but never had the time, or perhaps the resources, to undertake? Maybe you should follow the path of former New York TV producer and director Niki Danforth, who now lives in the New Jersey countryside and decided to follow her passion — make that passions — no matter what her age.
I’m a retired television field director and producer, who worked in New York City back when freelancing was a more reasonable way to earn a living than it is today. Basically, I’m a baby boomer who began working on the next chapter of my life when I hit the big Five-O. I wanted to pursue two dreams I had imagined back in my thirties -– writing a novel, and studying a martial art.
After celebrating the half-decade mark, I took two immediate steps: first, researching which martial art to study and second, brainstorming with a writer-colleague on a tween novel for girls. She and I worked hard on our novel for several years and found an agent who came close to a sale to a publisher several times. But it didn’t happen, so we put our book aside and pursued other writing ventures individually.
At the same time, I became a dedicated student of the defensive Japanese martial art of Aikido, working my way up the ranks toward my goal of achieving a first degree Black Belt. Although Ronnie Lake, the protagonist in my novel Stunner: A Ronnie Lake Mystery, also happens to be a mid-life woman figuring out her next chapter in life, and she includes attaining a Black Belt in Aikido among her goals, that is where any similarities between Ronnie and me end.
While I pursued the study of the beautiful Zen-like art of Aikido, I also began to imagine the character of Ronnie Lake. In my imagination I immediately envisioned the opening chapter of my novel. That was the beginning of a two-year process to write this first book.
Along the way, my husband and I also became empty-nesters. He had already settled into an enriching retirement of mostly giving back to the community, and he became my model of how to do retirement well. I gradually pulled back from working in television and video and replaced the time I spent on that with a focus on writing and also some giving back to the community on my own.
I treat writing as a job. I do best early in the morning (typically around 5 a.m.), while it’s quiet and before the distractions of the day set in. Half my time is split between writing, and research and reading to gather more background information that will play into the plot and characters.
One of the advantages of writing in mid-life is the wealth of experience we have to draw upon. In Stunner, Ronnie Lake is a fifty-something divorced empty-nester who was downsized out of her corporate career. It’s a story with a universal theme about betrayal and family loyalty with a protagonist who is not afraid to jump into the new endeavor of amateur detective.
I’ll end on a few personal thoughts about transitioning to a new mid-life chapter, especially if you yearn to write. First, DO IT. Don’t think about that novel you’ve always wanted to write, WRITE that novel you’ve always wanted to write.
Second, treat it like your job, because once you retire, your interests take the place of your job. That doesn’t mean you get up and go to work every day, but do tell yourself, “This is what I do now.”
Finally, one of the best things about being this age is that the need for others’ approval should dwindle in the face of your accomplishments. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put your best effort into it or take others’ advice into consideration, but don’t let fear of others’ opinions keep you from doing something you want to do. You’ve come too far to let that stop you now.