Have you ever put off chasing a dream because you’re too busy, too burdened, or flat overloaded? Do you hope that someday, you’ll finally be able to pursue it?
That was me. I couldn’t start writing seriously until my 50s. But maybe that was a good thing, because at that age, I had something to write about. Life experience, hard knocks, wisdom. And by then I was passionate about finding the good in old age because TV, magazines, movies—the culture—all conspired to make me feel bad about myself.
I fought back by looking for information about the good in aging. And I found so much, it’s incredible. Unfortunately, most of it happens on the inside where you can’t see it, but it’s so powerful it could save the world.
See, when we get older, we think differently. We’re mentally stronger. When you feel like you’re SO over the drama? That’s a biological thing having to do with your fight-or-flight mechanisms. While younger folks are constantly on alert, overreacting to every threat, older folks are calmer, because their amygdalae have quieted down. It’s not that we grow placid. We’re on alert, but we don’t overreact to every little thing. One researcher said, “It’s as if, having figured out what isn’t going to kill you, you settle down.”
Another thing that’s cool is that you start using both sides of your brain more, resulting in more creative, deeper thinking. (It’s called bilateralization).
And yet another thing: you know how sometimes when you face a big hairy problem, suddenly a great answer comes to you in a flash before the young ‘uns at the table have even grasped the situation? That’s pattern recognition. It’s why we, homo sapiens, are still here after those other guys died out.
But I’m sure you already know this, having read about it in all your favorite women’s magazines. Sure. Right next to how to hide your wrinkles for three hundred bucks.
As I began my new career as an author, I realized my passion wasn’t only to write. It was to create stories about older people facing and overcoming hardship, using the power nobody thinks they have. My prequel novella, California Blues, is an example of that.
The second book, Dakota Blues, won an award for Women’s Issues. So I think I’m on the right track.
When I started writing about people over 50, some folks told me I was crazy. I would never find an agent, let alone a publisher, they said. “Nobody wants to read about old people. What are you going to talk about, naps and bingo?” Once, at a book fair in Palm Springs, a woman pulled me aside and confided that I should change my signs, because the word “midlife” would turn people off!
But most people were very supportive. The best reception I ever got was from women in their forties, at an annual conference of the Romance Writers of America. Want to know a secret? Women in that age group are scared to death about getting old. They’re facing menopause and the end of life as they know it, so you can sympathize. But when they saw I was excited and happy about being older, they begged me to write my stories. Our conversations were so emotional, I wanted to hug them all. I told them it would be better than they could imagine.
People love to read about what happens when you're older. They love stories about older people experiencing personal growth and triumph when faced with challenges. About sacrifice and heroism when least expected. And about falling in love when you’d given up hope.
There are plenty of non-fiction books out there, collections of essays about reinvention and personal growth after fifty. Those are great, but there’s a big gaping hole in the bookshelf: fiction about growing old. Because fiction contains an emotional element that lifts you, moves you, and sticks with you forever. That’s what I desperately want to read, so that’s what I write. The future might be daunting, but there are those who’ve walked the path ahead of us, and they’re sending messages back. Here’s how it’s done, they’re saying. Be strong.
If you’ve ever longed for novels about women your age, for stories about older women finding a new gear, I hope you’ll check out my five books. People love them. They say, “Finally, someone is writing about us.” (Men do, too. I have two reviews that begin (after a manly huff), with, “I rarely read women’s fiction, but…” and they gave me five stars.
Also, on my Facebook Author Page, you’ll find a collection of fifty-five books by other authors. Every book in this collection features older characters. I recommend them all. You’ll find the link to that page below.
To learn more about the midlife fiction of Lynne M. Spreen, go to her website.
You can also find her on Amazon and Facebook.
Visit her Facebook page to find fifty books featuring older characters, and to learn about the amazing strengths of the middle-aged brain, go to this series of four blog posts.
Listen to Lynne M. Spreen's podcast here.