I have always been a writer. Nothing else I do feels so powerful, but somehow, somewhere along the way I lost faith in the writer’s life. Now, at the age of 48, I want another chance at the path. This is my Second Act.
I began writing my first novel in grade 2. Later I became editor of the high school newspaper. At the same time I was building compost piles, planting gardens, following birds, identifying every wildflower I could find, and researching its useful properties. At university I studied wildlife biology and ecology, and achieved an Honours Bachelor of Science. Then I started writing again and went to community college for a diploma in journalism. A year out of college I was paying my dues as a small town newspaper reporter.
By then I was 25 and had begun a reasonable path to becoming a science and nature writer, hopefully with some fiction writing thrown in. Unfortunately, I did not see it that way. Even in hindsight, the reasons for my confusion are hard to dissect. I might blame over-protective parents, the cult-like church I joined during university, bad relationships, depression or even myself for not believing, not persisting, and being too much of a coward to take risks in pursuit of my dreams. More than any of those long-ago factors, I should blame blame itself.
I have learned two essential lessons about pursuing your dreams:
- Stop blaming people (including yourself) for your unhappiness; as long as you point a finger to the past, it prevents you from taking responsibility for today; live firmly, unapologetically in the present.
- No matter how many mistakes you have made, pessimism will only prevent you from turning your life around, so you must have hope.
If you have no hope, act as if you do. Optimism puts you in the path of good things happening. Otherwise, you will sit alone in your apartment while the parade passes by. It takes great courage to turn the tide of a disappointing life. Courage is the only way. Live each single day as if it were happy, and it frequently will be. Then live another after it, and another.
Bad things are inevitable. Someday a comet or supernova will wipe life from the face of the Earth. Meanwhile you or someone you love will die from car accidents or cancer. You cannot avoid tragedy. Each day you must make the most of what you have.
Or you could give up. As far as I am concerned, there is no shame in that, only sadness. Consider your options carefully.
Living “as if” I had hope helped me surround myself with people who believe in me and support my dreams, rather than disparaging them. For the past few years I worked at a job that had nothing to do with writing. Then last December work ran out and I was laid off. Now is my best second chance to pursue the life I always wanted.
I have done some writing for a content farm. It is not inspiring, but it is invigorating to work to deadline again. The flow of words oils the gears and benefits my creative work. I am participating in the 2012 WordCount Blogathon to promote my work as a nature writer. The next step will be to start querying publications about story ideas of my own.
Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I recommend making a list every evening before bed of things you want to do tomorrow. Be sure to include something fun, something tedious like doing the laundry, and something that frightens you.
How will this adventure turn out? More to the point, will this path become financially sustainable? I do not know. However, these past few weeks have been happier and more hopeful than any I can remember. All I can do is take one day at a time.