Being a writer of children’s fiction has its benefits in the age race. When I’m writing a novel, I inhabit the mind of my young protagonist. At the moment I’m 11, going on 12 which is a lovely age to be. At other times, when I’m away from my story and have to do grown-up stuff, I feel about 38 and have felt this age for many years.

My in-laws left this morning to return to the US after a 5 week stay. They are both fantastic, but I noticed my mother-in-law’s mind has slipped slightly since the last time I saw her a year and a half ago. But hey, she’s 90.

Then I got to wondering how much writing life I still have left in me. I was a very late starter. I didn’t discover my chosen career until 9 years ago. Since then I’ve published 6 novels and 1 picture book with another four novels coming out next year.

I was hoping that writers might be somehow immune to Alzheimers because we use our minds in unusual ways sparking off new connections all the time. We certainly give the old brain a good work out. But then I remembered Terry Pratchett who has a rare form of the disease. He was not yet 60 when he was diagnosed.

‘I’m slipping away a bit at a time… and all I can do is watch it happen,’ he said.

Then, out of interest, I decided to search the web for other famous authors who suffered from dementia. EB White and Iris Murdoch were the only two I found which is heartening.

And what about the inimitable Doris Lessing? Her latest book, ‘Alfred and Emily’ published in 2008 was written when she was 89! She is an amazing woman.

So heres to long writing careers.

In the meantime, I’m madly doing my brain exercises:

1. If you’re right-handed, use your left hand to operate the TV remote, or dial the phone, or brush your teeth.

2. Try to include one or more of your senses in an everyday task: Get dressed with your eyes closed. Wash your hair with your eyes closed. Share a meal and use only visual cues to communicate. No talking.

3. Walk around the house blindfolded.

4. Try driving to work using a new or different routes.

6 thoughts on “ON WRITING AND AGING

  1. I do one of those exercises daily – I drink from a cup or glass in my left hand while at the computer. Especially when I’m editing. But it wasn’t intended to be a brain exercise. lol You see I can’t fit a cup or glass on the right of me at the computer and found it easier to pick it up in the left. Besdies, the right is usually busy with the mouse. At first it seemed strange but now it is second nature.

  2. This really struck a chord, Gabrielle. Like Annie Proux, Elizabeth Jolley Carmel Bird and many other female writers, I was past forty when I started writing fiction. Through my characters I’ve recaptured the enthusiasm and fearlessness of youth, and am happy and grateful that I may have another forty-odd productive years of writing left in me.

    1. Chris, for us ‘mature’ writers, it couldn’t have been any other way I feel! We are crockpots, slow cookers. And through our characters we will remain forever young.

  3. I guess I try not to think about it. Have you seen the movie about Iris Murdoch in the final years of her life? It’s very moving. I think it’s called ‘Iris’. Thanks for the exercises.

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