By Robin Lloyd-Jones
This is a slightly adapted version of the blog I wrote for the Lapidus Blog in 2015. I was 81 then and I am now 84.
Several inseparable strands have sustained my creative writing into later life. The first of these is that I do not subscribe to the myth and self-fulfilling prophecy that creativity declines with age. Strand number two is that I am a keen walker and sea kayaker. My walks are becoming shorter, slower and flatter as my body ages, and my kayak outings are rather less challenging than they used to be. This is not a loss but a new opportunity. Slowing down has meant that I now notice and appreciate all sorts of things in the environment around me which, before, I hurried past. As the mountains became too steep for me, I am discovering, for the first time in my life, the delights of forests and rivers. As one door closes another opens. This is relevant to my writing not only because I often write about these things, but also because being close to nature refreshes my spirit and recharges my creative batteries. Walking and kayaking are steady, rhythmic activities in which the slowly changing scene stimulates the mind while leaving it free to roam. Some of my best ideas have come to me this way.
Finding blocks of uninterrupted time has been easier since retirement, so that becoming totally absorbed and lost in my writing now happens more regularly. That is to say, I reach a state of flow (sometimes called being ‘in the zone’), when the words seem to flow effortlessly. This links with the thirty minutes of meditation I do every day. Research has shown that those who experience a state of flow are more likely to achieve greater depth when they meditate ; and, conversely, that deeper states of meditation lead to increased incidences of flow. These four strands: a positive attitude to ageing, being in the natural environment, flow state and meditation reinforce and enhance each other, and they have grown stronger with the freeing up of time that comes with retirement in later life. Luck, too, has played its part: the genes I inherited, managing to avoid any major accidents or injuries and the role models I had in my youth – people who demonstrated in their lives the truth of Emerson’s words: you don’t grow old, you become old when you stop growing.
Currently I am working on a collection of short stories. My children used to call me a Writing Wrinkly. Now that I am past 80 I have graduated to being a Creative Crumbly. I am in no doubt that the feeling of fulfilment, the joy of creativity and the sense of purpose and productivity that writing brings to me has had a positive impact on my mental, emotional and physical health and on my general wellbeing. I am not alone in finding that creativity is the ultimate health supplement. These things certainly helped me through a difficult period when, in 2012, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent weeks of intensive radiotherapy. About one third of The Sunlit Summit was written in trains on my daily journey to and from hospital or in the treatment waiting-room. Writing that book took my mind off the worries and discomforts of cancer. I was lucky – although I think being fit and having a positive attitude probably helped – and my PSA level is now nil.
Since passing 70 I have had seven books published, the same number as in all the years leading up to then. And there are more to come!
BOOKS PUBLISHED SINCE 2004