I Became a Writer at 40. Here’s What I've Learned - Craft Your Content

I Became a Writer at 40. Here’s What I’ve Learned

After the outbreak of COVID-19, many of us were forced to reassess our values and consider whether we had been happy and fulfilled in the first place.

I was one of them.

I had been a TV Producer for 20 years, starting from the bottom as a runner—my first job involved spending 14 hours a day in an old plane hangar helping people find the toilets.

Two decades later, I was working on some of the UK’s best-known shows with a book full of contacts. But I decided to turn my back on it all—while raising a toddler. 


To live my dream of becoming a freelance writer. 

In January 2022, on my 40th birthday, I decided I was never going back to my old career. That I was going to become a writer.

So I removed all my details from job sites, stopped responding to potential employers, and focused entirely on becoming a writer. And despite only working part-time, I have already achieved my goal of being paid to do it!

I was terrified to make the jump, but I was able to overcome my fears. 

So here’s what I learned from this process and how you can do the same.

Lesson One: Changing Your Mindset Can Change Your Life

career change writer
Leaving one career for another can be daunting, especially if it’s a career as inconsistent as writing.

Remember the collective Corona nightmares the planet was having during quarantine? Multiply that anxiety by ten and add in some imposter syndrome.

That was me. 

Even though I knew I wanted out of my old career, it still felt sad to leave it behind. Like so many of us, I’d worked hard to build it. 

Climbing the ladder. Making contacts. Missing holidays and celebrations with loved ones. Doing work at lower rates because that’s “expected.”

We live in a society where our identity is so tied up with our jobs that I cared what it would say about me to “quit.” And the truth is, starting over is scary. 

But I had so many transferable skills, and once I figured that out, it changed everything.

You’d be amazed at how many of life’s baseballs you have already smashed out of the park. When I decided to pursue writing, I sat down and took a long hard look at what I’d achieved previously.

The problem?

Aside from the writing part of my old job, none of my experience seemed relevant.

With writing, it’s not just what you say. It’s the way you say it. You have to be able to persuade people. 

As a TV Producer, difficult conversations are par for the course. With contestants we suspected of cheating on game shows. Or with upset children that are about to burst into tears on live TV.

On an average day filming, you could find me: 

  • Counselling co-workers who were in floods of tears
  • Fixing a photocopier that last fulfilled its potential in 1998
  • Convincing an Olympic gymnast to wear more clothes during a world record attempt

I even had to roll my sleeves up and paint a ceiling on a makeover show once.

I discovered that writing is a multi-platform business. You’re wearing different hats daily. You’re a storyteller, a producer, and a data analyst, all rolled into one. As well as being creative, you need to communicate effectively with clients, multitask, and problem solve.

So take time to look back on your past achievements. Compile a list of all the skills you used in your old job. And while you’re there, add all the amazing ways you’ve overcome obstacles in your personal life. Then compare this expertise to the skills a freelance writer needs.

Moreover, don’t forget to talk to colleagues. They might remember a time when you were a total boss at work or provide insights into what skills you bring to the team.

You might need to think outside of the box. 

Problem-solving is coming up with creative solutions. Here’s one of my examples from my time in TV. 

If you can :

  • find someone a gluten-free pizza with no cheese
  • watch them discard it after one slice
  • keep a smile on your face

Then you can take a dry piece of information and make it more interesting and easier to read.

Lesson Two: You Can Multiply Your Time

Time management ADHD writers
Eliminate, automate, delegate, procrastinate.

How on earth will I find the time to become a writer? 

This was the question that kept me awake at night.

I had to start a brand new career from scratch. I had to build a website. I had to find clients. But, as a writer in my 40s, I now also understand the value of my time.

It’s not just about getting things done faster and being more productive—although I can’t get enough of that stuff—but also about recognising what and who is deserving of those valuable hours.

So here’s how to make more of the time you have.

A few years ago, I watched a Ted Talk by Rory Vaden called “How to Multiply Your Time.” It was life-changing. 

By thinking about how we use our time today, we can free up hours in the future. It allows us to multiply our time by asking four questions about every item on your to-do list.

  1. Can I eliminate this task?
  2. If I can’t eliminate this task, can I automate it?
  3. Can it be delegated, or can I teach someone else how to do this?
  4. Should I do this task now, or can I do it later? (Vaden calls this strategy “procrastinate on purpose.”)

An example of how this works is setting up online bill payments. You can’t find the time to sit down and set this up for every bill, enter your bank details, or download the app. And yet, you do spend a significant amount of time paying all those bills when the due date comes around every month!

My son is in nursery three days a week. My partner works full-time in a children’s hospital. I still have all the same household chores, life admin, cooking, and shopping tasks on my to-do list as I did before I became a writer.

Instead of endlessly searching for inspiration for mealtimes, I made a list of a week’s meals and placed a repeated weekly delivery. 

I dedicated fixed times to do the cleaning each week—a 30-minute slot when I’d completed a key writing task. By cleaning more regularly, I ended up doing less cleaning. Oh, and I finally got round to automating my child nursery payments. 

Apply this process to your to-do list. Don’t forget to reassess your list from time to time. Are there new tasks that you could gain time back on? Is there any you can delegate?

Lesson Three: Work With People With Similar Values

career change writer
Surround yourself with people who will support you and challenge you.

As a veteran freelancer, I have 20 years of experience dealing with irrational fears. 

Obsessing over why you never got the callback. Wondering why someone is getting up the ladder faster than you. Asking yourself how the boss can get away with being so damn rude to everyone.

As a writer starting later in life, I have more belief in my abilities than I ever did as a 20-year-old.

So the last thing you need is to work for people that bring those toxic attitudes to the table and reinforce those limiting self-beliefs.

My old industry often had the inability to accept that everything cannot be done RIGHT NOW. Sometimes, the end goal became more important than the people making it happen. 

People should not be crying in the office. Or scared to be the first to leave on time. Or afraid to ask for a fair rate.

Becoming a writer at 40 means I can recognize which opinions matter and which don’t. It’s given me the opportunity to align myself with brand new employers who share those values. 

When I pitched this article to Craft Your Content, I had a busy few days ahead with my toddler. I’d have no time to work on the pitch I sent for at least a few days. 

Imagine my delight when I received an email acknowledgement with this line at the bottom:

PS – We respect and admire your boundaries around personal time. If you receive this email while you are “offline,” please respond when it is convenient for you.

This one line encapsulates why I am making this move to be a writer. 

A company that has never heard of me, let alone met me, is prepared to respect my boundaries. Shouldn’t you be affording yourself that same respect?

So how do you discover what your values are?  Use this mindfulness technique.

Have a personal mantra.

A positive, affirmative statement you say to yourself for motivation or encouragement. Picturing what you want your life to look like will help. 

Mine is simple. 

Why not me? 

That’s right. Why not me? Many people are making a successful living out there writing. Why can’t I be one of them?

Use these great tips to get started on coming up with your own. Dig down into everything you have already achieved and enjoy it.

Lesson Four: Ditch the Guilt

career change writer
You are your own person.

Since I became a parent, the sensor on my guilt-o-meter has gone through the roof. 

Almost three years in, and despite having a supportive, hands-on partner, I still find it tough to sit down and do something for myself. Even when I’m alone.

I feel selfish.

In fact, “mom (or dad) guilt” is very common. 

We are scared that others will judge us as parents. That we will mess our kids up. That we’re not great at being a parent or at our jobs. Just average at both.

In this article, Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, child psychotherapist, identifies how to let go of these feelings, specifically for working parents.

One of the areas she addresses is being “good enough” at home. Instead of being a perfect mom and being held accountable to an impossible standard, it’s best to concentrate on being good enough.

You deserve a creative outlet. You deserve to do a job that makes you happy. And writing can also provide for you and your family’s future.

And if you’re not a parent, you can apply this concept to your working life. 

Because anyone who wants to quit a solid job to follow a dream will feel guilt at some point in their journey.

So how can you focus on yourself and carve out time for you to write?

This is how I manage to quiet the noise and obligations and write. 

  • Set specific times each week in which you’ll work. 
  • Set timers for tasks, writing and non-writing related.
  • Say no to things.
  • Use the “multiply your time” technique mentioned earlier.
  • Don’t stop what you’re doing at the ping of every new email.
  • Complete your Most Important Task first.
  • Write your to-do list for the next day.
  • Recognize your progress.
  • Repeat your mantra.

Don’t Be Scared to Start Over

Making a huge life change can seem overwhelming. I said goodbye to everything I ever knew; two decades of hard work, and the people I’d spent it with. No wonder, then, that when I thought about becoming a writer, I felt dread—that existential nightmare type of dread that keeps you awake at 3 a.m.

I knew what I needed to do but I couldn’t start. Truthfully, I had forgotten how to do anything else. 

Yet here I am. I never imagined that I would be getting paid to write already, that my future at work would feel exciting again.

By changing your mindset, making more time, understanding your values, and letting go of guilt, you will become a writer.

About the Author Eleanor Plackett

Eleanor is a content writer for hire. Her experience in digital marketing and blog wizardry helps her create content that gets businesses noticed. She loves to write articles that help people like you supercharge your career and achieve work/life balance. When she isn't saving you time or improving your SEO ranking, you can find her chasing after her toddler and trying to finish a cup of tea before it gets cold. Connect on Linkedin or say hi on Twitter.

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