Archive for February, 2011
There are some days, I admit, when I see little except for a gray existence ahead for me. At 67, I wonder if I will ever fulfill my life’s dream to become a published author. I fear that I will never find security in my old age. The aches and creaks of age wear me down. And I fall into “stinking thinking” that I’ll never find my way back up again.
None of this lasts for long. I don’t let it.
I can’t waste time on negative feelings. Rather, I have to use the next years of my life to accomplish as much as I can.
We all have our gray days. As we get older, we may feel age has caught up with us and overtaken our dreams to achieve what we set out to do. Maybe there isn’t enough time left, or we’re just too old, physically unable, mentally unwilling, or tired.
On the other hand, if we’re interested in the world and passionate about certain subjects, then we can still accomplish what we set out to do.
History and the arts are full of men and women who made surprising comebacks, achieved greatness, or who revived/had prominent careers at an age when most would have given up. And there must be a myriad of other less known or unrecorded cases.
“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in.”
Winston Churchill, after an up and down career, and ten years as a political pariah or, as he put it, “Out in the wilderness” during the 1930s, returned at 66 to serve as a wartime Prime Minister in 1940. His leadership and great speeches helped inspire the nation’s morale against the would-be Nazi invaders that were pummeling the cities and coast of England. He told the people of England, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.”
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in white dominated South Africa, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 and served 27 years, 18 as a classification D prisoner – the lowest scale – in the notorious Robben Island Prison. Released in 1990, he returned to lead his party in negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. He was 72 when he became South Africa’s first democratically elected South African president in 1994.
“You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.”
Golda Meir came to the U.S. from Russia at the age of 8, and was brought up in Milwaukee, WI. In 1921, she emigrated to Palestine where she worked on a kibbutz and as a teacher before moving up in the political ranks. At 71, she became Prime Minister of the State of Israel in March, 1979. The world’s third woman to be head of state (after Shri Lanka and India), she was portrayed as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.”
“I made a resolve that I was going to amount to something if I could.”
Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65 after his restaurant folded and because his pension was so small; after two years, he went on to wild success. A Kentucky Colonel (in-name military designation only), he gave the chain an image by dressing up in that all-white southern gentleman garb.
“Painting’s not important. The important thing is keeping busy.”
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76, when her hands became too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle and she found herself with nothing to do. She’s usually cited for succeeding for the first time at her art work in her nineties and up to her death at 101.Her paintings were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as well as in museums in Vienna and Paris.
“I never had a great role in a great film.”
Gloria Stuart, a movie actress in the 1930s, returned from obscurity at 86 when she landed the role of 100-year-old Rose in James Cameron’s “Titanic.” She remains the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar. The above quote must have been before “Titanic.”
“You cannot just waste time. Otherwise you’ll die to regret …”
Harriett Doerr finished her Stanford degree at 67. In 1983, at 73, she became a darling of the literary world with the publication of her first novel, “Stones for Ibarra,” which went on to win a National Book Award.
“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book. God knows what other potentials lurk in other people who keep going into old age.”
Harry Bernstein published a short story when he was 24, in 1934, but it was not until he was 96 that his well-received debut novel, “The Invisible Wall” was published. Bernstein turned to fiction only after his wife of 67 years died, as therapy for his loss and loneliness. He published two more books after his debut.
“If I had known at the beginning of my life that this is where I would get to, I would have said, “Not possible.”
Jessica Tandy, a well-respected actress came out of a career slump in the mid 1980s to a career revival in her seventies when she won both a Tony Award and an Emmy Award for her role in “Foxfire.” She became the oldest actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989.
There are many other such stories of late life success that I’d have liked to include but then I’d have to write an e-book about them. It’s a fascinating subject – what drove these men and women to not give up despite rejection, imprisonment, lack of education or opportunity, sexism, ageism, defeat … you name it.
Do you know of someone who “made it” late in life, particularly after overcoming problems, losses, rejection, or other setbacks?
If you do, please share their stories with us.
Is it taking you years to achieve your goal?
Or much longer than you envisioned when you started out.
Only a few of us ever make it on our first try, and many, not even on our second, third, fourth or more attempts.
So how long should we keep going before giving up?
It depends on how much we believe in our dreams and goals, and wanting them badly enough to battle for them. It depends on our determination and perseverance.
It depends on treating every setback as another learning experience rather than as another defeat.
And ultimately, it depends on never losing sight of what we want to achieve.
The Spider That Wouldn’t Give Up.
The quote, “Try, try, and try again,” comes from a legend about the 14th century King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, and a spider.
After Robert the Bruce was defeated for the sixth time by the King of England, he fled and hid in a cave. He lay there, ready to give up all hope, when a spider caught his eye. It was hanging by a long silvery thread from one of the wooden beams above his head, and trying to swing itself to another beam. It tried again and again, failing each time. Six times.
Robert thought, “I too have failed six times in my fight for Scotland. But if this spider succeeds the next time, I will try once more to regain my kingdom.”
The spider swung again – and on its seventh attempt, it succeeded.
Robert the Bruce threw off his despair and went on to battle the English and eventually, won at the Battle of Bannockburn.
He regained his kingdom – all because of one spider that wouldn’t give up.
This story’s premise holds true in almost any battle in our lives. Robert the Bruce’s success followed a series of failures. The same can happen to any of us – if we’re willing to try again and again and have the courage to look beyond failure.
My own story is not a success story – yet.
“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” ~Author Unknown
Youthful dreams vs. adult reality
I wrote my first, full-length novel – 240 typed double spaced pages – when I was 12. And rewrote it twice. I dreamed of the day when I’d become a famous writer.
At 14, I wrote my second novel. It was “considered” by MacMillan but rejected because a book written by a young adult would not find an audience. Years later, “Eragon” written by 16 year old Christopher Paolini would become both a bestseller and a hit movie.
I wrote my third novel at 16. I still hope to get it published – some day.
When I was 22, I started another book, but gave it up to travel around Europe. Several years later, a published friend showed the first chapters to his agent at William Morris. I received a note saying it was magnificent, and to clean it up and send him the rest.
This happened one week before I was married, two weeks before I started a new job, and a month before my three-year old started pre-school.
Instead, I shoved my manuscript into a box in a closet where it remained for the next quarter century.
The long road to nowhere.
In my early fifties, I pulled out the yellowed pages of my unfinished manuscript from its box. I’d revive my “magnificent” book and this time, it would be published. I wrote a whole new draft in four months on a manual typewriter. Once more, I dreamed mt childhood dream and that my novel would become a blockbuster.
My “blockbuster” required tons of research, dedication, brushing up on craft, and editing with a read and critique group. I spent five years working on it – ten drafts – until it was in good enough shape, I thought, to look for an agent. Rejection letters piled up, including from the same agent who had loved it years before.
Reality set in. So the book went back into the closet.
In the next years, I wrote three more books. I received the best rejection letters (one, two-pages handwritten) ever, but no takers, for one of my non-fiction books.
The computer age had changed everything. More people than ever were writing books. Agents, inundated with query letters, seldom had time for unknown authors. You had to go to a conference to meet them. And publishers were accepting fewer books.
In the decade of 2000, the publishing world experienced a radical change.
The way I’d hoped/expected to be published, the traditional route, seemed barred for me.
I’d missed the boat. Time to give up.
There’s still a way – just not the way I envisioned
Then I thought about all the people who had encouraged me and believed in me over the years. All the work and the sacrifices I’d made to become a good writer.
I thought about my father who, when he died, left an attic full of finished manuscripts.
No, I couldn’t give up. Or better said, I’d come too far to give up.
So I’m still at it, as anyone reading this blog can see. I’m learning as much as I can about this, for me, daunting new world of Social Media, and focusing on my non-fiction book, “Don’t Hang Up!”
And what about that all important novel?
I’ll be damned if I let it wither again on my closet shelf again.
If I don’t lose sight of my goal, it will find a publisher. Of that, I am certain.
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