Following Your Dreams at 40

~ By Melissa Chambers

40. When I was 20, that age sounded ancient. You hear twenty-somethings say, “I want to have kids while I’m young so I’ll have energy to play catch with them, and chase them around and stuff.” The implication here is that once you hit mid-life, you’re done for. Might as well throw in the towel and pull out the walker.

What bunk. I remember my twenties. If you’d have asked me to run a mile I’d have made it about two blocks, tongue wagging until I passed out on the sidewalk. Sitting at 40 (ish) today, I could run circles around twenty-something me, pointing and laughing all the while. I’m in far better shape than I was back then, because much like our heroines, my goals and motivation are leading my path, not an irrelevant number.

leaping I didn’t start really living my life until I was around 38 years old, which is when I saw 40 creeping around the corner. I was lazy and uninspired, and it was time to start living. “Someday” was no longer some random futuristic moment where I would eventually get to all that stuff that I could do with my life. “Someday” had arrived! Then conveniently, a story popped into my head. It consumed me and I had no other choice but to write it down. I’d never written anything in my life – FAILED a freshman English class at college. But as I eyed 40, a confidence and determination consumed me like never before.

I recently came in contact with a lovely young author who was published at 22 and has never had an adult job other than writing. Fantastic for her! She knew what she wanted at an early age, went for it and is living her dream. But for so many of us, it’s taken a while to begin following our dreams. Some of us have harbored passions for writing for many years, but life has gotten in our way, as it always does. Others of us had no idea we could write or had no passion to do so until we were past our pre-family, typical college going years. But it’s not such a terrible thing that some of us waited.

For me, age has brought discipline. When I was younger, I was more selfish than I am now. I “deserved” this or that reward for having completed a big test or worked a long hard day. At 40 (ish) I gotta do what needs to be done. My reward is checking it off my list. Now I can easily drop off the kid at school, work a nine-hour day, go running for an hour, come home, shower, eat, spend family time then get my butt to work at 9:00 when the kid is asleep. Some nights, I admit, I would rather be catching that season finale of True Blood, but I have my window and I’m taking advantage…dammit! And I’m not whining about it or demanding a cookie!

It’s not relaxing…this life I live. But I wouldn’t give anything in the world for it. I’m busting my hump day in and day out, working toward that dream of being a full-time writer. So what that I waited?  I’ve got way more life experiences to draw from and God knows I’m far more equipped to handle the rejection. My skin was so thin in my twenties – I would have probably crumbled to pieces at some of these query responses (my favorite simply read, “Thanks, but no. Cheers!”). But at 40, if an agent thinks I suck, no problem – even better if that agent tells me why I suck so I can work to fix it.

So whether you’re 30 or 40, or 50 or 70, it’s not too late to do what you love. I’ll be on my deathbed asking for a writing device to mark down a good idea. Just try and stop me, twenty-something me!

Melissa Chambers, Confectioner of Contemporary Romance

Melissa Chambers is a writer of Contemporary, Young Adult and New Adult romance novels. She has worked in the music business for over a decade (which provides fabulous inspiration for some of her books) and is a voting member of the GRAMMY® association. She resides in suburban Nashville where she is a wife, mom, runner and wishes, above all, that she had more time for tennis and less time for ice cream.

6 thoughts on “Following Your Dreams at 40”

  1. Enjoyed the column, Melissa.
    Though I have written since grade school — and published in non-fic. and poetry — I had never seriously considered novels.
    But, after taking an early retirement at age 56, I had an experience similar to what you described (“a story popped into my head. It consumed me and I had no other choice but to write it down”) … and took off running
    In the 7 years since my retirement, I’ve completed 8 novels (3 published so far and one to be released in a few weeks). Also have starts — some with several thousand words — on a couple dozen other projects.
    What you said about approaching 40 can be said of me as I approached 60.
    It’s never too late to start!

  2. Great post, Melissa. 40 is breathing down my neck and the past few years have been a struggle to establish a foothold in this new career of writing romance. I was like you- had a story that wouldn’t get out of my head so I wrote it down. I was also at a place where I had the time to write it, so I’m seeing this as my calling. It’d be nice to have that confirmed by a publisher one of these days. Best wishes to you.

    1. I hate that so many of us seek affirmation from the coveted publisher, but we do. Yes, it’s such hard work but the BEST work! Now that I’ve started, I know there will never be any stopping! Best of luck to you, Meda. And yes, I think much of it IS luck!

  3. What a wonderful, motivational story, Melissa! As somebody who’s closing in on 48, I can relate. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was 45, but I have no regrets. Like you, I truly believe my life experiences make me a much better writer now than I ever could have in my 20’s or my 30’s. Better late than never!

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