On Writing…My Encore Career

I took one of those online quizzes (ever so accurate) that asked, “What career were you meant for” and guess what? I got writer. That confirms the choice I made to start blogging shortly after I retired from a long career in early childhood education. I was meant to be a writer all along. I just had to discover that this was the right door for my encore career.

Laurie toon - which door

Cartoon by Marcia Liss

My father would have been excited to see my blog posts, as he told me years after I had become an educator that I should have been a journalist. It was a bit late to make that change, and I don’t regret one minute of the years I spent in education. But sometimes I feel a bit wistful that he never had the chance to see that, at age 68, I finally followed his advice.

I have always loved to write. When I was young, I kept a diary. At the time, I fantasized my ideas were significant and insightful.  But a year later, what I had written was mostly about crushes I had on guys and other typical pre-teen angst.

As an English major, I wrote tons of essays. I could always fill a blue book cover to cover during any exam. As a high school English teacher, I believed my students needed to write at least one essay per week as well as keep a journal. No doubt many of them resented this, but I was determined to teach how to write that coherent 5-paragraph essay that was essential to success back then.

During the years I stayed home raising young kids, my love of writing was confined to teaching them to write well and editing their PTA school newsletters. It was not until I became a preschool director that I began to enjoy writing again by publishing my own newsletter, creating teacher-training materials, writing handbooks and essays for parents, and applying for grants.

The computer and word processing played a huge role in rediscovering the joy of writing. I could easily revise and no longer had to worry about my nemesis, spelling. The more I wrote, the quicker I got at getting those first drafts down and polishing them.

My method may not work for everyone, but here it is:

  • Get your thoughts down quickly without worrying about how well they are written.
  • Write the whole piece and then reread and revise.
  • Never publish anything the same day you write it. Things always look different the next day.
  • Don’t be afraid to show your writing to someone you trust for a second opinion.
  • Forgive yourself if what you wrote is not as great as you had hoped and move on to the next piece.

Over the years, I have developed some strange habits. I write down every crazy idea that comes into my head. I have a notebook, but my desk is also covered with post-its of what I call my “shower ideas.” That’s where I seem to do my best thinking. Also, I have a quirky habit of writing very early in the morning. It started when my kids were young and I was trying to write my Master’s thesis before they got up and my day spun out of control. I still do my best writing between 5:00-7:00 am.

When I first started blogging at the end of September 2013, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was newly retired and a former English major who had written many articles in my career as a preschool director. I had so many opinions about so many things. Why not share them.

It turned out that blogging was a bit of a different animal than the writing I had done for most of my life. I always wrote long – long sentences, long paragraphs, long essays that often required changing the font, margins, and spacing to make everything fit. My encore career called for a totally different style of writing. As I quickly learned, no one wants to read more than 800 words, and 500 are even better.

So here I am today, still advocating and no longer feeling useless in my retirement. My love of writing opened the perfect door for me. The late Fred Rogers, one of my personal heroes and the wise and gentle guide through Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, said it best:

Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

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