A Crabby Old Lady Complains (Again)
A Question Only Elders Can Answer

Elder Writers

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Kay Dennison of Kay's Thinking Cap has joined the Quarterstaff Revolution by sending in her photo. Will you be next?]

Early on, when Time Goes By was new, I visited each link on the Elderbloggers List at least two or three times a week and often every day. The list has more than 300 links now and that frequency hasn’t been possible for a long time.

Having been remiss in my blog reading for too long, yesterday I started at the top and went through one-by-one catching up with at least the posts that were on the home page. I didn’t get farther than the beginning of the Ds (who knew so many blog names start with A). I’ll continue a few every day now and then try to do this tour more often, but let me tell you about what I found out with this concentrated blog reading all in one swoop:

Elderbloggers are consistently good writers on an amazing range of topics.

Whether tackling the intricacies of the economy, politics and healthcare or reporting on the progress of gardens and grandchildren, discussing books and movies or passing on interesting news stories, local events and trivia, recounting travel adventures and even diets or having a good rant, the elders on this list know the art of storytelling.

The quality of the writing is remarkable which, of course, makes any story – even when you think the topic is not of personal interest – compelling, and I wondered, as I was reading, how this came to be. Few elderbloggers are professional writers.

In my case, I have always written stories. I wrote my first “book” when I was five or six. I have always “studied” writers I admire as I am reading to learn more about how to do it well, marking sentences, paragraphs and passages that “sing” in their various ways.

It is thrilling when I feel I have done that – which is less often than I would like and I am excruciatingly aware of it when I fail. There is no counting the number of blog posts here I would like to permanently delete and most are no more than adequate.

But when the writing is going well, when my awareness of self is lost in the flow of words, when there seems to be no physical presence of hands and keyboard between my mind and the appearance of words on the page – that may be my greatest pleasure in life.

It hardly ever works that way, but I suspect one reason I keep turning out this blog and other writing is the promise of finding that “flow” now and then.

Another reason was explained to me years ago when I first ran across this quote from E.M. Forster: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say.” It happens all the time that my thoughts are a jumble and I work out clarity by writing, which often leads somewhere entirely different from where I started. Like right now – these last five paragraphs were not on my agenda for this post when I began.

So to turn this back around to where I started - the quality of elder writing: as I was reading that bunch of blogs yesterday, I found myself wondering how you (and non-bloggers who contribute to The Elder Storytelling Place) approach the writing of your blogs.

What compels you to do it? Have you always written, whatever else you do with your life? What satisfactions do you get from writing? How seriously do you take the craft of writing? And…

How did you get to be so good at it? There is an abundance of bad writing online, and in the world at large (even from people who get paid to do it), but not generally on elderblogs.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Gloria MacKay explains how she grew into a now deeply-held interest that bored her in childhood, in Over and Under.]


OK, Ronni, I'll be the first to take up your query. I came to writing through the back door. I was a college professor and was asked to become a textbook author. I found that I liked writing and have continued into my retirement.

Recently I have begun to write short memory pieces just to give them form on the page. I found a number of high school classmates and together we have started a blog about our growing up in rural southern Kansas (http://cedarvalememories.blogspot.com).

I started the "having fun" blog when my short jottings moved beyond my early years and when I wanted to make political comments, which I purposefully excluded from the Cedar Vale blog.

Now I write nearly every day for one blog or the other, and . . . I'm having a LOT of fun!

I don't flatter myself that mine is one of the blogs you enjoy or find well-written but I came to enjoy writing when a schoolgirl. I wasn't much good at anything but English Language & Lit. and got most praise for my essays, so that gave me confidence.

I'm often amazed on reading back stuff I wrote years ago and say to myself "gosh, I wrote that". I realise that I must have been in the flow.

I love words - am hopeless with numbers - so I'll keep on plugging away in my journal, in my PC rants and musings and on my gardening blog, even if there are no readers.

Like many who visit TGB and others, I marvel at well written prose. I also admire your "so-in-your skin" writing - it's so inclusive. Many thanks.

I've always loved reading and I thought I wanted to be an author. I have finished one children's book which I then just didn't get around to sending to the editor I met who wanted to see it. It has occured to me that maybe I didn't want to be an author, I mean that the business of writing didn't appeal to me, after meeting some hard working authors. I figure that anonymity is something you can't get back after you've lost it. However, I do write constantly, video scripts, jingles, press releases for my animal welfare group, emails, and stories on Caturday. I have written and produced or seen others produce five full length children's musicals and a few short ones. And I have contemplated finishing those children's books. But my blog is just something I enjoy and gives me world wide friends who love cats. It's like writing letters to friends.

My love affair with the written word began when they taught me to write in school. I think it was an inherited trait as my dad wrote beautiful poetry and could recite reams of the classics from the days when teachers assigned it as can I.

I'm half surprised that I kept writing because my mother always read my diaries and ridiculed them but I kept writing anyway.

I've just always been compelled to write and blogging fills that compulsion. There's just something about recording my thoughts that gives me satisfaction. And yeah, when the "flow" hits, it's pure heaven.

You didn’t get to the ‘N’s yet, so I know you’re not accusing ME of good writing. Ha! I’m happy to report, though, that you DO find the flow more often than not, Ronni. That’s a big reason we keep comin’ back for more. :)

I’m a big introvert and I’ve always been far more comfortable WRITING than TALKING. As an introvert, I don’t have many close friends (my choice) so not many outlets for expressing myself. I think that’s the attraction of blogging for me. Let’s face it – it’s an introvert’s dream! I put it out there and don’t have to worry much about having a relationship. Sounds awful when I say it like that…

I have always written, but not a lot. When I DO write, people often say I should write more. I guess I should study it, but have always been a terrible studier, if that’s a word. So, you won’t find anything overly intelligent in my writing. :) Just me… writing the way I talk, I reckon.

My first 'memoir' was when I could barely write and there's been no stop since then. I have written 8 contemporary romantic manuscripts, 3 historic romances and one supernatural one all from 80,000 to 140,000 words give or take a few. I love writing stories and creating characters but have yet to find a publisher who felt the same way. It doesn't take away from my enjoyment of doing it.

For me reading has been like you with stories of authors or creative people at the top of the pile and memoirs by anybody right next; so it's logical I'd have enjoyed reading blogs as soon as I found them. They really are like the memoirs I began reading in college except no publisher refines them or decides what isn't good enough. That is purely up to the reader and I love that aspect of it.

Back in the days when letters were handwritten, I kept up a large correspondence with the young men who were fighting in WWII and I took pride in writing well. My relationships were always better on paper than in person. I was prone to get tongue tied face to face and writing allowed me to say what I really wanted to express.

I think the love of writing starts with the love of reading. From the first time I saw a word on paper I was, and am, an omnivorous reader.

I have completely forgotten how to diagram a sentence and my punctuation suffers now from memory loss, but I do love to rant and it's fun to see the words appear as I think them.

Hey Ronni of tv fame! That Forster quote is one of my favorites, and I used it often to explain a verbal learning style, which often drives introverted types cuck-oo. Since it's my style, that was easy to illustrate!

I think I love blogging because after 27 years in the classroom and counseling office, I miss the people interactions, and it's such a joy to get a comment from someone and make a new friend over time.

While of course there are merry male bloggers, I think the Internet, and esp. blogging, are very feminine activities: we share feelings, connections, intimate details and the ironic humor of middle-aging, plus. And even if we're not profs, or photographers, I get praise for my pictures and love sharing them, too.

One's greatest pleasure would be a thread to pursue, too. I guess my favorite flow moment comes when I have assembled 25+ folks for a potluck...everyone's eating, laughing, chatting, drinking, bbq-ing, and catching up. I used to have large parties when I was the international student advisor, and we'd have 100 students crowded in our home, playing games, learning about American culture from all the Americans I could hornswaggle into coming. Guess that contributes to my Meyers-Briggs style being a true ENFP. Thanks for stimulating us once again! Cheerios, ~Kathi

I have always been a reader, but I started writing too as a means to see what I think and also to work out patterns in my life that seemed to be meaningful. When I went on the road with my husband four years ago with his business, blogging seemed like a great way to inform my friends and family what I was doing and what I was experiencing as we traveled around S.E. Asia. After that, when I decided I was not happy being a housewife, I started making my hobby my job and blogging about the journey helped make me be accountable to myself. I started thinking about my day in more meaningful way, made decisions to do things that might be blog worthy and lo and behold...my life was enriched by leaps and bounds. The friendships I have made via blogging jump started us in our new home in Chattanooga...it is a gift to be able to 'self publish'...and when I meet people face to face after reading their posts and vice versa, a lot of time is not wasted on chit-chat...we already know each other via our writing!!! Great post, as usual...

As you know, Ronni, I don't have a blog but love to send stories to your Elder Storytelling Site.

There is a saying that tells us that "When an old person dies it's as if the library burned down."

It's true,I can no longer ask my Mom what Mrs. Brown's maiden name was or who the lady was that Uncle Charlie used to bring to the house when I was a kid. All that information and lore died with my Mother.

Now I am an old lady and my children are always asking me questions like that so I decided I would write all the stories I could remember about my childhood and their childhood.

I have them all typed up and in plastic sleeves in two identical loose leaf books. Not very high tech but when one of the kids asks me about the time we went to Sandusky or what happened to Steve at the May Procession, I can tell them," It's in the book."

After I put them in the book I send them to you, Ronni,and you very kindly publish them on the Elder Storytelling site. Many people read and comment on them and that is the icing on the cake for me.

Where else would I have that kind of readership for my stories? So, I thank you for the time and energy you expend on our behalf. Without your site we would have no outlet at all for our writing. Thank you!

Like Kay above I started to keep a journal/diary when I was just barely in my teens. That stopped when my brother found it and made a very humiliating fuss over it. About 15 years ago I began to journal again sporadically. But I am still shy about it thanks to my early experience. I have spent most of my life in and out of academic programs and, therefore, written several projects each year for whatever classes I was taking. A couple of years ago I started blog hopping, as I call it. Sometimes going from blog to blog I stopped and commented. Almost a year ago I took the plunge and put up my own blog. It is nice to be able to vent and push back when something pushes buttons and it is equally nice to crow a bit when you have projects that turned out well.

I learned to read early in life, and have never stopped. I used to tell stories to myself in an effort to make sense of my crazy world, and spent time in high school rewriting Bible stories as news broadcasts.

Later still, I filled notebooks with drivel. I started a blog to distract myself from the distress of quitting smoking.

I've gained 40 lbs and a lot of satisfaction.

I started writing poetry as a boy, and always received good grades on stories I wrote for school assignments. I'm lazy though. I tend to wait for "inspiration" when writing my blog and fill in the gaps with family pictures and news.

Webster's - Amateur, person who does something for pleasure, person who is not an expert.
Guess that is me when it comes to my blog.
When I was young I had a diary.
As time went on always a journal.
Seems I am always reading or writing and now have added blogging.
Would write happy things, sad things, just anything that I felt I wanted to write about.
I agree with Darlene that the love of the written word starts with the love of reading.
I have always love to read and people comment about all the books in every room. Books on every subject. I love my books.
I have told my children that when my last days arrive - pile all of my beloved books around me.
My blog started as just something to record my continued life journey.
It has been a challenge to learn the process and I really do not care if anyone reads my entries.
My daughter who is a writer and editor probably questions that mom just writes as I think my words.
All of my children are gifted writers. Guess mom passed the love of the written word on to them.

Good writers are 'trained', great writers are born.

The same is true of artists, musicians and composers.

Sigh... I have always been an A- musician, trained from the age of 5... prize winning on a small scale, but never good enough to even remotely qualify for that trip to Dallas...

I have always loved writing. My dad was a published writer, although his native tongue was not English. My mom was a writer/editor. They had several friends who were famous writers. Writing was encouraged when I was a child. My brother became a reporter and makes a living from his writing.

Blogging is such fun, like taking a quick outdoor shower. It is so much easier to blog than to write a book or a magazine article. I guess blogging comes naturally to me. I was very sad when I ended the blog about homecaring my elderly mom. With the help of a "writing consultant," I turned the blog into a book. After contacting 200 agents, I have decided to give up the search and will now contact publishers about my narrative non-fiction manuscript. I have also a novel, waiting in the wings, and a play. I am currently writing another novel based on the same true story as my play.

I worked as editorial assistant to two well-known writers so had the opportunity to see the business up close. I realize how difficult it is to be successful as a writer, but I can't help feeling writing is what I must do. Although I have had great success as an innkeeper, I will not feel fulfilled until the worth of my writing is acknowledged through book sales or good reviews. I know that sounds silly. Can't help it. Anyway, thanks for asking.

I started writing in the first grade and haven't stopped. Putting words together with grace and precision has always been a great source of enjoyment to me. I make no claims to being a professional-level writer, but I do try my best.

Due to the nature of my blog writing, I seldom get into "the flow" for it. I do regularly in my journal. I have kept a journal continuously since my early teens, and was writing in it when I wasn't writing elsewhere. I am an omnivorous reader, though that's slowed down due to the difficulties I have reading these days.

I have a blog as a way of giving back to all the people who have helped me over the years. I hope to provide the kind of information I wanted and needed during my own health adventures of the past decades.

As much as I'd like to publish a rant or a personal piece here and there, the narrow focus of the blog keeps me from doing it. I have been thinking about establishing another blog just for my bloviations.

Over the years I have written six books, all technical writing where clarity and logic are of the utmost importance. My blog is technical writing of a sort; I am trying to impart new concepts in a clear, understandable and jargon-free way.

As I am writing I am continually trying to make the text as focused and succinct as possible. One great bit of advice I received was to read my posts out loud to see if they make sense. Doing so has prevented many an awkward turn of words from reaching the public ear!

Ronni asks, "How did you get to be so good at it?" Well, I'll let others say whether my writing is good or not; I view it as competent. If I have any "secrets," it's lots of reading, lots of writing, and always keeping the reader in mind.

When I was 32 years old, trapped in an unhappy marriage, with bills piling up, and the desire to find a job that would allow me to be at home during the day with my four children, I became a writer. A friend of a friend had a job as a town correspondent for a metropolitan newspaper, covering local meetings and events. She had an advanced English degree, two children, and was totally overwhelmed. She suggested that I apply for her job because she was leaving. So, armed with my high school diploma and total lack of experience, I applied. The chief editor told me that he wanted someone who could get along with town officials and that they would train me to write “pyramid” style. Looking back, I think that “womanizer man” hired me because he thought I was cute. The evening staff was wonderful – young, bright, college educated, fun loving, and dedicated. They were very generous with their help and suggestions and I quickly learned how to write concise, accurate reports. For six years, I wrote three columns a week, staying up half the night to do so. What an experience – I loved it! Before this job, I didn’t write. I was, however, always an avid reader, good listener and keen observer. In my old age, I finally got to go to college. In my 60s, I enrolled as an English major at a state university where, at that time, tuition and fees were free for senior citizens. I took courses after working all day as an administrative assistant. I passed all my writing requirements and “aced” my classes. As an older person, I contributed to the diversity of the classes. I accumulated two years of college credits. I didn’t graduate because the university started charging fees for seniors and also I was having difficulty walking. Going to college was another confidence building experience for me. Today, I don’t do any “serious” writing but am writing a family memoir to pass on to my grandchildren.

I have been a reader since I learned how. i loved to be read to before I could read on my own. However writing is problematic. Aside from work I rarely wrote anything. In the early 90's I was elected President of my congregation. I started a column for the church newsletter. I wrote a column every 2 weeks for 3 years. Writing on a computer has unleashed my writing.

I started blogging to keep friends informed about our travels and now that we have settled down I am writing more about the trials of being a caregiver. I want to have a broader focus. I feel I am in transition with my blog.

Whew! I thought I'd never get to the end of the comments.
I enjoyed writing in school, although I never thought I'd be doing it long after. Until I started blogging, the extent of my writing was business letters and proposals. Blogging has given me the outlet I needed, and I can write as little of as much as I want. It's a perfect world. It also allows me to read those others who are better writers than I!

Wow, reading the comments was really interesting. I can't remember when I didn't write. Won a creative writing contest around junior high age and I was hooked. After my youngest was born, I started writing book length fiction. All these years later, I still write fiction and I blog. Everyday. It's just a part of the person who I am now.

This subject is one of the most interesting you have ever written about and one which prompted excellent comments.

I have always been an avid reader and as was mentioned up thread I am a news junkie and a political junkie also. I read two newspapers a day, sometimes three if I get around to the Wall Street Journal. After so many years my partiality to the print editions seems to be an ingrained preference

I read several news/politics blogs online, Daily Kos being one of them. Of course I read many Elder Blogs on line also.

I have at least one novel going at a time. I just finished "The House At Riverton" by Kate Morton.

From Barnes and Noble: A Synopsis:

"In 1999, when Grace is ninety-eight years old and living out her last days in a nursing home, she is visited by a young director who is making a film about the events of that summer. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth during the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant twenties, and the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever."

Libraries are my passion. Just being surrounded by all those books; browsing and accidently happening upon just the right book, is a treat. Also our neighborhood branch library has a monthly book sale. People donate books and on Saturday's the sale features a $6 bag books. All the books you can stuff in a plastic grocery bag for $6. Usually I end up with about 10 books to bring home and read. When I am finished I re-donate so the books can be sold again.

I have written stories and poems as far back as I can remember. In college I was a Journalism/English major. Words have always been my friend and numbers and math my antagonist. I don't even attempt to balance my checkbook so it is fortunate I am married to a CPA who is good with numbers.

It seems natural that I find deep relaxation in writing, reading and blogging. My writing does not flow as freely as it did when I was younger but I keep at it with the realization, at age 78, I am not aiming for perfection.

I just write what the voices in my head tell me to write... ;^)

I have boxes of old notebooks - I started writing diaries when I was around 13 and they have been a part of my life ever since. As you say, it's a question of sorting out the jumble of thoughts. I tried writing "as a career" a couple of times and failed - I got bored writing copy and translating ended up feeling soul destroying. I find it very difficult to write about subject X on demand - I need room to wriggle. Magazine feature writing suited me much more (pick a subject, pitch it, sell it) but I never made enough money to live off the proceeds.

I love the internet because I can write on different subjects and different styles and voices. I still have my private notebook (along with my backspace notebook and two scribble notebooks) but the ability to connect directly with a readership has greatly increased my output.

Count me in as another childhood journal keeper. I began keeping journals at age ten. What will ever be done with my many, many reflections of my life?

Reading is the first step to writing. If you don't love to read, how could you love to write?

Good writing, like good art, depends on the audience. First YOU must like what you create then you hope to find a larger audience that will also approve.

A high school English teacher complimented my poetry and at that moment, poetry became a great endeavor for me. First I sought out publication and after years of trying, managed to win a contest with a prize of $15.00. A few more successful publishing events occured with no reward other than seeing my work in print. Then I decided it would be better to market directly to people who wanted my work by creating a custom, descriptive poetry business, selling direct and finding that much more lucrative.

Blogging satisfies my writing desire to a great degree because I am both writer and audience and I meet other writers at the same time.

There is more for me to do and some how I will find what it is

I've always been a hungry reader, at least until a few years ago. But not much of a writer and am also getting more and more lazy. It's a good thing that there are so many good blogs to be read though. I enjoy reading those -- and yours. ;)

I have been obsessed with words as both reader and writer all my life--my primary "writing" now consists of my three to five pages every day of "journal entry." This is the love affair that lasted!

My blog started off as a knitting blog, but found that there were many other parts and aspects of my life I wanted to write about. However, an extra dimension of it that I did not expect happened. Folks started reading my blog and I started reading others' blogs. Some of what I write about is because someone has jarred my memory about something, while other things are just quotidian in nature. My children have mentioned that they find out more about me in my writing - and some of their peers have started reading my blog and I have done the same.

I'm impressed by all of you who love to write and blog and the writing in the comments is A+. I wish I could read all but sitting at the computer is hard on my back and eyes.
I'm much more comfortable sprawled out on the couch with my feet up and a book perched on my stomach. My writing addiction is poetry.

Ronni, were you always a letter writer? I never liked Englissh class but I have recently discovered thata I was a prolific letter writer. Discovering that I love writing my blog is a wonderful new surprise.

Whew! I feel like I've just read a book but I DID get through all those comments and the post that inspired them. Why do I write? I think it's because it's the only thing I do that--when as you say I "get into the flow"--transports me out of myself and I'm completely unaware of anything else around me except the words that I'm sculpting on the monitor. Every piece I write doesn't do it for you, but like you say, it's a great feeling when it happens. How did I get "good" at it? I found I learned more and became a writer when I began teaching others what I had learned over the years. That's when I began to think that yes, maybe I could call myself a writer after all.

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