What do the Grammy Awards have to do with writing? A lot…especially if you are of a “certain age” or haven’t written or published anything in a while.
This year’s ceremony provided a powerful reminder that you’re never too old to write a book. And it demonstrated that you can restart your writing career even after many quiescent years.
You’re Never Too Old to Create New Work
I watched the Grammy Awards this year specifically to see Joni Mitchell perform. My husband and I have always loved her music. Mitchell is now 80 years old and won her 10th Grammy in the 2024 Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles—the 11th if you include her Lifetime Achievement Award.
She also won Best Folk Album for the 2023 release of At Newport—at 79 years old. Despite her age…or in spite of her age…she is still writing songs, singing, and releasing her work into the world.
Plus, Mitchell has continued to create music even though she suffered a brain aneurysm rupture in 2015 that left her unable to both walk and talk for some time. Yet, she was on stage, sitting on a thrown-like chair, holding her scepter (cane), and singing a timeless song about seeing life from “Both Sides Now.”
If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what it is.
It’s Never Too Late to Write Something New
I was thrilled to discover that Billy Joel, another of my favorite musical performers, also would be performing at the Grammy Awards. Not only that, he would be singing a new song he’d written…the first in 30 years!
Joel, nominated for a Grammy 23 times and winning five times, performed his newest release, aptly called “Turn the Lights Back On.” He said he avoided going into the studio to write new songs but then felt the push to get this one out of his head and into the world.
Joel models the fact that you can restart your career no matter how much time has passed or for how long you’ve lacked inspiration.
5 Writing Lessons I Learned from Joni Mitchell and Billy Joel
I’ve been beating myself up for not writing and publishing a new book in five or six years. And I’ve been reminding myself that time is passing and I’m getting older.
But Mitchell and Joel reminded me of a few important lessons:
- Giving yourself time to feel passionate, inspired, and motivated to write something new is okay. I had a few setbacks with my writing career in the last 8 to 10 years. It took me a while to drop the unsupportive stories, blame, and excuses and “get back on the horse.” That’s okay. Could I have done this more quickly? Maybe. But it took as long as necessary. Now, I’m ready to pitch agents and publishers again and move toward my publishing goals.
- It’s never too late to “turn the lights back on” for your writing projects or career. Fans waited 30 years for Joel to produce something new. For the last 10 years, they’ve consistently sold out Madison Garden to see him perform despite no new material. People still buy my books and read my blog. Since I’ve not produced a new project, I’ve had time to build a larger audience for my new work. That should make me more marketable to agents and publishers.
- You’re never too old to start again. Some of the most well-known authors didn’t publish anything until they were in their 40s. Others, like Frank McCourt and Laura Ingalls Wilder, started their careers after 60. Lorna Page published her first novel at 93! Billy Joel has 10 years on me, but I choose to believe I’m just hitting my stride as a writer and author. And if Mitchell can produce new albums in her late 70s, I can finish writing all the books I know are still within me and waiting to be birthed.
- Don’t fight inspiration. Joel said he felt something “was happening” despite his attempts for three decades to avoid the studio and create new music. So, he decided to go with it and write and record the song anyway—even perform it at the Grammy Awards ceremony. Right now, I’m super inspired to move forward with several of my works in progress. I take that as a sign that it’s time to do that.
- Strong desire and commitment win. Despite health challenges, Mitchell still writes, sings, and produces her music. That shows that you can reach your goals if you want something badly enough and are committed to your art and gift. Too often, writers let life get in the way of writing. I’ve had health and physical challenges over the last few years, but I’ve slowly but surely written and prepared to release new books. Life never has to stop you from writing…and it won’t stop me.
Back to Writing
I tell you all this for one reason: to inspire and motivate you to take new action on writing projects you’ve neglected over the years. And I want to remind you that you can become a successful nonfiction author regardless of age.
Pick the old projects up. Dust them off. Give them a new coat of paint. And then let them shine by releasing them into the world.
Or throw the old projects in the “circular file” and start with a fresh piece of paper or computer screen. Begin from where you are now rather than where you were previously.
Explore creating a writing career from this point forward or reinvigorating the career you began previously. What do you want to write now? Maybe it’s different from what you previously published, and that’s okay.
But don’t let age, time, or previous lack of inspiration stop you from moving forward with your writing career now. Let Mitchell and Joel inspire you, as they have me, to pursue your writing career no matter what.
What writing lessons have you learned from Mitchell and Joel’s Grammy performances? Tell me in a comment below. And please share this post on social media or with a writing friend.
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