Posts Tagged ‘Determination and perseverance’
I’m reading “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. 802 pages long, the first in his trilogy about the 20th century. Since he is 62, I suspect this trilogy will take years of research and writing, and may be his swan song after a long, successful career that began with “Eye of the Needle” when he was 27. Prior to this, he had already published five books before striking the mother lode. He is one of those dedicated, working writers who can now choose to write the books that he wants to.
After reading about him, I ask myself, What if I had stayed on the writing path that I started on when I was 12? Would I now be a recognized author? Maybe, but I would have spent my life doing something that I loved. While I also loved my advertising career, the difference is that I worked for others to promote other people’s products rather than my own.
When I was 12, and reluctantly living in Mexico (after being informed that we were not going home to England), I sat down at my mother’s Remington and typed my first book, “The Glass Stag.” 240 pages, double-spaced. Then I revised and rewrote it three times. My next book came at 13 (considered and rejected by MacMillan as excellent but no audience for a book written by a teenager). At 14, I joined an adult read and critique group, where I wrote my third book.
I knew for certain that I would become a writer.
Then why did I stray from that path?
Young love, having fun, moving, a career, New York and London took over my life. Until I was 21 and in a dull marketing job where I wrote lots of poetry. One day, I looked out of the filthy office window and thought, Is this how I want to spend my life? I quit, typed scripts at the BBC part-time for a living, and spent several months writing a book. This time, I was on track.
Until the day I met the love of my love who whisked me off for a year of high style living and travel before we broke up.
Back I went to a high-flying job as PR for an airline (pun intended) until marriage and a kid led me back to the corporate world and to Mexico, another marriage, another child, and then as a single mother supporting my kids.
Once, a friend from my first read and critique group, who had published several books, took the manuscript written years before in London to his top New York agent who got all excited about it. “Just clean it up and send it back,” he asked. It was a week before my second marriage, I was about to start a new job, and I had a two-year old to look after. The timing was off. I never did.
Fast forward to forced early retirement from advertising, a failed business, and the urge to create came back. In a golden four and a half months, I typed out (yes, an electric typewriter) the first draft of my opus, “Recognition.” As I rewrote 2nd and 3rd drafts, I supported myself with part-time work teaching English and selling my belongings. The agent from before, one of New York’s best, agreed to read it twice, both times sending me encouraging rejection letters. Over the following years, I wrote another seven drafts, joined several writing groups, and often followed up on comments made by agents in the numerous rejection letters. My first chapter won an award. But after seven years with “Recognition,” I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I stuck it in the closet.
I wrote another first draft of a novel, and a personal memoir (five drafts) that everyone, except for me, in three writing groups praised and loved. I was a weekly newspaper columnist and had shorter pieces published.
Next, inspired by Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”, I took a Writers Digest book proposal course. When I approached several agents, they all wanted to see the book. For several years, while working freelance as a Hispanic report writer, I wrote “Don’t Hang Up!” Initial response from agents: great book, excellent writing, current and relevant theme, “but you need credentials for a publisher to be interested in it.”
An impasse of sorts until online opportunities unfolded before me.
Another writers’ conference and I knew where I was going: Found a small publisher willing to publish my book if I’d promote it. Put up my website, contacted a publicist, ready to go, and …
Hit by the economic downturn that depleted my resources, left me jobless again. And book less.
However, I still had a blog so I decided to make a go of that. Try to create interest in “Don’t Hang Up!” and then publish it.
I became addicted to blogging, not so much writing posts as to reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them. Many blogs inspired me or filled me with such enthusiasm that comments flowed, and I’d spend the better part of a week happily blogging.
I realized I’d lost my focus.
I wasn’t looking for or doing much work.
I got hustling and found freelance work. A lot.
That issue solved.
The other, my writing has been on hold. Meanwhile, several friends have published their books. Where am I with mine? What have I done to get it published? Too busy blogging.
Do I want to be a blogger or a book writer?
I already asked this question in a blog post months before, “Out to Sea. To Blog or Not to Blog.”
The answer is right in front of me.
I’ll never have the time or experience to aspire to reach Ken Follett’s level.
However, I do have two finished and edited memoirs, one first draft, and the outline for a trilogy that starts with “Recognition” (needs another go round/editing).
For me, at 68, time is at a premium.
So I’d better get going – and fast – with my writing.
And I can’t let life and work get in the way again.
Photo credit: Jacob Tron
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Albert Schweitzer
Today, Friday, August 5th, 2011, seems the perfect day for this post. A good time to take a good look at my life and find reasons why I am thankful.
(Originally, I wrote this piece for “Hajra Kvetches” at www.Hajrak.blogspot.com
“Fridays will be different” where people gave five reasons why they were thankful, but she ended the series before I sent it to her. )
I’m thankful that I can walk. Yes, put one leg in front of the other and so on for several miles without needing a cane or any form of support and most importantly, without it being painful.
Often, especially in downtown San Diego, when I see people with physical impediments struggling to cross the road or walk a block, I remember the two years that I was like them. I’d take 10 minutes to hobble, grit-my-teeth-and-bear-it, two short blocks to the corner grocery store.
The other day, an old friend who is having leg problems told me how he envied people the freedom to walk without cringing at the idea of having to go from A to B. I could understand and empathize because that was exactly how I had felt when I had that problem. All those carefree walkers have no idea how fortunate they are to be able to walk whenever and wherever they want.
So use your legs while you can and glory in the fact that you have them.
I’m thankful that I still have work coming in. The same as many others, I was affected by the economic downturn in 2009 when my work source dried up. I’m glad that I looked into other options, became active online, started learning about SEO, and am now finding work in the field I like most, writing. Also, some of my former clients are again sending me projects.
Having work also gives me a goal to go after more.
I’m thankful that my generation of the 60s is still going strong in their sixties. They are an inspiration to all of us especially in this age group. I won’t mention names because there are too many, but the sheer number of outstanding writers, actors, activists, musicians, film directors, politicians, pundits, businessmen, inventors, scientists, leaders, innovators, commentators, physicians, etc. who are still active and highly productive in their sixties speaks for itself.
These people motivate me to keep trying to achieve my goals.
I’m thankful for my family who have always encouraged and supported me, even during my crazy years. A loner by nature – despite my many friends – the two things I valued most were my privacy and independence. I loved doing my own thing, having a routine, sleeping in my own bed, and living in my neighborhood. All this changed when, due to the economic recession, I came to stay at my sister’s home. She has a big house in a very different (high-class) area from my former downtown one, with seven people currently living here: her and her husband, her daughter and her two teens and one pre-teen, and a part-time housekeeper. With me, we’re eight, and then nine, as my son turned up four months ago.
When I first came to stay, I feared that any privacy would be out of the question. To my surprise, my family has respected it, though they are always there when I want company, help or advice.
This is an opportunity to get to know the kids – rather than be the isolated aunt of yore who only saw them on special occasions. I’m almost used to things like their penchant to jump out at me and shout, “Boo!” a family trait that we owe to my father’s naughty streak.
I’m thankful for my many friends – the kind who last a lifetime. They are spread all over the map and I’m glad to be able to keep up or in-touch with them. Due to modern technology and social media, I’m rediscovering or being rediscovered: in the last two days, two former very close friends turned up after years (8 and 15) of not knowing anything about them. When I go to Mexico City, the fact that I’m there means it’s party time, or at least an excuse for a bunch of us to have a reunion.
I’m thankful that I am still writing. That I can still experience the same crazy out-of-the-world high when I write something good. And that ideas gush out all the time – when I’m walking down the street, or I wake up in the middle of the night, or I’m driving – anywhere and at any time. I hope I will write all the books still inside me. I hope that my books, when they are published, will make a difference, even in a small way, to people’s lives.
I’m thankful that I still have the same illusions and hopes for my writing that I had as a child and young adult.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
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 when 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.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
At 67, I am not dying. Yet. However, my age group is often treated as if we were at the start of a prolonged death march.
And I will rage and rage against the dying of my light and that of my generation.
We gave light and warmth to a world darkened by war and oppression.
Our generation was the offspring of The Greatest Generation, those who fought in WWII. My English father and American mother met during the war, and I was a war baby born in England to the sound of bombs, and spent my childhood in grim post war England.
Meanwhile, the 50s generation in the U.S. were smug, conservative in their victory, swathed in security and newfound luxuries, and determined to lead lives centered on doing the right thing. A woman’s place was in the home and a man’s in the workplace. Frank Sinatra sang, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Then Elvis shocked the nation with his, “I’m all shook up!” until the bosses found a way – military service, movies – to calm him down, and eventually turn him into an overweight, drug addicted Las Vegas entertainer.
We grew up to become the generation of the 60s. We changed popular to have meaning – Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Peter, Paul and Mary. Women lifted their hemlines from mid-calf almost to their thighs, men were released from hats and formal wear, changed customs and attitudes relaxed – men and women could actually sleep or live together openly, and we protested when we disagreed with politics and national policy (Vietnam). Women aspired to and found work in former male only professions.
We overcame a stuffy Establishment to start the modern world, the one inherited by the current generation.
Then we stopped raging and protesting, and most of us settled into respectability, using our creativity and energies to create a better world for our kids. Women carved careers for themselves in a male dominated world so that nowadays, female executives are as much a part of the corporate world as their male counterparts.
We never thought we’d reach an age when the younger generation would start to shove us aside like old relics. We never dreamed the day might come when formerly successful professionals would be out on a limb, scrabbling for work – any work – in mid-life. Or that many of us would be no longer employable despite our qualifications and experience, or broke because of lost jobs, or family homes foreclosed or, except for some notable exceptions, shunted aside. We never thought we’d become victims of another depression caused by the greedy generation that followed ours.
Perhaps some of you can accept this and go gentle into the night of your life.
Or the alternative:
Rage, rage against the dying of our light for as long as we can.
I, for one, prefer the latter choice. What about you?
We raged when we were young and got things done. We still have our voices and we can rage again.
One voice added to another. Mine added to yours added to someone else’s and so on can build up to a lot of middle age voices clamoring to be heard.
Just imagine if a large number of us protested, for example, age discrimination in the workplace.
The same way we used to.
For one thing, it would shock the younger generation. That we still have it in us. That we’re not going out without a fight. That we’re capable of moving again in tandem, but this time against the entitled younger generation that has not learned from history that it repeats itself over and over again.
What awaits them in 30-40 years?
I’m not ready to be shoved aside. Nor are many of my generation or even older.
Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa at 67 after 28 years’ imprisonment.
John McCain was a presidential candidate (a grueling ordeal) at 72.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi may be making a long overdue return after years of house arrest.
The world is rife with people over sixty who have more than enough energy to go around.
To mention a few: Hilary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Martha Stewart, Nancy Pelosi, Arianna Huffington, Isabel Allende, Doris Lessing, Steven King, Michael Bloomberg, Donald Trump, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Richard Branson
How about the entertainment world? Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese, Cher, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney.
I could add a lot more names and so can you, to that list.
Join my voice that you will not go gentle into the night.
Instead, you will rage, rage against the dying of your light.
Photograph courtesy of Veronica Valades
“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” Author Unknown
(Written late 2010)
I’m not writing much anymore. Not personal stuff or my book. Spend too much time online reading other people’s blogs or in coffee houses reading books.
Seem to have lost my zeal, my energy to write, and to rebound, and rekindle that dwindling flame.
Or perhaps I haven’t lost it.
It’s still there, waiting to be relit.
And this is just a result of the last few months of frustration and worry.
No money. No work. Nothing good happening. No hope of anything much. How do I pay my rent?
That was how I felt until I received a surprising email.
Someone I barely knew – a woman I met at Toastmasters and hadn’t seen in four years when I bumped into her a few months ago at Trader Joe’s – offered me a temporary home, her town house, until she can sell it.
Could be for three-six or even more months.
Rent free. Half my bills taken care of.
So I moved there after six years living in what I had come to call fondly, My Dump.
It was tough to move out of my neighborhood where I’d lived for ten years – probably for good. It’s near downtown San Diego, and I could walk there or to the Bay, to Balboa Park, uptown, and to the stores and movies. I had everything nearby.
The day after I moved, I got work – from November 1st through the 30th, non-stop except for a half-day off on Thanksgiving. Over another hurdle.
Two ways to look at it.
I’m living in a nice place. Temporarily. Have enough money to last me another three months. I have a great website and a blog that I haven’t added to in two months while I flood my mind with top bloggers’ advice, hints, tips, and information on how to blog. And how to turn my blog into a vehicle to sell my book, “Don’t Hang Up!” when it’s published – though God only knows how as I don’t have a sou.
My spirits are up. I’ll be getting more work. Not as much as before but enough to tide me over – if I stay here.
The other side is that I’m (technically) homeless as this temporary arrangement could end in a month or so. And I have no regular means of income.
I’m 67, and finding work at this age, and the energy, isn’t easy especially in a slow economy. I have debts. Specifically, an almost unpayable one that my son left on one of my credit cards.
You could say I’m in a rut.
So I tell myself, practice what you preach, and I preach “Don’t Hang Up!” or “Don’t Give Up!”
What is a rut except a hole that you have to get out of?
So how do I get out of my rut?
First, I can’t get stuck in it – that means I can’t let negative thoughts play their mind games with me, or hold me down.
I have a set of skills that took me to the top professionally, and helped me overcome obstacles time after time. I’ve had to make new starts in the past, like the one in 2000, which I wrote a book about.
And a lot of people believe in me, have encouraged and motivated me.
Don’t I owe it to myself and to them to get myself back on my feet again?
But…most important of all, I HAVE NO CHOICE.
It’s either sink further into my rut until it becomes a deep hole or climb out of it while I still can, and get going on making another new start.
I CHALLENGE MYSELF TO DO THIS.
And I’m asking all of you to challenge me to go with this challenge, see where it takes me. See if, at 67, I can still do it. Make making it again one of the proudest achievements in my life.
Because if I do it, that will also show others in the same/similar position that they can as well.
Will you help challenge me to challenge myself?
“We must accept life for what it actually is – a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
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