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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Writing Your Future Self


age like wine or raisins canstockphoto15802509 (3)What changes in your brain and your writing do you anticipate as you age?

Do you think your creative brain will be like a fine wine that gets better with age or more like grapes that shrivel and eventually rot? Be careful, your expectations will affect your experiences.

Chances are, the younger you are, the more likely you are to think the brain ages like grapes; the older you are, the more likely you are to see yourself as vintage.

The older person’s perspective is also more accurate – thank goodness!

Pam Hayle, Chair of the Vital Aging Network, observed in VAN’s e-bulletin,

“A recent Pew Research study, Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality, reports interesting disparities in how younger people view getting older versus the reality of growing older. Younger people were asked to respond to a series of negative benchmarks related to aging such as illness, depression and loneliness. ‘In every instance, older adults report experiencing them at lower levels (often far lower) than younger adults report expecting to encounter them when they grow older.’

“This generation gap in perception about the realities of growing older is not surprising but I do view it as a challenge. How do we educate society to not only the joys of growing older but also the tremendous value of older adults in our communities and in our nation?”

My keynote address “Creativity and the 50 and Better Brain” is my contribution to Hayle’s challenge. You can view the entire presentation at your leisure on YouTube.

Neuroplasticity – the brain’s capacity to change – offers opportunities for us all. If you’re already 50 and Better, you’re prime to optimize your creative brain. If you haven’t reached 50 yet, you can make choices now that will make your 50 and better years outstanding.

We all have a lot to look forward to. Compared to younger brains, the 50 and Better brain is:

  • Calmer
  • Happier
  • More experienced
  • More patient
  • Better appreciates another person’s point of view
  • Grasps the big picture/gets the gist of a situation better
  • More confident.

Writers who came into their own on the better side of 50 include:

  • Richard Adams (Watership Down, in his early 50s)
  • Eugenia West (1st book at 56, 2nd book at 84)
  • Donald Ray Pollock (Devil All the Time, late 50s)
  • Amy Clampitt (1st poetry collection at 63)
  • Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes, mid 60s)
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House, late 60s)
  • Beth Obermeyer (1st book at 70)
  • Mary Wesley (1st novel at 70)
  • Harriet Doerr (1st novel, Stones for Ibarra, at 73)
  • Glenna Johnson Smith (1st book at 90)

For more, please watch Creativity and the 50 and Better Brain and read The Scientific American Healthy Aging Brain: The Neuroscience of Making the Most of Your Mature Mindby Judith Horstman and “The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-aged Mind” by Barbara Strauch.

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