Category Archives: Following Your Passion

Baby Boomer Cat Michaels Shares Advice for Aspiring Children’s Authors

Do any of you baby boomers dream about becoming a children’s author? Whether you want to write a book for friends or family or make it a profession, baby boomer and author/blogger Cat Michaels is here to help.

Cat Author Photo 3After logging more than two decades supporting students from kindergarten to college with learning disabilities and Asperger’s syndrome, Cat began using her experience to write books for beginning and reluctant readers during retirement.

In my interview with Cat, she shares her wisdom and experience, along with some valuable links for aspiring authors. As a fellow author I can tell you –  her advice is spot on!

As a bonus for my readers, Cat is offering a free chapter download from her latest children’s book, Sweet T and the Turtle Team  (you can read my review of her book here).

Without further ado, here is her interview:

Did you always dream of becoming an author one day? 

I’ve been a reader and scribbler forever, Julie.  I penned my first story in fourth grade, a tale about two girls traveling in a wagon train across the old-timey American west. As a teen, I spilled angst and uncertainty in my journals.  As an adult, I churned out press releases, staff newsletters, and customer magazine articles for a high-tech firm.  Later, I was a writing coach at a community college who supported students with learning disabilities and Asperger’s.   

First Grade Author Q&AWhen did you decide to write specifically for children and why? 

The transition from dreaming to doing hit me three decades ago. I was wracking my brain to find birthday presents for my then-young nieces and nephews.  (We lived states away, so I wanted something special for long-distance bonding.)  I decided to pen kooky stories featuring the birthday child.  

The recent explosion of technology and self-publishing tools provided the nudge I needed. I dusted off a few family stories, and they led to my chapter books and Sweet T Tale series for early and reluctant readers.  I love the freedom and creativity of being an Indie author!

How do you bring back memories of what it feels like to be a child? 

Hmmmm.  It’s a combination of imagination, observation, and exploring what interests kids today.  I search through photos or flip through my journals to recall feelings of the past.  

But it’s not all about writing from memories.   

When I visit schools, I talk to kids and ask for feedback on my writing ideas.  Youngsters today aren’t that different from kids of the Boomer generation.  Both care about siblings, friends, family, school, pets, etc., BUT 21st-century kids have a slew of tech gadgets I never imagined growing up in an age of clunky black phones with wires (gasp!) and TVs looking like giant toasters <winking here>.   

What advice do you have for others who are older but want to write for children? 

WritingHArdWorkMemeThere’s an important distinction between writing for family and writing for a wide audience.  In the former, print on demand (POD) publishers, like Amazon’s Create Space and Lulu, provide low-cost ways to create lovely books for your immediate circle.   

Don’t fret if you aren’t comfortable composing on a computer. You can write your tale long hand and recruit a friend or family member to prepare what your POD publisher requires. (Hint: look for a tech-savvy Millennial!) 

And you needn’t be an illustrator, either.  You and your tech guru can incorporate family photographs, use illustrations drawn by your young artists, or find free and low-cost images or art online at places like Pixabay or Shutterstock.    

On the other hand, if your dream is to publish a book for readers beyond family, I won’t sugarcoat how hard it is to succeed in today’s competitive Kid Lit market.   

Not impossible.  But writing for children isn’t a walk-in-the-park, skipping-along, tra-la kind of fun.  It’s really hard work! 

BlogGraphic_Cat's Book QuadrantsBe ready for a huge learning curve on the long road it takes to establish yourself as a traditionally published or indie author. The Children’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is the perfect place to start.  This international professional organization offers helpful advice and tools, and you can meet other kid lit folk at regional conferences.  Most SCBWI chapters also have robust social media communities for ongoing conversation and support. 

I see you grimacing there behind your computer screen! 

Yep.  Today’s authors must have a social media presence PLUS establish authentic connections with readers months (often years) before any book launch.  Not just indie authors.  Agents tell me they will not even consider previously published authors unless writers have established websites and social media platforms. 

Best to start with a single platform where your readers hang out….perhaps Facebook, since that behemoth is where most people are. (btw… since kids under 13-years old shouldn’t be on social media or do financial transactions, I look for platforms reaching those who purchase books for children, like parents, teachers, librarians, grandparents, etc.)   

It was overwhelming at first.  I had nothing, – zero, zip, nada – when I started.   

I slowly assembled an author website and Facebook page. Because I love tech, I taught myself how to create these things.  Many authors recruit family members or hire someone from the huge cottage industry, like Upwork or Fiverr  that supports writers.  (Caveat: please be sure anyone you hire is legit, and you get the quality you pay for.  It shouldn’t cost a fortune, either.)  

The good news: my fourth book was way easier to launch than my first because of what I learned in 48 months AND the amazing support from writers and readers I’ve met along the way.  (In fact, Julie was one of my first cyber pals.  We connected through an author-networking event in LinkedIn. I was so impressed with her warm introduction that I reached out to “talk” more, and we’ve been cyberpals ever since!) 

So, be prepared for a long haul as a children’s author.  But that’s the norm.  You’ll get there!  And please add me as one of your kid lit writerly connections on your journey <waving at you here>. 

What inspired you to help students with learning disabilities from kindergarten to college for more than two decades and how was this integrated in your current book?  

I come from a family of three generations of educators, so helping others learn is baked into my DNA. 

I watched children and adults with learning challenges work twice as hard to succeed. They were ostracized for being perceived as slow.  Bullied for riding the ‘short’ bus to school or getting lost on the way to class.  The intelligence is there, but quirky wiring in their brain frustrates and trips them up.  

I admire this determination and want to make learning easier (maybe even fun!) for all kids.  For example, my young protagonist, Sweet T, is on a mission to protect fragile sea turtle nests in Sweet T and the Turtle Team, and she  befriends Billy, a boy with a secret.  T can’t figure out why he’s nice one moment and grumpy the next.  She’s also puzzled when he refuses to read the Turtle Team Guide and help her monitor sea turtle nests Can’t say more — S*P*O*I*L*E*R*S. (If you’d like to preview my book and watch a video trailer on my website, I bet you’ll guess Billy’s secret, too!)

How can boomers who want to write incorporate life experiences in their writing? 

It’s all about writing what you know and what you love, and then looking for that golden intersection where your interests sync up with your readers’.  What do they want to know about? Be entertained by?  How can you bring your experience and passion to the page in a way that captivates your audience?   

For instance, I grew up along coastal Connecticut and love the ocean. Each of my books contains elements plucked from childhood or interaction with wee ones: magical aquariums, the illness of a beloved grandparent, or beachy settings featuring skimboards and sea turtles.  My characters are also a mash up designed for today’s Gen-1 reader, so it’s a mingling of past and present. 

At what age did you publish your first book? 

I published my first book in 2013, leaving the 9-5 grind after more than two decades to become an authorprenuer.  To be honest, Julie, I stopped counting birthdays long ago.  My neighbor turned 49 a while ago.  We both liked that age and decided to hang out there for a spell <chuckling here>.  

What advice would you give other boomers who want to achieve their goals and dreams? 

Ah, this calls for a proper think and soul searching.  How much time and capitol do you want to invest in your dream?  Is it a hobby?  More of a re-careering to generate income?   

Whatever direction you decide, do your research and take baby steps testing the new path, but never go it alone.   

You need friends and family to support you. When you run into roadblocks or want to get better at your new craft, it’s beyond helpful to have others walking with you.  Plus, there’s great joy when you pay it forward to those coming behind.  

It comes down to getting out of your comfort zone and stretching your wings.  Mercy, I laugh now, but I was terrified posting my first blog!  Scared nobody would read it. Scared somebody would read it.  Scared I embarrassed myself.   There’s nothing like the rush knowing you accomplished something that once felt impossible! 

And remember: it’s okay to walk away if you discover different dreams.  Just make sure you have fun along the way and go after them! 

*If you’d like to learn more about Cat, you can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

 

Why I Love Baby Boomer Blogging

People blog for many reasons. Originally, I started my blog the end of 2013 as a platform for a book I wanted to write to help baby boomers find happiness.

Blog ButtonThe irony is, although it’s in the works, I have yet to finish that book! But I’m still blogging – and loving it.

In fact, I’m writing this article to celebrate my 200th blog! (You can take a look at my top ten blogs below.)

It’s so easy to get frustrated when you first start a blog. As a technically-challenged person, I had to learn WordPress. Then, I spent a lot of time promoting my blog and trying to find my baby boomer audience.

As with most bloggers, I quickly became obsessed – and depressed – with the numbers – how many visitors, subscribers, and Facebook followers I had on any given day.  Turns out building up readership for a blog takes a LOT of time, effort, and patience.

But as time passed, I realized my blog provided much more than an author platform and it wasn’t all about the numbers. Blogging served a different and more profound purpose. I would even say that it’s changed the way I look at and live my life.

That’s why if you’re a baby boomer thinking about starting a blog, I’d highly recommend it. That is, if you’re blogging for the right reasons.

If you’re starting a blog to get rich or even to eke out a living, well, don’t count on it. Monetizing a blog is super hard these days. In fact, after three years, I’m still not making money from my blog. By the way, don’t believe all the hype from people selling online courses that try to convince you blogging is a great way to make passive income or get rich in retirement. Make no mistake, writing and promoting a blog is a ton of work. There is nothing passive about it.

So Why Blog?

Some people may disagree with me, but I think blogging shouldn’t only be about making money, drumming up business, gathering a huge following, chasing fame, or trying to sell books.

Blogging can serve as a creative outlet to voice ideas, thoughts, and feelings. On top of that, writing a blog provides a wonderful opportunity to inspire and touch the lives of other people in a positive way.

How Blogging Changed My Life

My blog has certainly seen me through many ups and downs these past few years.  I’ve written about joyful moments like a trip to Chicago with my husband to celebrate our anniversary, a day spent playing in the snow with my grandchildren, watching Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones at Desert Trip, and a quick weekend trip with my kids to San Francisco.

I’ve also poured my heart out while caregiving for my Mom who suffered from Lewy Body dementia and wrote about her eventual death. I shared my angst when my mother-in-law died from ovarian cancer and my son went through a painful divorce and custody battle that same year. (Ironically, shortly after I started writing a blog about happiness, I had the worst year of my life.)

Yes, I love reading, which provides a welcome respite from my troubles, but writing is my real escape, outlet, and passion. When I write, I become so focused, my problems fade away for awhile, giving me a much needed break. In fact, if you’re truly a writer, believe me, it is a life-long addiction!

The process of putting my thoughts and feelings into writing has brought me comfort as well as help me relive happy moments.writer

As I’ve written about my life, my blog helped me think about what’s important to me and determine if my life is headed in the right direction.

Since I can’t write about every event, idea, thought, and feeling, blogging provides a sort of filter, clarifying my life. My blogs have helped me understand what is most meaningful to me. I’ve discovered along the way that sometimes it’s the simplest moments that make me the happiest.

Embracing Creativity

As a professional writer, my blog gives me wonderful creative freedom to express myself. Not to pop anyone’s balloon, but writing sounds more glamorous than it is in reality. For most of the past 25 years, I’ve written articles on subjects that magazines, newspapers, publishers, and clients choose for me.

True, I’ve written two young adult books, travel articles, humorous pieces, and feature stories on fascinating people that were fun. On the other hand, in order to make a living, I’ve also written articles that bored me to tears. I’ve tackled technical articles – and one technical book – that gave me an Excedrin headache and drove me nuts . I’ve written on demand, meeting other people’s deadlines, writing late into the night as my brain is desperately trying to call it quits.

Don’t get me wrong. I may sound whiny, but I fully realize that I’m darn lucky to have made a living at something I love. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The point is, my blog is my baby. I write on subjects I’m interested in and feel passionate about and hope my audience will enjoy as well. My blog allows me to stretch as a writer, explore, experiment, and try new things whenever the muse hits. Writing professionally has given me the discipline to publish a blog every week, but I write my blogs when I choose. And believe me, that’s not at the crack of dawn or 10:00 at night! That is luxurious.

Thank You for Joining Me on My Journey!

So, those are some of the ways blogging has changed my life. But, as I mentioned earlier, the huge bonus is that blogging can change other people’s lives as well.

Some of you have left comments letting me know that I have in some small way inspired you or provided useful information and that always brings me such joy. Writing a blog has provided an opportunity to connect with readers and other bloggers, which has been so rewarding.

I’m beyond grateful for the 23,000 people who have visited my blog, for my 5,000 subscribers (click here if you’d like to join them), 5,000 Twitter followers, and 1,300 Facebook followers who have shared this journey with me. A HUGE THANK YOU!

When I hit milestones, I like to review which blogs have been most popular with an eye to giving my readers more of what they enjoy. It’s always interesting to see what resonates and hits home.

My Top Ten Blogs

So, without further ado, here are my top ten blogs in order of popularity. Feel free to click on any of the links of blogs you’d like to check out:

happy go lucky

Five Ways to Become a Happy-Go-Lucky Person

Every year, this is my top-performing blog by far. Merriam-Webster defines happy-go-lucky as blithely unconcerned and carefree. Synonyms include affable, laid-back, low-pressure, and mellow. I guess we all want some of that!

 

Bobby Rydell and meGolden Boys in Concert: Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian

I was asked to do a book review of Bobby Rydell’s autobiography. This led to an interview, free tickets to his Golden Boys concert with Frankie Avalon and Fabian, and a backstage pass to meet Rydell in person. This was a nice perk that came from blogging! The day they posted my concert review on Rydell’s Facebook page, my visitors increased by 3000% for the day. No joke!

menopause dwarfsKeep Laughing with the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause

This blog has held a top-three spot since I began blogging. Hey, it’s either laugh or cry through menopause, and wouldn’t we all prefer to laugh?

 

happy despite problemsStaying Positive Despite Problems

Everyone has problems that make us feel powerless and defeated, so I’m not surprised this blog made the top ten. I offer three simple tips on how we can control our outlook and still choose to be happy despite our troubles.

 

happiest momentsWhat Are Your Life’s Happiest Moments?

If you look back on your life, which moments would you count as your happiest? What would be your biggest regrets? That’s the question one study asked participants aged 70 and older. I share the results of their insightful answers in this blog.

 

happy old coupleWhy Older People Are Happier Than Baby Boomers

Aww, my very first blog that got Baby Boomer Bliss off the ground. The idea for this blog was based on studies that show, in general, older people – and even the younger generation – are happier than us baby boomers. One study confirmed there is a U-shaped happiness curve with the early 50’s as the lowest point of well-being.

happy 1 2 3Happy as Easy as 1-2-3

“I want my day to feel like there is boundless beauty and possibilities and joy to be felt, discovered, explored, and expressed. And you know what? I can and so can you,” I wrote. This article got discovered on Stumble Upon, bringing me my second (after the Rydell concert review) all-time record high number of visitors for one day to my site.

menopauseStaying Happy Through Menopause

I wrote this article after Hot Flash Daily hired me to write humorous articles about menopause to launch their new website. I had never written humor before, but had a blast doing it for them!  I happily shared it all – the scorching hot flashes, insane insomnia, annoying forgetfulness, and crazy panic attacks that ensued for years. Yes, YEARS!

happiness grandchilddrenFinding Happiness with Grandchildren

This blog was an easy one to write. To be needed and wanted by these delightful little beings is a wonderful treat and privilege. Like many people, I find that the rewards of family life only grew richer and more fulfilling as each new grandchild was born.

 

snoopyFive Happy Snoopy Quotes

Okay, this one surprised me a little bit. But hey, don’t we all still love Snoopy? Now that I write a happiness blog, I’m impressed with how much wisdom Charles M. Schultz cartoons contain on the subject.

 

So, those are my top ten blogs so far. What will my next 100 blogs bring to the table? Stay tuned to find out! And if you have any ideas or subjects you’d like to see on Baby Boomer Bliss, please share in the comments below. I’d LOVE to hear!

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Women Breaking Through Barriers

Lesly Federici suddenly lost her mother at the age of 40 while coping with the news that she had a genetic disorder that would result in blindness. Suzie Cheel was given three choices: life, death, or dialysis. Beverley Golden, only 89 pounds and suffering from a mysterious health problem, listened as a doctor told her there was little hope for recovery.

hurdlesThese are just three of 14 inspirational stories in the book, Women Breaking through Barriers, by Marquita A. Herald. The women describe how they conquered tremendous hurdles to move forward and live fulfilling and successful lives.

The book shares what helped them find the courage and inner strength to create a life they love with tips on how you can do so as well.

I was touched that the author of the book asked me to share my own story about how I pushed through my fears and self-limiting beliefs.

My own story is not as dramatic as some of the others in the book. I write about how I overcame my fears and doubts to pursue my dreams of becoming an author and writer. Oh, I put a lot of self-imposed barriers on myself. I was afraid that people would laugh at me because I didn’t have a college degree. That my submissions would sit in a huge pile and be ignored by literary agents and editors since I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business. That friends and family would roll their eyeballs if I dared to express my dreams of becoming a writer out loud. That I would become so discouraged by the countless rejections sure to come my way, I would give up and watch my precious dreams slowly fade away. Doesn’t everyone want to be a writer, but how many actually make it?

dreaming-of-being-a-writerInstead of taking action, I was comfortable just dreaming about becoming an author one day. It was fun envisioning my novel on the shelves of Barnes and Noble and my first book signing. It was so easy to tell myself that I needed to learn more about the craft of writing before submitting my work.

Until a woman at a writer’s conference asked me a simple but profound question. What are you waiting for?

Oh, I had a million excuses why I wasn’t pursing my passion. But she forced me to ask myself some important questions. Did I want to go to my grave with regrets that I never followed my dreams? That I never even tried? Would I wonder what I could have accomplished if only I had mustered up enough courage to break through my self-imposed barriers?

With the woman’s words echoing in my head, I took the first step and began submitting my short story to magazines. Of course, I received the standard rejection letter which stung, but I continued on my journey, taking writing classes and submitting my work. The road wasn’t easy. Many of my fears came true during that time. I gathered enough rejection letters to wallpaper a room. Plenty of people gave me cynical looks when I dared to share my dreams of becoming a published writer. Many times, I became discouraged and swore off writing. But I tenaciously pressed forward. Six long years passed before my first short story was published. Am I happy that I persevered and finally faced down all those nagging self-doubts and fears?

You bet!

Yup, that’s me, looking happy I broke through my barriers to live out my dreams of seeing my book on the shelves of Barnes and Noble along with a book signing!

I’ve been writing professionally for over 25 years now. Over the years, I’ve been published in national magazines, authored three books (one of which was published by big time publisher McGraw Hill), landed an agent, won three journalism awards, and even had a book signing at Barnes and Noble.

What helped me accomplish my goals? How did the other 13 courageous women overcome their fears, persevere, and find the power to become the driver of their own lives and personal journeys?  You’ll have to check out the book to find out! Each tale will give you hope and encourage you to reflect on who you are and what matters most to you in life.

For a limited time, I’m offering a free copy of the book, Women Breaking Barriers, to all new subscribers of my blog. As a subscriber, every Thursday you’ll be the first to receive my latest blog on how to find your bliss. Please use the subscribe button on the upper right corner of this page. Rest assured, your privacy is important to me. Your email address will not be given away or sold at any time. If you decide you no longer wish to subscribe, you need only scroll to the bottom of any blog sent to you and click on the “unsubscribe” link.

When you are finished, click on the link below to receive your free copy of the book. If you are already one of my 5,000 subscribers, feel free to click on the link below and receive a copy of this inspiring book compliments of Baby Boomer Bliss.

Women Breaking Barriers eBook

Enjoy the book and in the meantime, remember that there is nothing magical that happens to people who choose to take responsibility for their own life. They choose to commit to taking a risk, doing the necessary work, and taking action. And most importantly, they choose to be true to themselves.

As John Quincy Adams eloquently said, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

Images courtesy of Sira Anamwong and iconmac at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Retired Baby Boomers Becoming Happy Entrepreneurs

After retiring, baby boomers are not content to sit in a rocking chair. We are changing the rules and redefining old age. Growing up during a time when everything seemed possible, perhaps it’s not surprising that we refuse to grow up and grow old, feeling a bit like Peter Pan. 

Retired boomers can be seen white water rafting, running marathons, zip lining, and traveling to exotic and adventurous places. 

And, perhaps surprisingly, many approaching retirement are starting our own businesses. Many boomers want to continue working – but on our own terms.

Starting New Business

A new Gallop study showed adults over the age of 50 are one of the fastest-growing groups of entrepreneurs in the U.S. In fact, boomers are twice as likely as millennials to say they plan to start a business in the next year.

What’s surprising about this study is that the majority of boomers are working a full decade longer than their parents. So, why do boomers, who have already worked years and years for established businesses, want to start over and launch an “encore career” as an entrepreneur?

When Gallup studied nearly 2,000 U.S. baby boomers, including entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, they found that an overwhelming majority — 83% — say their main reason for launching a venture was a lifestyle choice or to increase their income.

This poll suggests that we’re searching for independence and want to pursue our interests and passions before it’s too late. Money also plays a role. Many boomers haven’t saved enough for retirement and are looking for ways to make some extra money.

Yet, it seems that our desires are outweighing practical choices when it comes to choosing a new business.

Clearly, I’m in that category. I love working as a freelancer writer, but I’m not exactly getting rich. But still, I wouldn’t trade my freedom and happiness following my creative passions for a bigger paycheck.

Likewise, boomers typically aren’t looking for a grueling, high-intensity, high-growth venture. “Very few are pursuing an idea for a new product or service that solves a problem or meets an unfulfilled need in the market — the type of business that would typically have immense growth potential,” the study’s authors wrote. “Perhaps for boomer entrepreneurs, these reasons reflect their current stage in life.”

Therein lies the hitch. Although we’re experienced in our careers, we boomers still have the same challenges and face the same risks as younger entrepreneurs. In addition, we’re looking to start businesses that will bring fulfillment and excitement to our lives which unfortunately doesn’t always equal income.

Start New Business With that in mind, if starting a new business is one of your dreams, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Consider the Challenges

Remember that running your own business is considerably different than working for a company.

You will face uncertainty and failure, the study’s authors point out.

Consider how hard you are willing to work, how you will acquire clients, how willing and adaptable you are to learning new skills, and how you will persuade others to buy your product or service.

Understand your strengths and vulnerabilities before diving in.

Make the Right Connections

Connect with local resources and network, network, network.

In most cities, the AARP and Small Business Administration offers information, services, and training to help older entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Also connect with other “encore” entrepreneurs’ professional networks.

Form a support group to get you through the rough times.

Take advantage of social media sites. Networking isn’t easy but it’s an essential key to success.

Seek Advice

Even though you may have a lot of work experience, entrepreneurs over the age of 50 will still benefit from working with a coach, mentor, or business adviser.

An established business owner can help you navigate through regulations and legal issues, develop marketing ideas, and learn how to promote your business in both traditional and new ways.

With all these challenges, will launching a new successful business make you happy?

Quite possibly. Despite the hard work and dedication required to start and run a small business, 94 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs are happy being small business owners, according to a new survey by the online small business community, Manta.

Now, that’s good news for you boomers with an entrepreneurial spirit!

Images courtesy of Ambro and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why You Can Celebrate Turning 50

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This year the youngest of the baby boomers turns 50.

Here’s my confession: Although I didn’t blink an eye when I turned 30 or 40, three years ago when it was time to turn the big 5-0, I rallied against it.

Reaching the half-century mark felt like I was moving into the final phase of life and, well, like I was OLD. Menopause had arrived, it was time for a colonoscopy, and my bank offered me the dreaded senior discount. To add insult to injury, I had to have a dental implant and shoulder surgery.

Once I moved past the birthday, however, I soon changed my mind.

Fifty was actually a great time in my life. I had recently become a full-time minister, learned sign language, and did volunteer work with the deaf. I was still able to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing professionally and had taken on some new, interesting writing projects. I had a great marriage, kids, and grandkids.

On top of that, I came to value the experience and wisdom that only comes with age. I’ve learned to forgive more easily, to live more simply and in the present, to let go of perfection, to be more grateful, to value the people I love, and to laugh at myself. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff anymore – and learned that nearly everything is ‘small stuff.’

A lifelong people-pleaser, I learned to say no and to let go of people that only bring negativity to my life. I don’t have the energy, interest, or patience for drama anymore. Thanks to menopause, no more periods, PMS, threat of a late life pregnancy, or worries about cysts and fibroids. What freedom! And thank-goodness, achieving that perfect bikini body is no longer on my list of things to do, which is incredibly liberating.

In other words, fifty doesn’t mean you become the stereotypical frumpy, wrinkled menopausal witch or the over-sexed, botoxed cougar with fake boobs trying to nab that young guy.

 Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s true, 50 can be freaking fabulous!

Look at Katie Couric who became the first female solo anchor of a national evening news show right before she turned 50.  Or Laura Ingalls Wilder, who saw the first of her Little House books published when she was in her 60s. Colonel Sanders didn’t come up with the secrete recipe until he was 50. Or how about the fab Diane Keaton who produced her seventh movie and realistically played the heartthrob of 39-year-old Keanu Reeves in the funny movie, Something’s Gotta Give, at the age of 57?

Michelle Obama, who dances and wears classy clothes, just turned 50. She told Parade magazine, “I have never felt more confident in myself, more clear on who I am as a woman.”

Personally, this has been true for me. I wouldn’t go back to my 20s with all its insecurities and angst if you paid me a million dollars. I finally know what makes me happy – what I want personally, spiritually, and professionally and how to get it.

“A seasoned woman is spicy,” writes Gail Sheehy, the over-50 author of Passages and founder of the Seasoned Women’s Network online. “She has been marinated in life experience. She is at the peak of her influence and power. She is committed to living fully and passionately in the second half of life, despite failures and false starts.”

I agree with Gail. We are seasoned, sassy, and spicy. Most of us are still physically strong at this age and ready to tackle new challenges. As an extra perk, it turns out we are smarter. Older folks performed better on four of six cognitive tests compared to when they were younger, according to the Seattle Longitudinal Study, which tracked the brain function of adults over the past 50 years. We’re also a lot better at abstract and spatial reasoning, verbal acumen, and even simple math, the study found. Maybe all that brain power is why mature women seem to control a lot of wealth in the U.S., with those age 50 and older controlling net worth of some $19 trillion.

In fact, more people over 50 are taking on “encore” careers, reinventing themselves in professions that follow their passions. Nonprofit group Encore.org, dedicated to helping professionals find their “second act,” notes that as many as 9 million people age 44 to 70 are getting paid for work that combines their personal passion with a social purpose.

Although a 2012 AARP study showed there is a U-shaped happiness curve with the early 50s as the lowest point of well-being, that’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why not embrace our age? That’s what I’m learning to do as I try to stay healthy and continue to try and learn new things – like blogging, paddle boarding, and zip lining.

There’s no reason to dread turning 60 either. Research shows that the oldest Americans (age 65 and up) are the happiest. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that in general we feel happier as we age.

So to those of you who are part of the over-50 crowd like me – let’s celebrate the fact that we’re alive and vibrant. Rejoice that we’re still young enough to live life to its fullest. Sure, we face problems and issues that are part of growing older, but the alternative is much, much worse. We should all be grateful that we get to be in our 50’s. Let’s not forget, not everyone gets that honor and privilege.

So if that big birthday is coming up, don’t be like me and mourn the fact that we’re getting older. Instead, go out there and make your fifties rock!

Happiness as a Writer

Image courtesy of Feelart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Image courtesy of Feelart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.ne

Don’t get me wrong. As a professional writer, I am eternally grateful to make a living from what I love to do best.

However, following your passion certainly has its ups and downs. There’s the financial challenge of earning a living, the constant deadlines, the inevitable rejections, and the isolation.

 

Famous writers have explained the torture well:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” —George Orwell

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” —Robert Benchley

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” —Harper Lee

All true. Writing is one heck of a rollercoaster ride!

Twenty years ago, I decided to jump into writing full-time after having several articles published in magazines. Let’s just say, it didn’t go so well. Writing as a hobby was different; it was a thrill just to see my byline. But as a business, writing was super frustrating. Editors didn’t answer my queries. Smaller magazines paid on publication, not acceptance, which often meant waiting months or even a year for payment. A few editors held articles for possible publication for months then sent a standard rejection letter.

By jumping the gun too soon, I was forced to temp as a receptionist at a hotel chain to make ends meet – a job I absolutely detested. Some days were spent crying in frustration and I swore off writing – not for the first or last time.

Many years later, I was finally able to write full-time, but the highs and lows continued. For instance, when an agent agreed to represent my first YA novel – oh, what a high that was! I was dancing on tables. But when the book didn’t sell and my agent dumped me, my self confidence and emotions took a dive. Later, I received three journalism awards and had a book I co-wrote published by McGraw Hill. I was on top of the world! Then my second novel was rejected by agents and publishers sending me crashing to the ground.

You get the picture.

So how do you stay happy through the crazy ups and downs if you want to be a writer?

Here are a few tips:

  • As I learned the hard way, don’t quit your daytime job before you have a steady income. By the way, most writers have a source of back-up income or a part- or full-time job so they can live out their dream.
  • If you want to write full-time, come up with a plan of action. List your monthly and yearly goals. It’s great to have a passion and a dream, but if you don’t have a plan in place, it won’t become a reality. Be prepared. Becoming a professional writer takes time, effort, patience, perseverance, and sheer determination.
  • Talk to your partner. You are going to need his or her support. Be honest and realistic. Have a time-frame for meeting your goals. If it takes longer than anticipated, and there’s an excellent chance it will, have a good backup plan.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In other words, don’t make your whole world about writing and publishing or you will go completely bonkers. Have a well-balanced life that includes time for your spirituality, your loved ones, and other interests.
  • Writing should be a satisfying experience on its own. Getting into print is just a bonus. Don’t live and die by whether you get published or not. As Allen Ginsberg said, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” Simply writing in a journal can be rewarding as I wrote in my blog. Or expressing yourself through poetry is a wonderful creative outlet.  Financial success is not the measure of your success as a writer.

If you are truly meant to be a writer, you won’t give up or allow all the many setbacks to discourage you to the point of quitting. Use the tips above to retain your joy and enjoy the journey.

If you’d like more advice on becoming a writer, you can check out a recent guest blog I wrote on how to get published on Editing Addict. Or if you’re interested in writing in retirement, take a look at an article I wrote for Retirement and Good Living.

Ray Bradbury, who I was privileged to hear speak at a writer’s conference years ago, always had the best advice. I’ll end this article with one of his great quotes:

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”

Finding and Following Your Passion

2767-Playa nudista de Combouzas en Arteixo (Coruña)
Finding the Path to Your Passionjl.cernadas / Foter / CC BY

The research is clear: People are most effective when they’re doing what they love. We are happier, experience greater emotional well-being, and enrich the lives of others when we find our passion and live our lives to the fullest.

Finding your passion means different things to different people. For me, I am very passionate about my faith, my family, and my work – in that order. I’m also passionate about reading, learning, traveling, and sailing.

As far as my work, I’m one of those fortunate people that discovered my passion for writing while I was a teen. In my 20s, I began taking writing classes at the local college and took my first step toward fulfilling a secret dream. Be warned, it was a very long time before I could make a living from writing, but I can testify that it’s absolutely fabulous to have a job doing what you love.

Perhaps you’ve already found your passions as well. But if that’s not the case, you’re not alone. It’s never too late to find your passions – whether that means following a spiritual path, finding a more fulfilling job, or discovering a new hobby or activity to escape the stresses of life.

Although following your passion isn’t always easy, figuring out what your passion is can be even more elusive. Here are a few tips to get you started down the path of discovery:

  • Think about the most meaningful experiences in your life when you felt the greatest personal satisfaction, contentment, and most importantly, when you made a difference. Passion is only lasting and fulfilling when it’s connected to a larger purpose.
  • Examine what interests you. What excites you and brings you joy? What did you love to do as a child? What makes you lose track of time? What blogs do you follow? What kind of books and magazines do you read? What do you research on the Internet?
  • Also consider your skills. Have you always been a good gardener, cook, parent, writer, builder, organizer, teacher, or seller? Do you excel at coming up with unique ideas or connecting with people? The answers to these questions may give you a clue to finding a more satisfying career, since – as I wrote about in my blog, “Why Boomers Can Be Positive About Working Longer,“  – most of us boomers can expect to work into old age.
  • Brainstorm. Let your mind wonder and write down whatever comes to mind. Look at your bookshelf, on your computer, or around your house for inspiration. Or better yet, take a large poster board and create a collage of sayings, articles, poems, photos, and whatever else you find inspiring. Don’t limit yourself. There are no bad ideas; you can narrow down choices later. As your board evolves, you’ll find it becomes more focused.

Finding your true passion will require reflection, soul-searching, and experimentation. If you choose to make a career from your passion, you must leave all of your doubts and fears behind. You’ll need courage commitment, patience, and persistence.

I do have one word of caution: don’t quit your day job right away. When I was starting out, I naively decided to write full-time after several of my articles and short stories were published. That was a big mistake. Be patient and remember that making a living by doing what you love may take a while. However, if you’re enjoying yourself, the time will pass quickly.

Of course, you don’t have to combine your financial income with your passion. They can be separate entities, fulfilling by their own means. A passion is not only valuable when it is validated by money or employment. Doing what you love is worthwhile just for the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction it brings. Following your passion doesn’t necessarily mean changing careers either; you can cultivate passion for your current job as well.

One more final thought on this subject. Be balanced, people. I’m here to say that if following your passion means giving up your spirituality, your values, or sacrificing your marriage and family to reach your goals, please reconsider. Don’t have an irresponsible view of following your passion no matter what. In fact, dropping everything to follow your passion can have disastrous results.

So those are my thoughts on finding your passion. Drop me a line and give me your thoughts. What are you passionate about?