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.
- Why do we sometimes stumble upon a passion later in life?
- Why do we feel compelled to share this new-found enthusiasm?
- Why take risks later in life?
- How can we become confident later in life with a new endeavor?
- 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.
Then 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:
- Be truthful to show your integrity
- Create engaging content
- 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, 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. Just in case your forgot, 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
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.