My life plan was to continue teaching well into my 60s. I enjoyed working with children and never minded the hard work that went into my profession. Then my mother was battling cancer and I wanted to be by her side when she needed me. Her time was short here on earth but I still managed to be with her until the end by working around my teaching schedule.
After that sad event, I was flooded with thoughts of a change of heart about my life. In order to ease my grief, I kept writing and expressing myself every day. It was cathartic and freeing.
How did I want to spend my days? What was I waiting for? How much time did I have left?
I made plans to retire and write full time. Years before I had attended Columbia U Writing Institute to become a better writing teacher. Others seemed to be there to improve their writing. That was not my intent but it rubbed off on me. As I was writing every day along with my students, I aspired to improve the quality of the work like they did.
I went from the top of my game as a seasoned teacher to a fledgling writer who knew nothing of the profession. It was humbling, challenging and downright unnerving. I wanted to become a published author but had absolutely no idea how to achieve that goal. I took a few writing courses and subscribed to Poets and Writers to find places to submit my work. I received a flood of rejections and it hurt my ego every single time. All the same, I kept writing and submitting. In the early days, I might receive one acceptance a year, along with a sea of rejections. After I got over the initial shock of those rejections, I was determined to succeed.
I sent every submission by snail mail 11 years ago and later learned how to attach to an email. It was much easier and faster. Then I found several free writers’ newsletters that did much of the work of finding places for submissions and provided writing advice on everything from basic writing skills to marketing and promotional tips. My career took an upturn. I began to receive acceptances; some were paid and some were not but I was being published!
I can say with a smile that I have succeeded in becoming a published author after several years. I have two books published about the beautiful North Fork and am working on a third about a whaler. Several stories, articles, and poems have been published over the years and I currently have two chapters in an anthology on Writing After Retirement. It seems that many of us who have become writers as a second career have the same challenges. It is comforting to know and embrace that.
Read more of Rosemary McKinley’s works at dreamlady-rosemarymckinley.blogspot.com.