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11 Soul-Sucking Truths of Rebooting a Midlife Writing Career


“You’ll be writing about such scintillating topics as colitis, the history of buttons, pet insurance…” Illustration by Josh Quick

After a 10-year hiatus from a writing career (thanks to a stint as a stay-at-home mom and homeschool educator), you jump back into the freelance writing arena to resume your career. No one (including your kids) cares that you selflessly put your career on hold to mold and shape and educate two human beings for a decade. In fact, rather than praising your efforts as a noble choice, others regularly remind you that you committed career suicide.

The reality is, you’ve been out of the rat race for an extended period of time. You can’t foolishly believe you’ll just pick up where you left off. Nope, you’ve got to reboot your writing career in midlife. Yeah, this should be fun.
You’re once again a newbie, but not really. You’ve got experience, but it’s dismissed as ancient.

You need a manual or self-help group to navigate this feel-good process of starting over in midlife as a writer.
Finding none, you must face these 11 soul-sucking truths:


You have a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in public relations. They mean nothing now, as they literally occurred in another century. (That’s so 1900s.) Editors and potential clients (mostly 15 years younger than you) view you and your achievements as relics from the Stone Age. In fact, they are.


Even though you tried to keep your skills sharp over the years, no one will care that you wrote your homeowner’s association newsletter, created marketing campaigns for the PTA, and launched a humor blog. Confidence. Shaken. To. The. Core.


Like it or not, you will simultaneously juggle the realities of “how to break back into the business” with invitations to “discover the benefits of AARP!” It ain’t pretty, folks.


Some of your clips, while good, are 15- to 20-years-old. Even though your client list includes Fortune 100 companies, your samples from 1996 scream “HASN’T HAD A CLIENT IN DECADES.” You are screwed. It is literally like a bad game of Writer’s Monopoly—Go directly to Writer’s Jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not collect a kill fee. Start from scratch, and quit whining.


You must get up to speed on the business jargon that has transformed old phrases into new concepts (which pretty much mean the same thing as the old phrases but now have shiny new names). Writers don’t write anymore–they produce content. Business people who write and speak about their industry aren’t experts—they’re thought leaders. Niches are now vertical markets. A persuasive, authoritative report on a product or service is now a white paper. Your unique selling proposition is now your personal brand. Everything’s got a special name.


You attempt to master technology but can barely navigate Windows 7 and your flip phone. You lament the demise of WordPerfect and CorelDraw as industry standards and are befuddled by the vague concept of storing your files in “the cloud.” Others laugh at your naiveté when you ask whether you should back-up your files on a USB flash drive, jump drive, data stick, pen drive, or thumb drive, not realizing they all mean the exact same thing.


You welcome any assignments an editor kindly tosses your way just to get your foot back in the publishing door. This means you’ll be writing about such scintillating topics as colitis, the history of buttons, pet insurance, the latest trends in socks, and how to get wine stains out of your couch.


You toil over an article because you want to perfect it, knowing it will open bigger and better publishing doors for you. You research, outline, write, edit, revise, rewrite, polish, proofread, revise again, tweak, read out loud, and proofread one last time—all for a byline and 10 cents a word if you’re lucky (refer to Sucky Truth #10). Hour for hour, you could have earned more mowing lawns in your neighborhood. (Hang head in shame and go back to your typewriter, Grandma Moses.)


Your testimonials, like you and your clips, are old. Sadly, while you were busy building a name for yourself in local mommy-and-me groups, you’ve lost touch with your entire professional network. When you hunt them down on LinkedIn and try to reconnect, they barely remember you, even though you worked with them for three years. Ouch.


You try to grasp social media and the nuances of each platform, but you actually embarrass yourself with your own ignorance. On Twitter, you’re tweeting yourself by mistake. You panic when someone Mentions you because you don’t know how to respond. You’re liking, “favoriting,” and “hearting” your own posts, confirming to the world what a narcissist you really are. You keep adding new Facebook posts with *corrections to your previous posts because you don’t realize you can actually edit the original post.


You learn to despise the word “exposure” as you realize it equates to payment for writers looking to “build their personal brand” instead of wanting to “pay their bills.”

And yet, despite the difficulties of rebooting a midlife writing career, you persevere. Why? Because writing feeds your soul like no other creative activity. You love to play with the nuances of words and draw readers in with your storytelling. And you crave that byline for its sense of affirmation, proving that, even after all that time off, you’ve still got the writing chops of a pro. Well done, newbie.

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Lisa Beach (Guest Blogger)

Lisa Beach is a freelance writer, copywriter, and recovering homeschool mom who lived to write about it. Check out her writer’s website at Lisa Beach Writes.