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Perspective: A Saint's Guide To The Writing Life After 40

In an effort to increase efficiency, I was clearing the piles from my desk yesterday. While eliminating the clutter, I was reminded of Saint Teresa of Ávila.


Born in 1515, she did not devote herself to writing and founding convents until well into her forties. Until her death at the age of 67, she wrote thousands of pages of poetry, prose and letters while on the road establishing new religious communities.


At a time when forty was considered elderly, Saint Teresa was just hitting her stride. What I find even more remarkable is that she did all her writing while sitting on the floor and using a desk slightly larger than a placemat. Her last two decades were by far the most productive, leaving us with a literary and religious legacy that continues to have an impact five centuries later.

Virginia Woolf insisted on having a room of her own, but Saint Teresa of Ávila shows us that only a desk and a pen are required. Currently, one of the most translated authors of the world, she is a model that youth, special resources and quiet are not essential to the writing life. With passion and a pen, we can all follow her example to reinvent ourselves at any stage of life, and who knows? We may even achieve a modicum of her greatness.

I’m Frances Jaeger, and that’s my perspective.