(Given that I’ve been taking some course or other every year since I left high school, I guess I can keep counting, eh?)
So, I’ve found my calling at age 52. (I’ve always been a late bloomer—hence the name of this blog.) Part of my mission here was to figure out how to spend the next phase of my life after the blessing of early retirement. And I sort of expected an Oprah-worthy moment when I finally realized what I was put on this earth to do—you know, velvet curtains parting, a dazzling spotlight, a snazzy make-over, a sparkly dress worn over three pair of Spanx. But no, the revelation came without fanfare: I’m a writer. Duh.
I’ve been a book nut since I was a wee tot, and I thank my parents for cultivating that passion by stocking our bookshelves so well. Does anyone remember those Time-Life series, with the great photos? The Emergence of Man, Foods of the World, The Old West, The Explorers, The Oceans. And we had Nancy Drew, an illustrated children’s Bible, Doctor Seuss, Peanuts…
And I’ve always been a storyteller, whiling away the hours inventing stories when I should’ve been doing chores or attending to homework, or sleeping. How could I sleep when my heroine was in the middle of chasing down miscreants and saving Gotham city alongside Batman? OK, my early work was pretty derivative; nowadays it’d be called fan fiction. But the point was that I was always spinning stories in my head.
Now that I’m retired from teaching, my writing hobby has become my full-time occupation. Since November, my nose has been buried in my keyboard, and I’ve got the extra eight pounds to prove it. (Next post: The Writer’s Diet. Step one: get out of the chair.)
I’ve finally finished editing my first novel and have launched it into the great, wide world in search of a literary agent. I even have a pretty box ready to collect all the rejection letters. Meanwhile, novel number two quivers in its folder, ready to be shaped into a firm, tight narrative—which takes as much time as shaping up a flabby body, and just as much sweat and tears. I’ve also attended my first writers’ conference and have even printed up my first set of business cards identifying me as a writer. Have I been paid one cent for my writing? No, but I shall be.
I love writing fiction like beavers like building dams, like army ants love devouring grasshoppers, like Vikings love pillaging villages. I love creating characters and then watching their whole world materialize around them. I love combining people I’ve met into a new character who has this one’s panache, that one’s colorful idioms, and that other one’s tendency to embellish the truth. I’ll admit it—I do love doling out comeuppance to dastardly evildoers. And how much fun is it to play matchmaker and watch a couple fall in love!
But here’s what makes me think I’ve found my true calling: I even enjoy the revising, the editing, the tightening and polishing. You’d think that after revising an entire novel five or six times, I’d get a little tense, a little downhearted when someone suggests that I take another look at this or that issue—but I don’t! It’s not a setback so much as a learning opportunity, and I’m learning so much from the feedback of my beta readers (folks on whom I inflict my novel-in-progress) and my critique groups.
It’s interesting how very much I’m learning from other writers who are much younger than me. And why not? Any avid reader who informs herself about the writer’s craft and who has a keen eye for detail, a keen ear for words, has much to teach me. This is an interesting twist, as I’m used to being in the teacher role. But hey—one of my avowed goals here is to resist ageism and provide a good example of a mature woman who’s living her life (joy)fully. So there you go—write on.