A Life long-lived makes us Wise Old Owls

Stephen King once said that to be a good writer one must write a lot and read a lot. I’d like to add one more to that list, Mr. King:

One must live a lot. For a life long-lived provides substance, texture, and sensory input into our writing, all the benefits that only come from experiencing the lessons of life first-hand.

There’s a lot to be said about the hard-knocks, the building of calluses, the heart-pounding passion of love, and the heart-breaking pain of loss that can only come from living a full and long life. You can’t look that up in a text book. You have to live it to understand it, and if one is going to write about life, one must experience it first.

I just finished reading a book called My Boring Life by Kerry Chaput, and I love the way this woman writes! Her writing is witty and honest, and there were times when I laughed right out loud. There were also times I had to wipe a tear from my eye. The protagonist in her story is a young college girl in the 1960s who is trying to figure out who she is on her journey to becoming a writer. Even today at my age, I can relate to her insecurities. When this young girl seeks out a tutor, her elderly writing coach basically tells her to stop struggling to be a writer and just start living. Put the pencil down and go experience life!

There is a ton of wisdom in that statement.

I know I’ll get backlash from all the brilliant young minds out there with a headful of ideas and stories just waiting to be written. Many of them are in college, or college graduates, and they have taken those creative, academic, business, and journalism writing classes. Many of them have occupations in the writing industry.

These educated souls understand proper sentence structure, writing mechanics, and they know the specific differences in writing a novel versus writing a business proposal. That’s all good, and if they ever do write a book, that knowledge will help them with editing costs down the line.

Poor Sara, my wonderfully patience developmental editor, had to be my writing teacher when we were in the infancy of our working relationship. Bless her heart. She had taken on a project with a novice and untrained writer/storyteller, and I’m grateful every day that the universe brought her into my life.

And my adult life started in the 1970s. I grew up in a broken family where we all worked hard and expected little. It was a different time than it is today for an 18-year-old, as it should be. There were no expectations placed on me, other than to graduate high school, move out and get a job.  College was not an option for any of us, and that was okay. My teen-age years were over and now it was time to choose an occupation, get a life and be an adult.

So I did. I got married, had two sons, and held a fulltime job for close to thirty years doing work for someone else’s business so I could help pay bills and keep food on our table.

But being a self-motived and self-discipled kind of a gal, I wasn’t content with that career choice. In 1999 I walked away from the corporate world to test my entrepreneurship wings and started my own business as a free-lance bookkeeper. That was just the first of a handful of businesses I would own and operate over the next 20 years, and though there have been times that I miss the security of a ‘regular pay-check’, I have never regretted the decision to launch out on my own. (Though I’m pretty sure my husband would have a different response!)

The lessons I have learned being self-employed have been priceless, because my teachers were Trial and Error. Their teaching practices can be brutal and unforgiving. They leave red marks when the ruler comes down hard and slaps my hand. Trial and Error will hand us the textbooks and force us to take the tests that will be required in this subject called Life. Even if the student doesn’t feel prepared, the lessons will come anyway.

When Trial and Error are the teachers, the corrections are painful, and you only have to make the mistake once, as you never want to feel that pain again.

Wisdom comes from living through all those trials and failures. Knowledge and experience comes in the trenches of learning. They come during the heat of the battle and in the midst of conflict, but we often can’t see the positive outcome while we’re in the middle of the chaos. That knowledge may not be recognized until we find that we are still whole on the other side, only better for having survived.

We need to get through it first, then take the time to reflect and look back. That’s when we see the lesson that we didn’t know we needed to learn, the fire we had to walk through, and all the growing we did through the discomfort.

In this youth-focused world, now that I’m 65 and eligible for Medicare, (hard to believe I’m that old, but super glad I made it!) I wonder how many others my age, or even older, realize the value that we bring in our silver and golden years.

I started writing the first book in the Mark of the Faerie series over 20 years ago, but wasn’t anywhere close to claiming myself as a writer. At the time I had no idea of where I was going with it. I just had to write the story. If you’re a storyteller, you know how all-consuming a story idea can become. You just have to get it out before you explode, even if you only do it for yourself and your sanity and nobody else reads it.

                                                           No. Writers aren’t crazy. Why do you Ask?

Now jumping ahead to today, and I can see all the lessons, the failures, and even the moments of near insanity that have taken place on my writing journey. All of it has been valuable and necessary, because I learned something in the process, and fortunately I didn’t go crazy. (Well, on most days I think I’m sane, but if I have to convince myself that I’m not crazy, doesn’t that lay question to the level of my sanity?)

Wow! That took a strange twist. So, where was I? Oh yeah, that’s another thing that comes with aging; short-term memory loss. My husband describes it as loading a thought into a bow and shooting it off like an arrow. Long gone.

On my journey to become a published author, I have learned how to hone my craft, how to pitch my story, how to become a marketer, and most of all, how to deal with rejection and discomfort, because there has been a ton of both! But in the midst of all of that, there have been huge moments of joy, happiness and success.

I wasn’t ready for this writing career 20 years ago. I had to live life first. I had to learn, experience, pass through the fire of failure and realize that I will still come out whole on the other side.

No. I’m not just aging and slowly going crazy. I’m a writer on my way to becoming a Wise Old Owl.

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