By Judy Nelson
“Congratulations! How did you get on Forbes.com?”
The email was in response to my notice that I’d had an article published. It was the same tone if not the identical words that others used when they heard the news. Here was a classic situation where the emphasis could make all the difference.
“HOW did you get on Forbes.com?” might have meant an interest in the process—as in, tell me how to do it, too. Another possibility with a different emphasis could be, “How did YOU get on Forbes.com?” could suggest a disbelief that I had the writing ability (or worse, mental capacity!) to make that happen. Still another email arrived that began with an added twist, needing no interpretation analysis: “You’re my age. HOW did YOU get on FORBES?”
The most interesting aspect for me as a lifetime writer was that the article on Forbes.com (first published on NextAvenue.org) was written more or less out of resignation. My bright, enthusiastic new copy editor, Terri, insisted that people would be very interested in the topic, “How I Found My Encore Career.”
Even though her editing skills are the best I’ve ever seen, I still thought it was a boring article but decided to try it out on Greg, a new, very savvy marketing consultant. He loved it, tweaked it and submitted it. Three weeks later? Two acceptances in one week—including Forbes.com!
To be fair, even I was asking myself the question: How did YOU get on Forbes.com?
The Reasons I Wrote
I wrote for different reasons for different periods in my life. In the early years, my writing served three purposes: emotional catharsis, periodic therapy, and how to figure out what I was thinking.
The emotional catharsis served me well in the tremulous teen years and early 20’s. At 16, I lost my dad. I managed my grief by writing about it, hundreds of pages, many of which I submitted as assignments in a creative writing class I took the summer after his death.
As the grief began to subside, and life moved me on, my writing topics took on a wider range of things that interested me. One topic that attracted me most often was the absurd side of life. So I wrote about that for a while.
Then in graduate school, a paper I wrote as a thesis project was accepted by a national public health journal. I can still feel the excitement when the first galley proofs arrived! Then there was a lull before another paper was published, a law school assignment that compared aspects of my two professions, law and social work. While I felt less exhilaration than the first time, it was still a thrill.
Then marriage, family intervened and the majority of the writing I did was as CEO. I took some writing nonfiction and fiction classes on the side
When the worst that can happen, the loss of a child, happened to me, the need to express my inexpressible grief on paper was all-encompassing. After the initial shock, I wrote nonstop, including lengthy letters to my late son. As I began to come to terms with the new person I had involuntarily become, a childless mother, the fury of the writing turned more into introspection and eventually into self-discovery.
The drive to write constantly subsided as I reengaged myself with my job—ironically, overseeing the care of vulnerable children. However, I also continued to write about the absurdities of life and leadership lessons along the way.
The Reason I Write
When I couldn’t stand the 3-hour-daily commute another second, I tendered my resignation—a bit of a shock since I had always planned to work until I dropped. The NPR/Forbes article describes my journey to develop my own business and what is now popularly known as my “Encore Career.” I am an entrepreneur these days.
One of the many pieces of advice given to all entrepreneurs is to write, write, write; blog, blog, blog and then, blog some more. A part of me is really tired of seeing blog after blog as I slog through trying to identify the crystals from the crap. It seems like we’re drowning in a sea of self-promotion thinly disguised as information—and that most of it is just paraphrasing somebody else’s ideas.
I love to write and totally detest editing. Why? Because I am terrible at editing. I get bored reading my stuff a second time and get distracted with other things much more exciting and new.
Then I found a real gem two or three months ago–my copy editor, Terri. Since then, I’ve had one article published twice in national, highly respected websites, another accepted, others in pitch status and a 40,000 word eBook, three-quarters done with a major publisher showing interest. And I haven’t even shown her the other 50 or more articles on my old hard disk.
The upside for me? Everything. My aspirations as a writer have a renewed potential to be realized. Energetic responses from people who are reading what I write—and the idea of starting a second Encore Career as a published author. All this at the ripe old age of—well, of having been around a very long time!
As they say, better late than never—but even better, it’s never too late. I’m learning that it’s never too late for experiencing and expanding genuine, life-giving, enriching self-actualization.