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Why Disappointing Books are Still Helpful

I was intrigued by the promise of a newly released book on starting a new career at sixty.    

But I was disappointed.

I  assumed the book would illuminate the steps a person takes to start over.  I wanted to read about the many unexpected roadblocks and hairpin turns.  I read to discover how this writer re-created herself to become a new thing, in this case, an artist.  I read to confirm that with age comes perspective and a deep understanding of what is important and what is not.  In a word, it’s not over, you can do anything, no matter your age.

The unnamed book’s premise was that being an older person and starting something new would be problematic.  

She enrolled in an undergraduate art program populated by Millennials and Digital Natives who, contrary to expectations, do not give a damn about her age,  color or sex.  They did not care about her job or her past titles.  They care who you are right now – what is your essence, what are your dreams.   

Festive Old Fashion Typewriter

By page three of this book, I learned that being older does not make you special. You need to work harder than that.  

What is is like to start over?  I hoped this would be an in-depth discovery of how a professional made the switch from words to visuals. How she struggled and became a new thing, an artist.  How do you own art (or voice)  later in life?    That is what I was interested in learning, how did this change feel in your bones?

There was no insight like that at all. 

The writer is not average, which is a shame because, by definition, many more of us are average and want to learn about the triumph of practiced art over being always categorized in the middle of the pack.  I want confirmation that art can elevate and transform anyone, most of us.  I want the plurality of art, not a lengthy self-congratulation narrative describing the inherent uniqueness of the artist and why you, the reader, will never be as good as her, the writer and artist.  That was not why I was here with this book.

  What I want for clients and for readers is to discover not an easy way to reinvent, but a path, choked with weeds and expectations, but available to anyone.  And if you look hard enough and grab a guide, you can find the way.  

Because there is a way.

How can you get from retirement,  change, a layoff, to a life that contains creative projects, joy at the accomplishment, love for every day and every moment creating and expanding your passion project?  That’s what I want for me, that’s what I want for my readers.

So if I know so much, how do you negotiate a new creative path?

  • Re-connect with what you’ve always wanted to do 
  • Discover  old artistic impulses and act  on them  
  • What you don’t need is another academic degree. 
  • What you don’t need is outside validation   
  • What you don’t need is sales
  • Take local classes, take seminars, join workshops, join meetups – focus on improving your work for you, not for sale, not for a juried show, but for you.   
  • Buy cheap paints and start painting   
  • Dig up a half-used school journal and write for ten minutes a day. 
  • Experiment with what art pulls you into a zone you haven’t experienced since you were five years old.

Do that.  

You don’t need my permission, you don’t need another college degree, you don’t even need another book.

If you want to get into a new creative zone, check out my class – available only during September –


Catharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach and author. She has published over 300 newspaper and magazine articles in publications like Modern Maturity (AARP), SF Chronicle and Santa Rosa Magazine. She was a contributor to two Chicken Soup Books and has published anthologies of her work, non-fiction works and novels. Her work has also appeared in a number of poetry and fiction anthologies. She has experimented with the self-publishing world since 2001. She has published and self-published seven books through companies like Author House, author assist companies like 3L Publishing and through traditional publishers like Write Life. Her poetry collection, Ammonia Sunrise, will be released in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press and her mystery novel, In Good Faith will be released by Write Life in 2011. Catharine holds a BA in English from UCSB and a MA in English from Sonoma State University. She is a 25 year member of California Writer’s Club. She is an adjunct professor for the University of Phoenix. She works with authors of both fiction and non-fiction to make their dream of producing a book come true. For more information on that, visit her at Catharine has lived in Sonoma County for 25 years and considers wine a food group. She is married to an adorable and very patient man who complains he’s never featured in any of her books. Her grown children who are featured in a few of her books have fled the county.

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