By: Marilyn L. Davis
The Last Lane is Different than the Fast Lane
Note: While some of you in my generation may reference my title as a parody on the Eagles, “Life in the Fast Lane,” it 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.
Late to the Party? Doesn’t Matter – Just Write
Slug’s ‘last lane’ comment 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 newfound enthusiasm?
- How can we become confident later in life with a new endeavor?
- What will make the experience rewarding for all?
- Why take risks later in life?
I’ve only been writing online for about seven 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.
Long Life Equals More Experiences
But I know this 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 seventy-three, 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 thirty-two 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, then editor in chief at Two Drops of Ink. About eight years ago, I wrote about addiction and recovery for several mass article sites and gained a following, but feeling frustrated with the small 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 regularly, he agreed. I think that initially, he just said yes because we’d been friends for twenty-five years.
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.
Not All Parties are Good
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 was a successful entrepreneur. 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, sometimes salvaging only three paragraphs but helping the writer see how to 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.
When I sent corrections to one writer, I received the sweetest reply – a simple “Thank you for making my writing better,” and believe me; there’s no editor anywhere that doesn’t appreciate that response.
Not neglecting my duties as a writer, 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
We Should Just Forgo Some Invites
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 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 the person (or writer) that’s center-stage.
Confidence and Center Stage 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 looks like they’re together, they ought to write well when they first start blogging.
As an older writer, I falsely believed that all my life experiences would make writing easier, or stories and anecdotes would magically flow onto the page. With those misconceptions, I created a lot of pressure to perform by laboring over every word.
- Is this an authentic word for me?
- Did I write engaging, informative, and exciting content?
- Was I conveying an encouraging tone?
- Is it a conversational tone?
- Would this writing resonate with the reader?
While I’m still concerned about those elements of my posts, I don’t stress as much. I would prefer that my human side come through in my writing than worry about a dangling participle.
While we need to improve our writing, we need to be fearless and get our messages out there. We need to remember Bette Davis’ advice, that “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” and that’s true for writers as well.
Some Notable Late Bloomers
But beyond that apt description of bravery, who else found their passion late in life?
- 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.
- Have you 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.
- Multiple best-selling author Barbara Taylor Bradford said when asked if she would stop writing, “People don’t seem to understand why writers keep on writing. Why would I stop? I don’t know what I would do if I weren’t working.”
- 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? He did not get his first one-person 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
When we are older, we know 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.
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.
Mary Ann Evans adopted the male pen name of George Eliot as she thought female authors of the Victorian era wrote frivolous pieces, 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.”
Update: May 13, 2021
At seventy-three, I published two books this year. My memoir, Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate, and my memoir writing workbook, Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook.
Never let anyone tell you it’s too late.
There’s Another Lane Open for You
Besides finding passions late in life, I also think there’s a generosity that comes with age. For instance, we know:
- The most successful undertakings are not the work of one person.
- All writers have strengths, talents, and skills, and we can learn from them at any age.
- Contributing writers add to our knowledge base when they submit guest posts.
And here at Two Drops of Ink, we’ve carried that attitude into making this site open to others.
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.
We are looking for poetry, prose, the how-to for the writer and blogger, short fiction, 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.