It was mid-November 2019 when I photographed this scene in one of the upper floor art exhibition rooms of Belvedere Palace in Vienna. I was here for the art, but there was something of a narrative with the art lover at the window, enjoying the outside view of the Autumn swept palace gardens, while next to her was a Max Beckmann masterpiece of a reclining, reading woman with lilies in her lap. This resonated with me, because reading, art, botanicals, travel and a sense of ‘ever watchful’ are the very things that inspire my creative writing. Credit. Photograph: Jo Radly Artwork in the background: Reclining Woman by Max Beckmann (1931)

The Midlife Scribe

A motivational blog for writers who start late in life.


As a new writer, I’m older than most who start,  and I’m often battling new things. For one, my writing has a life of its own. Sometimes it’s moody and words hover disjointed, with nowhere to go. It’s frustrating, but I find solace in remarkable, older authors who were published only later in life. These writers’ legacies are scattered across the Internet, and through my blog, The Midlife Scribe, I’ve made it my job to stitch their wisdom together in order to help inspire other older, beginner writers.  

My pen name is Jo Radly, and I also call myself the Midlife Scribe. It’s better I think than the other options I brain-stormed; a middle-aged writer or a fifty-something fiction freak. However, the point of my name is not to harp on about age, but rather relates to my new career later in life. As someone who could do with some confidence,  a pen name allows me to write freely, without the chance of ridicule. 

Since my youth I’ve always wanted to write fiction and my excuses were always the same;  I didn’t know enough, I didn’t have the right education, and what if I failed? That was until a summer’s night three years ago at my daughter’s graduation, somewhere in between her beautiful moment on stage and the fireworks, when I noticed that at least a dozen of the graduates were my age and older.  It struck me that if they could do it, so could I. I could learn to write. I enrolled in Creative Writing at the same university the following semester and started writing daily. Finally, I was a student and a writer. But, about being a writer, it was because I wrote daily. The fact that I was utterly unpublished, mattered little to me then.

Right now I’m on the third draft of my first novel and in moments of despair, I turn to the writers who have conquered things I battle; from killing characters, deleting scenes, to persevering. These writers have overcome issues I probably will still have to face — repeated manuscript rejections, criticism, poor or no pay, and more. Somehow, reading and rounding up their thoughts makes me feel less alone in this new craft. They are the masters, I am the student, and it’s their wisdom I draw upon and share.  Who knows, one day my blog might help nurture some unknown late-writer into bloom.

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