It’s not easy fighting the archetype of ageing, Regardless of how you feel inside, the external world views white hair and facial lines as indicative of endings rather than beginnings.
An unplanned early retirement scared me. Work was my structure. Without it, I didn’t know how to live. Three things changed these feelings.
- redesigning my allotment reminded me I love growing fruit, veg and flowers,
- keeping honeybees, which continues to be the most amazing journey,
- lack of time was no longer a viable excuse for not writing.
Signing up for one of Wendy Pratt‘s ‘prompt a day‘ poetry courses, I began to write again. It wsn’t always easy and times have changed. Wendy says it better than me in her recent post How to Give Yourself Permission to Write.
On reading this, I felt the resonance!
Older women have to face… …the psychological blocks, and the societal blocks that prevent people, particularly older women, from writing.
Wendy continues… There is a prejudice in society that says that older women are, at best dull, at worst invisible.
All this I know!
I wanted my sixth decade to have new adventures and planned to walk The Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route covering 500 miles from the French Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
One of the highlights would have been seeing the incense-filled botafumeiro swing the length of the cathedral during a Friday night mass for pilgrims. I don’t follow any monotheistic religious system, but am interested in belief and ritual; the botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela had been on my experience list for some time.
Then Covid happened.
Flights, accommodation etc. all cancelled. I still haven’t used my backpack, but the walking boots are great for the allotment.
During my sixties, I felt increasingly invisible in public. The phrase ‘older woman’ appeared to mean less rather than more. Not unemployed, I also seemed to be unemployable. Poetry gave me a new voice, one where age didn’t matter – or did it?
Archetypes are powerful drivers of human reactions. I fight the cultural stereotype of aging but it’s like two different realities. I don’t feel my age so when I look in a mirror, it can be a shock to realise there’s less years ahead than behind. Older women seem invisible to all except their own age group. Do we really have less value?
I’m a late starter to poetry publication. Socially shy, and familiar with Imposter Syndrome, face-to-face interactions can be a struggle, but poetry allows me to speak as anyone, anywhere, and I love that freedom.
The biggest block to writing is expectation… the expectation that, as an older writer, women in particular, you have nothing to say. The expectation that you are too late in your years to even think about writing. The expectation that you’d be no good at it anyway.
I love Greek myth; e.g. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Euripides’ dramatic tragedies (the Trojan women) and fragments from Sappho. I wanted to follow Thetis with a prose narrative about Odysseus and Kalypso but follow-ups are hard.
During May, I’m taking Wendy Pratt’s Religion of Water group, and hoping the poetry continues to grow and develop.
When I’m feeling blocked, the writing itself must be continued. I’ve learned not to stop. Don’t wait for inspiration to come back. Make the physical act of writing, part of your daily routine.
It can be hard to not be producing something you feel is worthwhile and possibly publishable. Instead, you have to settle for writing as an exercise, like going to the gym when you don’t want to, or making yourself tackle something from the To Do list which you’ve been putting off.
I returned to morning pages. This activity can be found in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It consists of writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts, or free-writing, first thing in the morning. In the short-term, writing anything that comes into your head might feel silly or a waste of time, but it keeps the creativity doors open and can pay off in the long run.
Following Wendy’s post, there were some interesting tweets for poetry competitions aimed at women of a certain age.
- King Lear Prizes National Creative Arts Competition for Over-60s, deadline 14th July.
- The Alchemy Spoon pamphlet competition for ‘new phase’ poets, coming late to poetry, often following retirement, or significant life change. Submissions (theme of friends) closes May 31st.
- The Grey Hen Press publishes poetry by ‘older women’ and are looking for poems on any subject, max 40 lines, from women age 60 or over.
We all like positive role models, but it can be hard to find appropriate ones. Knowing some publishers recognise the potential value of experience is a comfort.
Ageing is inevitable like death, taxes and single-person supplements, but our years of experience offer a unique position from which to write.
We are Crone Poets!
Time might not be on our side but our perspective of lifelong learning and hard-earned wisdom ensures what we say might be worth listening to.