It’s never too late to start writing

Janis BramsNote from Jenna: This guest post is from one of our wonderful Writer’s Circle members, Janis Brams.

Janis held a life-long dream of writing regularly and has made it happen now that she’s retired from her education career and her two daughters are grown.

One of the fascinating aspects about finally having the time to write when one retires is that having big blocks of time to write can actually be somewhat paralyzing. Janis uses the Writer’s Circle and worked with my Design Your Writing Life course along with other online writing classes to create structure for her writing time.

Read on to find out more about what Janis learned to make writing while retired work for her.

Retired and Writing

by Janis Brams

Although I’ve wanted to be a writer since submitting a story about a girl and her dog to my eighth grade teacher, my writing record has been spotty. The piece ended with the girl’s dog jumping from a craggy cliff, and I was especially pleased with the final sentence “she ceased to exist,” written vertically down the page.

Unfortunately, for chunks of time, writing fiction and personal nonfiction ceased to exist for me.

While college, jobs, children, and graduate school challenged my attempts to maintain a consistent writing practice, fear played a role as well. What to write about and whether I’d have time to complete a piece were concerns that grew inside my head. They rooted there, fed by other doubts like was I talented enough to hold a reader’s interest and was I brazen to assume I had something to say worth reading.

My internal editor lived a splendid life.

But every once in awhile, I cajoled myself into pulling out a journal or sitting at a keyboard to record what I was thinking. I observed. I experienced. I felt.

And the need to sculpt words so that I could share what I was living continued to grow.

While I managed to produce some writing, the call to do more mushroomed so that even if I wasn’t writing, I was thinking that I should. I craved blocks of time to glue the bits and pieces of my stories into meaningful wholes, but my other passion, teaching children, was an exhausting task. Depleted by the end of day, I was too tired to do my writing justice. Instead, I dreamed about a time when my essays and my stories would assume their rightful place. And then, I retired.

The gift and terror of time to write

I woke up one morning with a huge chunk of time spread out before me. I could write for long hours, produce multitudes of end products; writing was my new priority. I was terrified.

Instead, I exercised, reached out to friends, organized bills, poured over cooking magazines, produced lovely dinners, and then went to bed promising myself that tomorrow would be the day I dedicated to writing.

I realized I was wasting precious time, so I spoke to my daughter, Rebecca, who is also a writer. Thinking I might enjoy an online class, she gave me a link to explore. I registered for a workshop and was hooked. The class held me to a deadline and provided me with a structure that felt familiar: a lecture, a prompt, a submission, and response to a critique. For 10 weeks, the duration of the class, I was a writing dervish. I overcame resistance and wrote, made deadlines, and revised.

I took one class and then another, but as each ended, my censor returned and resistance flourished. After spending hours assembling a cabinet to house unfinished stories, I realized an important piece was missing from my writing life.

The missing piece

I hadn’t thought to separate process from craft until an email appeared in my inbox with the subject line: “Mom, read this”.

Aware that I was floundering, last December my daughter sent me a link to a four-day class that Jenna was teaching, called Design Your Writing Life. The class was in the form of a conference call. “Why not drop in and see what you think?” Rebecca asked. [Note from Jenna: This class is now available as a homestudy course and will be on sale next week.]

Since then, I’ve subscribed to Jenna’s online Writer’s Circle program. The Circle has helped me see the importance of building a writing habit in addition to honing content. My biggest epiphany has to do with managing time. I understand the need to write consistently even if, some days, I can only manage minutes rather than hours. I give myself permission to accept these shorter blocks but feel compelled to intersperse them with longer stretches at the keyboard.

So while completing my progress page on the Circle website one night, I coined the term “Intervention Intention”. When too many days pass with little time for writing, I intervene, rearranging obligations so that composing rises to the top. My intention is to carve out the hours I need to pursue a passion and make a story happen.

My writing life isn’t perfect. I still worry my words are not precise enough or crafted well enough, but combining classes, focused on craft, with the Circle, focused on process, has given me a frame to hang my drywall. I sit at my keyboard and pound the stories out. Good or bad, I get to tell them. I’m retired and I’m writing, finally living out the dream from my childhood.


Janis Brams is a retired educator who formerly taught community college, middle school and elementary school for over 25 years in Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, and California. She now facilitates a small group of senior citizens writing memoirs as family legacies. She holds two graduate degrees, one in Education and one in Writing Composition. While she loves to teach writing, her fiercest passion has always been to write herself. She has published both fiction and personal essays in several small literary journals.


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