Everyone Is A Writer

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I don’t care what your middle school teacher told you. If you have lived a life, you can write.

Life, with all of its joys and heartaches, allows us the ability to tell a story about our experiences.  Writing it down is not only cathartic, but helpful to so many friends and strangers.

Several years ago, I spoke in front of 500 women at a charity event. It was a few days shy of Mother’s Day, a holiday that has been a complicated one for me. I grappled with the idea of my own mother’s lack of love on one hand, and my joy and pride at being Mom to two of the most amazing humans on the planet on the other.

“Life is not a Hallmark holiday for many of us,” is how my speech began. I addressed the difficulty of celebrating this day — loss, tangled relationships, adoption, childless — and how one simple card cannot capture what many of us go through. A woman came up to me after my speech with tears and thanked me for articulating what she was feeling . I can only hope that she was one of many in that room who realized that they were not alone.

It is not about the syntax, or the feeling that you are not as good as John Irving or Judy Blume, it is simply about how story has unfolded.  When Stacy and I began Living The Second Act a year ago, we wanted to reach women (and men because they have stories too) in their second acts, a time when people think about what comes next in their 40s and 50s . Is it a new job? A late- in-life marriage? Kids leaving the nest? Parents becoming elderly? We chose to focus on things that felt important to people our age.

What we found, however, is that our readers can’t get enough of the truth.. A sober mother, a widow navigating life with three kids, a divorced mom or dad dating again, the loss of a parent, aging — these are the things that garner the attention of our population. Women in their second acts relate to the truth about life because we all are living it.  Life in this stage is messy and gorgeous. Writing about what is real and what is hard is liberating.

I cannot tell you how many women I see posting snippets of their life struggles on Facebook and Instagram. I often approach these friends and acquaintances about telling their whole story in Living The Second Act.

The initial reaction is always a bit of shock, followed by, “I am not a writer.” Here is where I push because I believe that we all have the writer gene within us, we all have stories to tell. We just need to muster the courage to tell our tales to the world.  What if you knew that your story would actually help someone else in need? That your words would actually make a difference? Would it propel you to write down how you are feeling about a certain situation? Never let punctuation or grammar get in the way (leave that up to the editors) and just put the pen to the paper.

Even though LTSA is still in growth mode, we are mighty.  Both Stacy and I have experienced the “being stopped at the grocery store” moments where people come up to us and tell us how much they love reading our magazine because they can relate to the stories. The real stories. It was very hard for me to write about all that went down with my family and even harder for Stacy to write about her widowhood journey, but something inside each of us was calling so we answered the call through words.

I would like everyone who is reading this to perform an exercise. Pick a sticky topic in your life, one that makes you uncomfortable.

Place the topic on the top of a page. Then start a stream of consciousness below where you get it all out — the highs and lows, the joy and sadness. Write things you would never say aloud, not even to you spouse, best friend or sibling. Don’t worry about how it reads.  Write about your fears and struggles with this topic. Write all of it, page after page, line after line.  Put it away and revisit it the next day.

It may be a jumble of thoughts and emotions, but it belongs to you. Did you find hope or resolution? How did it make you feel to write it? Add those thoughts too. Make a few changes, take out things that you feel won’t help you or others and send it to us at editor@livingthesecondact.com.

Remember you did the hard part by putting it all down on paper. Stacy and I will do the rest by editing and publishing your masterpiece. Everyone has a worthwhile story. Tell yours today.

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