Many mornings, after I have spent a couple of hours at my computer and have finished my shower and breakfast, I check my e-mails one more time for a response to an e-mail I sent the night before.
I mutter: “Why hasn’t he/she gotten back to me?”
Then, I look at the clock at the bottom of the screen, and I realize it’s not 8 o’clock yet.
I blame this in part due to an old person’s tendency to go to bed early and get up early. Of course, it is also a fact of life in a desert, where mornings are the only part of the day not singed in heat.
But I think there’s something else going on here.
It’s called urgency.
A few months ago, I launched a small publishing company to help writers in Southern California get their novel, memoir, short story collection or poetry book finally published. While self-publishing has made it easy for nearly anyone to become a “published” author in a few (okay, a lot of) keystrokes, it is still an intimidating process for many of the writers I know, especially those like me over 60.
As a member of several writing groups in the Coachella Valley, I heard this more times than I can count: “I’ve written a —– (fill in the blank: book, novel, memoir, poetry collection), but I don’t know what to do next.”
There was niche to be filled: helping those writers make their publishing dream come true–and I’ve been happy to fill it.
The Urgency of Others
What I’ve discovered working with my new clients is something I hadn’t expected, though. Here’s what they’ve told me:
- “I need to get this done now. I’m not getting any younger.” Okay. That one I might have expected.
- “My editor says I need to rewrite this novel, but I don’t want to. I have too many books I need to write before I die.” That one was a bit surprising.
- “I’m so relieved that you’re helping me with this. I know that if something happens to me, you’ll finish it for me.” That one made me feel grateful for his confidence.
I believe this reflects the same urgency that gets me up early in the morning. There’s so much to do, so many things I still want to accomplish, that lying in bed in the morning is robbing myself of precious time.
One author who is not a client but who has become a friend told me that when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer 15 years ago, he’d been fooling around with a novel for years. Once he got the diagnosis, however, he finished the novel in three months and had a publisher in five months, and the book had been optioned for a film within the year. He’s gone on to write several more books. The cancer has been slower to act, thank goodness, and he’s still writing and leading critique groups ten years later.
You can point to the cost of health care and the financial insecurities wrought by the disastrous bank practices of the early 2000s as reasons why some people don’t retire. But I have seen that even those who do retire don’t quit working anymore. They finally find time to do that thing they’ve put off. For some it’s travel, or volunteer work, or building a complete brewpub in their basement. For some, it’s writing that book.
Publishing is gratifying
I started my little publishing company, Sunacumen Press, to help finance my own retirement. But I now see it as serving another purpose altogether: helping people get their book done and into print now.
And for me, the most gratifying thing that happens is once that first book is done, and my clients hold it in their hands and send it to their friends and relatives, they’re raring to go onto the next one. And it has nothing to do with fame, fortune or great reviews. It’s about finally finishing something they’ve thought about for a very long time. And having fun doing it.
I think that’s a good thing. We all need goals that wake us up in the morning and help us power through the slings and arrows and aches and pains of aging. If writing another book helps someone live longer and happier, what could be better than that?