writing

What’s Next, Doc? (revised)

I was born writing. All my mother’s side of the family ran a weekly newspaper in Connecticut, the first ever of its kind, starting during the Depression and continuing through the 60s. My mother then went on to be a Food Editor in a local Baltimore newspaper, and after that, freelanced for the rest of her life. Though not a budding journalist, in 7th grade, I first started keeping a journal of my deepest, darkest secrets. I wrote about my insecurities, and desire to date, my hideous braces, and my lack of confidence that kept me home on Friday nights. From there, with the help of high school teachers, I branched out to writing fiction. Stories for children, for teens, and first person memoirs. Pretty soon, I was literary magazine editor, and then year book editor. All I ever wanted to be was a writer, but I lacked the confidence to write for a living, and tucked my stories into drawers and trunks. I didn’t want to go to college, I wanted to hole up with my typewriter and write the great American novel. My parents, conniving together, told me to “try” college and if I hated it, I could quit after a year.

I am nothing if not adventurous, both inside my house and out. True to form, after dropping out of college, I traveled all over the world, unknowingly gathering ideas for future stories in my head. And then came love, marriage and a baby in a carriage. The first Apple computer that hit the stores was mine, a gift from my husband to do what I did best. Write! After 6 weeks of all nighters, my first book was born. Called “Imperfections,” I got 500 copies printed, but without a distributor, the book went nowhere. It was a complete flop. I kept writing, got published twice in one year, and then put my computer aside to tackle an addiction for Tetrus. And then I went to work for over 20 years.

Part of those 20 years were spent being an executive assistant in a school system, learning all sorts of good traits of a dedicated writer and editor of my own work. I’m also organized and detail oriented. I make lists both on paper and on my iPhone. I multi task in everything I do, from work, to grocery shopping without a cart, to making phone calls at stoplights, to working 2 jobs to pay bills. Somehow, I manage to keep my shoulders straight and my sanity intact. During all 36 years of my marriage, I was the one who kept everyone on track, carpooling scads of kids to after school activities, to finding work when my husband could not, to staying with my mother every minute of her last days on earth. As heartbreaking as it was, I somehow found the time to turn that event into a story.

And then I was laid off from what I’d hoped to be my “forever job.” Since I’d worked previously as an editor and proofreader, I thought I could go back to doing that for a living. No dice. The economy is so bad that non writers have come out of the woodwork to pretend they’re editors, proofreaders and copy writers. The competition is stiff. At age 62, most employers see me as a liability, not an asset.

Tennis has been my savior over the past three years of emotional and financial upheaval. Where else can you whack something without getting arrested? Using a Groupon coupon, I joined Baltimore Tennis Patrons, and word got around that I’m a decent player. I have found myself playing in 5 leagues 7 times a week, including my own that I started for weekend ouotdoor play, year round. I love the energy of play, the strategy, and the competition. I have made more friends playing tennis than I have in the past 10 years. My confidence in myself has soared, and I love meeting new people and organizing games. While I take some time off from the Real world of a 9-5 job, I’ve been soul searching as to what I want to be “when I grow up”. Peter Pan has always been my hero.

Recently, I had business cards printed up and am doing house/dog sitting for friends, friends of friends, and neighbors. In addition, coming off the court one day, it turned out that the club where I play was seeking someone to help run their cafe. Both these jobs allow me to write, enter writing contests, and try to sell an occasional article, something I never had the confidence to do when I was younger.

For the past 4 years I’ve been working on a NYA novel and am all ready to start querying literary agents. But a year ago, I started a blog. Kind of like the journals I kept as a child, a blog is so much more. It’s great practice for writing, for getting your name out there as a pre-requisite for PR for your novel, and people who like what you write about offer constructive feedback. Then, you have a following. Not stalkers, but people who might quote you during a conversation, and tell their friends where to locate your blog. At first I offered sneak previews of my book, but now my blog is about adventures I have in my life, and memoirs of my childhood.

Before I lost my job, I’d won a college scholarship to get my undergrad degree. When I was in college, there was no such thing as a creative writing degree, which is probably why I got so discouraged academically, and quit. But because I was let go from the job, I lost the scholarship. However, I returned briefly to community college and took some courses for the fun of it.

Growing old in a society that finds you too expensive to hire is a reality check. I can’t say that I sailed through it unscathed, But I did have unemployent benefits, which allowd me to take at least a month off from committing myself another job I didn’t want. Unemployment enabled me to rest, rejuvenate and re-write a killer resume. I was offered jobs right away, word of mouth (called networking), and then I decided to start a LinkedIn page, as well as set up a URL website through About.Me. But the best thing I did was start a blog. I am now a weekly blogger and have 279 followers. When I enter a new piece, my blog is linked to Facebook, Twitter and certain emails. Not all comments are complimentary, but I prefer them to too many “great writing” with no constructive criticisms!

Writers always have to take the good with the bad. Like life, nothing is perfect all the time. But writing, and tennis, and working at the tennis cafe will only bring me new friendships, good exercise, and keep my mind clear. I never could have predicted that losing a job would be a good thing. Of course, a little more money would be icing on the cake…but what has happened so far is good for now.

What’s next, Doc? Maybe you should tune into my blog and find out.

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