Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...

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For years, I allowed a few things to hold me back from writing. These are the top three:

Photo by Jena Schwartz

1.)   I had children when I was young-ish, and decided to stay home for a few years.

2.)   When I was ready to go back to work, my partner survived a near-fatality.

3.)   I spent the next five years in a panic.

The truth is also this: I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I was satisfied when I was reading to my children, or reading to myself, or thinking of stories, or telling stories. I was having an awful time of life, but I had a story to tell – it was an itch I had to scratch. In what felt like a somewhat gluttonous move, I made the decision to get a loan and pay for time to write for real, time to read, and time with professional writers.

I’m not saying that everyone should pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. They cost a lot, and a diploma of this nature does not secure a publishing deal or gainful employment.

I'm forty-two now, and with everything I've been through, I know better than to give merit to headlines meant to give me anxiety, like Can You Have a Writing Career After Forty? or Ten Reasons Why You Shouldn't Quit Your Day Job. 

When you're "older," you have stuff to say, and the confidence to say it. You know how to get the help you need, be it a paid mentor, a community workshop, a writer’s group, or an on-line class. You know better than to worry about what career means, anyways.

I met a fifty-something Australian writer recently who assured me now was a perfect time to hone my craft. The kids are older now, darling, and you have all the wisdom that comes from that. I looked her up. She has handfuls of novels in handfuls of languages and she began, like me, when she was a broke single mom with teenagers.

Last year I signed a book deal with a small press (Red Hen in Los Angeles) who will publish my memoir fall of 2018. Is this a start of a career? I hope so, but I’m also 100% OK with where things are right now. When the editor wrote, saying she loved the manuscript, I wept in my car hugging myself. It was almost enough validation right there.

To have a career in writing at any age means writing a lot. It means being patient. I can’t always write a lot, so I am patient with myself. I’ll be forty-four when I throw that book launch party and read a passage in a bookstore behind a mike. Trust me, there will be wine. Book two might take another five years, and that's ok, too. (As a confident forty-two-year-old woman/mother, I’ve already pitched pages of a YA novel with success.)

So long as we are diligent in the work, keep channels open for feedback, and stay the course, we can have a career in an art form we practice at any age. Ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. They do nothing for you.


Sarah Kishpaugh teaches, writes and parents in Edmonds, WA. Her essays appear in The New York Times and Salon.com. Her debut book, The Shame of Losing, will be published by Red Hen Press in 2018. Find her on Twitter at @sarahkishpaugh.


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sounds like you are having great success! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Sarah, you inspire the pants off of me, here at 51. If your book tour comes down to the Bay Area, count me in! So glad I got to meet you at BinderCon. Keep writing!