I became a new author at the age of 62. That was two years ago and I’m still out there hustling. And I love every minute of this new life.
I’ve been a writer all my life but I never had the opportunity to devote the time to it the way I always dreamed. I was caught up in the workforce. I know what you’re thinking — a lot of writers work and write at the same time. Well, I couldn’t. I was chasing the dollar and embracing the American Dream. I was a money whore. I was balancing a marriage and a nursing career, and I never understood why I didn’t have the energy that a young woman was supposed to have. I was securing that much-lauded 401k plan that everyone was talking about. I had a vision of a comfortable retirement with the little beach house in Florida. I couldn’t fool around with writing when I had all that to do. I worked as a full-time hospital staff nurse. In my ‘spare’ time, I worked nursing shifts for a nursing agency (It’s a temp agency for nurses) at other area hospitals and nursing homes. The money, the work hours, and the overwhelming stress were piling up. I kept on going. I was convinced that the weird symptoms I was experiencing were related to my crazy schedule and lack of sleep. I didn’t take days off. I worked all holidays because I could get double-time for those shifts. I elected to give up all the holidays that could have been spent with my husband and family in order to get those impressive paychecks. I was a working robot. The pain and weakness and fatigue and dizzy spells I was experiencing were related to all the running and working and commuting I was doing. Right?
In 2002, I was literally knocked off my feet by multiple sclerosis. I became a semi-invalid for three miserable years because of a brutal relapse that had been building for some time. The first MRI of my brain showed MS lesions in the white matter that were 20+years old. I had been working with MS for most of my career. It was the reason I hadn’t been able to do all the things I had wanted to do in my life. I am here to testify that you can’t be Wonder Woman when you’re working with undiagnosed MS. Because of my lack of stamina throughout my working years, I had to stick with the priorities in life. And, in that day and time, my priority was working and saving for the future. You have to choose your battles. I chose work.
Ironically, multiple sclerosis would be my release from the stressful life I had always known. I was much too ill to continue in nursing. My life was turned upside down in many terrifying ways. I lost my fat salary with all those extra shifts. I was totally disabled. I plunged into depression that was so devastating as to cause me to consider suicide because of all I had lost. As far as I knew, life for me was pretty much over.
At the end of those three years, I experienced the euphoria of my first MS remission. The word ‘remission’ is the most beautiful word in the dictionary to the MS sufferer. An MS sufferer coming out of relapse is like Phoenix rising. You feel the power of life and freedom that no one else could possibly understand. It’s as if your body and your life are suddenly awash with pure clean fresh air that floods your lungs with life-saving oxygen that runs through your veins like a healing river where before there had been nothing but a stifling cloud of ugly filthy stench. You step out of the darkness into the light of renewed health, if only for a little while.
I started writing again. And, I haven’t stopped. I adopted a minimalist life style. I didn’t do that intentionally. It just evolved. I unplugged everything but the PC and wrote stories — lots and lots of stories. I created manuscripts. I started a memoir that turned into a very healing project. I was more creative than I’d been since my college days. I was gaining momentum and personal confidence. The opportunity came for me to send a manuscript off to a mainstream publisher, so I did. I had typed a whole book on WordPad, printed it out on printer paper, stuffed it into an old manila envelope, and sent it off, all the time thinking, ‘I’ll bet Jack Kerouac did it this way.’
My manuscript was accepted by the publishing house. I can honestly say that I have never received a rejection slip. I’m not arrogant or boastful. I think it must be that God figured I’d had enough misery in my life, and this was the big break he gave me to take the edge off all the crap I’d lived with for all those years.
Then the technological shit hit the fan.
The guy at the publishing house told me that I’d need a Word program in order to proceed.
If you’re young and reading this, stop now. You couldn’t possibly relate. But, if you’re an older writer like me who aspires to be a published author, perk up your ears. Unless you have kept up with all the new technology and already know it all, you’re going to have to get with the program. Don’t be afraid. And don’t be intimidated. Just knuckle down and learn the techno stuff because book publishing is a young person’s game. Young people are publishing the books now. That kindly old scholarly curmudgeon in the gray tweed suit smoking his pipe behind the cherry mahogany desk isn’t calling the shots anymore. His granddaughter owns the company now and she’s coming for you. Get self-help books on anything related to modern technology. Go online and get a list of modern technological terminology and do a refresher course often because even the terminology changes every day. Don’t wait and be embarrassed like I was when I had to go to the new online dictionary to find the definition of the word ‘toggle.’ These things can be humiliating. When you come upon a young editor who blindsides you with conversations laced with words you’ve never encountered in your 64 years on earth, there is nothing that can prepare you for an intelligent conversation with these people. You will end up feeling like an idiot. There’s nothing more degrading for an accomplished and talented senior than to be blinded by technology in a conversation with a kid the age of your grandchildren. Prepare yourself for the onslaught. This isn’t your grandma’s book club anymore. They’re reading books on computerized devices now, and you’d better be ready for the change. Because, change isn’t coming. It’s already here. Old-fashioned books held in the hands will never go completely out of style. But, you’d better prepare yourself to engage intelligently in conversations about the E-Book and its role in the future of the modern-day author. The world is moving fast, and you either keep up, or the train will leave you at the station. I’m not where I want to be yet. I am not too proud to pick the brains of my younger writer friends. I know they don’t have time for my unbelievably naïve questions, but they answer them anyway. I do my best to help them in return. There’s not much I can do for them other than help them to promote their work.
And, don’t think for a moment that you can keep on living that technologically-minimalist lifestyle. If you expect to make money selling books, you’ve got to do the whole social-media thing. I’m doing things I never dreamed I’d do. I’m out there on the WEB sucking up to strangers when a few years ago, I seldom bothered to answer my own phone because I didn’t want to interact with other people. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — I know — I didn’t know what any of it meant either. Now, I’ve become an unwitting techno-whore. If you want to be in this game, you have to get out and play with the rest of the writer/authors out there hustling on the WEB. If you don’t, you’ll miss the train. And, we senior writers don’t want to miss the train. After all, we built the damned train. We’d better get the hell on it. We don’t want a bunch of kids running off and leaving us standing on the tracks wishing we’d kept up. We’ve got to revise our goals. I’m going to teach these kids a thing or two. I’m going to blind them with book sales and beat them at their own game.