Life in the Last Lane: Writing ‘Til I Exit

By: Marilyn L. Davis

Note: While some of you in my generation may reference my title as a parody on the Eagles, “Life in the Fast Lane”, it actually came in a comment from Slug Latimer on Facebook.  I asked permission to use “Life in the Last Lane”, and Slug graciously gifted it to me. Now, if you’re the originator of this phrase, let me know, and I’ll give you credit as well.

Slug’s ‘last lane’ comment gave me pause, as it made me think about all the lost opportunities of our youth, the times that we let fear prevent us from pursuing a dream, or the times that we lacked enough confidence to try something new. It also prompted some questions.

  1. Why do we sometimes stumble upon a passion later in life?
  2. Why do we feel compelled to share this new-found enthusiasm?
  3. Why take risks later in life?
  4. How can we become confident later in life with a new endeavor?
  5. What will make the experience rewarding for all?

Late to the Party? Doesn’t Matter

I’ve only been writing online for about four years, so many could say – who cares what you write about, who are you, what can you offer, or other references since I’m a late arrival. But one thing I know about life – the longer we live, the more experiences we’ve had, which in my case, includes, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  At sixty-nine, I’ve lived longer than many bloggers. So there.

Regular readers at Two Drops of Ink know that I’ve been in abstinence-based recovery for twenty-eight years, ran a women’s recovery home for twenty-one years and wrote a recovery curriculum, Therapeutic Integrated Educational Recovery System (TIERS).

Those experiences and writing the curriculum created a logical foundation for writing my other blog,  FromAddict2Advocate. I’m sure that makes sense, how I would take what I knew and write about addiction and recovery, but it still doesn’t explain my willingness to venture into writing about writing.

I owe that invitation to the party to Scott Biddulph, editor in chief at Two Drops of Ink. About two years ago, I was writing about addiction and recovery for a couple of mass article sites and gaining a following, but feeling frustrated with the payments for my efforts. Scott and I would meet for coffee and discuss his blogs and one day, I tentatively asked him if I could write something for Two Drops of Ink. Since he was in school and, like most of us, studying, doing odd jobs for pay, and not maintaining his blogs on a regular basis, he agreed. I think that initially, it was done out of kindness and a twenty-year friendship. We were on Blogspot then, and slowly the numbers started improving. We knew we were onto something when we hit 20,000 views one month. But we weren’t ready to grow any bigger at that point.

weThen I took a position as the editor of a startup for a women’s cooperative, and dove into editing others. Each of the women were successful entrepreneurs. Some, like myself, stumbled upon their passions later in life or took their skill-sets and created a lucrative business around them. I believe that I was a kind editor. I made every effort to find the bones, even when the writing was grammatically incorrect or encourage the other writers to revamp a particular passage, or keep the best three paragraphs and build on them. For the most part, the women appreciated my efforts, and I felt pleased with their responses. I understood that writing and editing were a team effort.

One of the first pieces that I edited was a post from the social media coordinator, Lydia Oyetunji. I could feel her enthusiasm and passion in her writing, even if there were a few grammatical errors.  When I sent her the corrections, I received the nicest reply – a simple ‘thank you for making my writing better’ and believe me, there’s not an editor anywhere that doesn’t appreciate that response. Not shirking my duties as a writer, either, I approached writing from a business perspective geared to women entrepreneurs. I stressed:

  1. Be truthful to show your integrity
  2. Create engaging content
  3. Demonstrate your experience to show your expertise

Multiple conference calls with up to fifteen women all trying to decide direction left me frustrated. While I can get into the minutiae of any subject, there are times that the bigger picture is at issue. I slowly saw that there were too many vying for control and too few willing to work if they didn’t get public recognition and credit.

It was unfortunate that many of the writers didn’t understand that work done behind the scenes is often just as important as what is presented center-stage.

Lydia and I were finally able to discuss the catty behaviors, one-upping, and each woman fighting for supremacy and deciding that neither of us wanted to be a part of the organization and we both resigned. We somehow managed to retain our writing and editing desires and discovered that we genuinely liked each other. I was also excited to promote her to Scott. When he realized how effective she was at social media, a relationship and a new writer were added to Two Drops of Ink. At first, Lydia would only send her posts to me to edit. When I explained that Scott was just as gracious and caring as I was, she sent them to him. Besides, he’s the better educated editor. That’s why he edits mine.

Confidence Comes Later for Some

We all allow youth to make mistakes, yet, we seem to think that just because someone has lived a long time, been successful in other endeavors, or seems like they’re together, they ought to be able to write well when they first start out. I think as an older writer, I falsely believed that all my life experiences would make writing easier, or stories and anecdotes would magically flow onto page. With those concepts,  I created a lot of  pressure to perform by laboring over every word.

  • Was it an authentic word for me?
  • Was the content interesting?
  • Was I conveying an encouraging tone?
  • Was I sounding preachy?
  • Would this writing resonate for the reader?

While I’m still concerned about those elements of my posts, but I don’t stress as much. I would rather my human side come through in my writing than worry about a dangling participle.

I also find encouragement in how many people found their true passions later in life. And lest you forget, as Bette Davis, the actress said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” But beyond that apt description, who else found their passion late in life?

Some Notable Late Bloomers

  • Anna Robertson Moses, better known as Grandma Moses took up painting when her eyesight prevented her from embroidering. She was 76 and sold some of her first paintings for a paltry $3 but eventually her paintings commanded $10,000.
  • Turned to your trusty Thesaurus lately? If so, you have Peter Mark Roget to thank for it. He published it when he was 73 and continued with each publication until he was 90.
  • Frank McCourt did not begin writing until he was 65 and wrote Angela’s Ashes, winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Books Critics Circle Award.
  • Julie Child was 51 when her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was finally published. Many of us learned the difference between bologna and bolognese from her.
  • Some consider, Robinson Crusoe, the first novel. Daniel Defoe didn’t write it until he was 60.
  • Miguel de Cervantes didn’t pen Don Quixote  until he was in his late 50’s.
  • How many of us could stand the rejection and criticism endured by Paul Cezanne, who did not get his first one-man exhibition until he was 56. Most of us would have put down the brush.
  • Richard Adams wrote his first book, Watership Down at 52.
  • One of the greatest ‘noir’ novels of all time,  The Big Sleep, was written by Raymond Chandler when he was 51.

Thank You, George Eliot

We accept that time is precious and we strive to use it wisely while we’re here. We can’t wait for inspiration, waste time on idle activities, or pretend that we’ll get it done in the next few years.  No, we have to put our fingers on the keyboard  and know that the muse will come. We restrict our social occasions while still making time for the people that are important to us. We view each day as a gift and try to use it purposefully.

I also think that a later-life passion is intense and driven. We know that our time on the planet is limited and if we are going to pursue any dream, we have to put time, energy and effort into it – now.

Mary Ann Evans adopted the male pen name of George Eliot as she thought that female authors of the Victorian era wrote in a frivolous manner and she didn’t want to be categorized as such. She is credited with a quote that sums up my philosophy at this point in my life as well, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”.

This Lane is Open

invitation to join 2

Besides finding passions late in life, I also think there’s a generosity that comes with age. We know that most successful undertakings are not the work of one person. We recognize our strengths, talents, limitations and shortcomings. We share what we know and look forward to learning from others. And here at Two Drops of Ink, we’ve carried that attitude into making this site open to others.

So, are you ready to start or restart your writing career? We are always looking for the tentative writer, the newbie, the seasoned but ignored, and the “I’d like to expand my audience” writers. I’m sure you fit into at least one of those categories.

And, we don’t care how old or young you are. There’s always room here at Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing.

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30 comments

  1. Thank you Marilyn. This post was precisely the boost I needed. Most people view me as positive and a go-getter. And there is that perspective. Yet, even at 68, the doubts creep in, and what with trying to earn a living…. the nasty little devils, still, on occasion, whisper,”Get a job” Fortunately, I have reached an age where I can whisper back, “this is a job, and it’s my job!” Never the less, I never tire of reading encouraging words. When one wins…we all win. After all, aren’t we simply helping each other back home? What a grand experience this human journey is. Whether we are dancing in joy or burning in the fires of transformation, after time and purposeful introspection, a new awareness arises. And who cares at what point we arrive? Kudos to this well written and supportive site!

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  2. Wonderful article, Marilyn! It’s good to learn more of your background. I, too, am letting myself finally really believe that ‘my time’ is at hand, and believe me, I have put it off for a lot of years and a lot of other people. I will be 64 in 12 days, and I’m not waiting another year or even another day (I wrote a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul TODAY!). And tomorrow? Well, maybe tomorrow will be the day I send something else to Two Drops of Ink! 🙂 Thank you, as always, for your gracious words of welcome and wisdom.

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      • Marilyn – Actually, I sent a message last night via your ‘Contact Us’ option asking if I need to send a new Bio and photo with my submission, or if you would use the ones you have from my poem, ‘Story of a Life’! It’s ready to go other than that! 🙂 …Blessings to all – Barbara 😊☺🙄

        Liked by 1 person

  3. How did I miss this article? Head-in-clouds I guess. It should not be missed. It’s wonderful and inspiring and I loved it. Thank you for your words, your wisdom and your experience. It means everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Carol. You found it when you were supposed to – well doesn’t that just sound pat, but I think the universe has a way of saying, “Go here” or I’ll be looking for seemingly one thing and get directed elsewhere and viola, there’s what I need for inspiration or encouragement that day. Love it.

      And the head in the clouds? I’m often on that fluffy plane. We should meet up for coffee. She smiles.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Here comes an old guy, commenting on an old start, in an old craft. A three-foot long wooden plaque hangs on my shop wall bearing the words of Chaucer I hand carved forty years past: “The lyfe so short, the craft so long to lerne”.

    Attempting to write is but an extension of my bent for the artistic, creative, imaginative. My experience within numerous of those aspects produced various degrees of satisfaction, enjoyment, nary a hint of fame or fortune. Therefore, early in life, economic necessity dictated gaining proficiency in hard, physical labor and the operation of railroad locomotives. My blue collar season is history now, but, I’m not, so I’m gonna scribble.

    Marilyn, your piece is admirable in various aspects, including obvious reverence for events experienced and imaginations massaged during an extended lifetime. It is encouraging to discover genuine support actually exists for those elders who prefer creativity, productivity, and accomplishment. Authentic champions for the aged are a rare breed today, however, you folks at Two Drops Of Ink certainly fit within that league.

    Arrival at this specific spot is a surprise to me. Difficult to comprehend this moment totally depended upon results from thousands of events and a hundred times that number of personal choices. Hmmmm.

    I’ll continue to nibble the edges of writing even though I’m profoundly unschooled. Yet, I’m glad to be on the trail of the albino buffalo – extensive thinking pains my brain. Then, there’s this: I’ve lead a drinkhorse to water but couldn’t make him! So, it’s story tellin’ time, eh? With the reverberating words from Marilyn, I’m primed!

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    • Hi, Gary. Thank you for commenting and giving us some background. I know that many of us took jobs, focused on finding our place in the hierarchy, or had a profession that didn’t allow much time for creativity. But for many of us that need to create was always there, even when dormant. I believe that an older writer adds nuances to the narrative because we’ve lived longer. In many cases, our awareness encompasses the grays of life, whereas in my youth, I viewed things as black and white.

      I also think that living longer brings a different form of patience and persistence. We know we have to hurry if we’re going to pursue a new endeavor, but we also know that we have to be patient with ourselves as we learn – then we produce. We approach it with a single-minded focus that I didn’t have in my 20’s or even 40’s. I’m not nearly as distracted by the shiny as I once was.

      Again, thank you for your kind words. I’ll reference a Willie Nelson song that has always spoken to me, The City of New Orleans:

      Dealin’ card games with the old men in the club car
      Penny a point ain’t no one keepin’ score
      Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
      Feel the wheels rumblin’ ‘neath the floor
      And the sons of Pullman Porters
      And the sons of engineers
      Ride their father’s magic carpet made of steel
      Mothers with their babes asleep
      Are rockin’ to the gentle beat
      And the rhythm of the rail is all they feel

      I know there’s stories from your past. I know you’ve heard the tales. I know you would add your perspective. I know I’d read it; you just have to submit it. She smiles.

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  5. Thank you for this encouraging post. I am late to the party as well. I am 58. I had a pathetic blog in 2013 for 5 months. I had no clue what blogging really was. I self-published my memoir in 2014 which did amazing in spite of how much fear I had releasing it to the public. I had never been so publicly vulnerable.

    Just this past April I went back to that blog because I was told “every book needs a blog” and I had gained confidence in the validity of my message. I was still clueless. But I was motivated. I have been learning and learning and learning. I moved that blog to self-hosted in June. That means I have been writing on my blog for only 7 months.

    I relate to your words so very much!! “I created a lot of pressure to perform by laboring over every word. Was it an authentic word for me? Was the content interesting? Was I conveying an encouraging tone? Was I sounding preachy?” I still find I am doing that as I am going through Tribe Writers working as hard as I can to improve.

    I would be honored to write for this site. I confess I find it quite scary. Grammar is not my first language. Emotion is. But I will review your submission guidelines and show up eventually. I even have a topic idea. I will run it by you to see if you think it is good.

    Again – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Danielle,
      Thanks for your comments and the interesting story about your blog and your successful memoir release. You’ve opened the door for a little inside story of how we work here at Two Drops. I want to encourage you, and other readers/writers of this site, by letting you know that I have a very liberal thought process as Editor-in-Chief of this site. It comes from both my negative experiences with editors in my own writing career, and a philosophy that I have that writing is not always about the grammar. As an editor, I have learned to “dream the writer’s dream.” That is to say, if the submission has potential, I will ask authors to revise and resubmit. If it is interesting, thought provoking, or unique – even if the grammar needs work – then I will publish the post; I like to give writers a shot. I’m often surprised by the response from our readers to submissions that I thought were marginal.

      Readers are extremely subjective, and I think editors are often too bias – to their own detriment. I have an extensive resume as an editor. I have edited everything from doctoral dissertations to college textbooks, and everything in between. Good luck to you, and I look forward to seeing your submission. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Danielle. Thank you for the kind words. Submit away! Emotion is what drives a piece, not punctuation in the end. Think about how many poets don’t use punctuation “correctly”, or some dialects in dialogue don’t “read” right, but they sure do exemplify the language of the people.

      I hope you show up soon. She smiles.

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  6. Hi Marilyn,
    As John said, “You are spot on” You are the one that brought me here and opened my door to any area I want to challenge. Ironically, I wrote a piece a few weeks ago, entitled Why Do I Write. It fits right in to what you have written. Although I do stay active in several areas, my focus has shifted to my writing. Anyone who has known me from the past, would never guess. It is my new passion. Thank you for another beautifully written piece and your continued support to us that follow you. God Bless.

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    • Hi, Chuck. Shifting in our senior years…sorry, I like alliteration and I know you do puns. She smiles. I am so appreciative of the following here at Two Drops of Ink. It encourages me as I continue to encourage our writers and that in my book is what collaboration is all about. Cheer on the other guy and let him or her shine when it’s their time. Then they tend to do the same when I write one of mine. Seems like a simple equation to me – course, you are the account, so correct me if I’m wrong.

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  7. Hi Marilyn, as always, you are spot on. I’m a late starter myself. Time fly’s and you realize it’s time to start. When my father passed, it gave me a jolt to get moving. I feel like I am running out of time. Once again, thank you for your insight. You always write about topics I think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, John. We’re all running out of time and it’s really about how we use what we have. I know how busy you are – me, too, but we both keep plugging away at our writing and low and behold, we’ve produced some posts that our readers like. Not a bad use of time. We just think alike, John. Don’t know if that’s good or bad, maybe just our normal. She smiles.

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  8. I am also a late comer to writing, and I think it is beneficial because, as you said, I know that life is short. Cancer taught me that, but as I age it is reiterated daily! Thanks for all you do for this site.

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    • Hi, Michelle. Thank you for commenting. I think any serious set-back, whether it’s an illness, family crisis, significant loss or waking up one day and asking ourselves what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives means we do realize that life is short as you said. We’ll both just keep plugging away here and together we all make the site what it is. After all, we are a team.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Mary Jo. We old gals have to stick together. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. Just sign me, another old broad who’s following a dream.

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