Al Winslow’s article “The Art of Aging” (Daily Planet, Dec. 10, 2008) inspired me to add my two cents to this important issue.
I am 92 years old and am still enjoying life in spite of hearing loss, vision loss, and lower back pain. I live alone and take pretty good care of myself, although having a devoted daughter living upstairs in her own place is a tremendous asset.
What is the secret of my contentment? I would say it is because I keep my creative juices flowing. All my life I have loved to write and now that I am retired, I have the time to indulge this hobby. For the last 15 years I have belonged to writing groups with titles like “Life Stories.” While attending the weekly group led by George Porter at the Jewish Community Center, I regularly submitted articles based on true incidents in my life. As they accumulated, I realized they were mostly based on turning points in my life. And when arranged chronologically they would make an interesting full-length memoir. And I owed such a book to my children and grandchildren who knew little of my life before they came into it.
Alan, my son-on-law, a highly qualified computer person, thought it was a splendid idea, but expressed dismay when I announced I would publish it myself. As we both knew, my computer technique was nowhere as advanced as his, so he suggested I hire a professional to do the job. I resisted his advice, and in my own stubborn way felt I could handle it—maybe not as well or as fast as a pro—but that was okay. I had no deadline to meet.
Actually, I looked forward to publishing it myself, just to prove to him that I could do it, despite the fact that I was not as proficient at the computer as he was. But I could learn from my mistakes, couldn’t I? And I could always phone him for help if I needed it.
At one point I took him to meet Kish, the owner of the copy shop who would print 50 copies for me. They talked about my submitting the manuscript on a disk, and Kish would do the rest, whatever that was. All this talk was above my head, but I said nothing. My plan was to do an old-fashioned paste-up of my manuscript, number of pages, design the cover and name it “Turning Points”—all in camera-ready format, the way I knew best.
Well, it took me a month or two but I finally had my paste-up ready for Kish’s copy machines.
I was very proud of the results, and even Alan was surprised the paperback books turned out so well. I mailed copies to friends and relatives who for the most part praised my effort. No surprise there!
I also sent one to William Zinsser, whose classic book, “On Writing Well,” had been my Bible in learning more about the art and craft of writing. He too praised it highly and suggested I give copies to certain libraries, which I did. Two copies are now in the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library. And I may have the distinction of being one of the oldest authors on their shelves. I was 90 years old when I published it. And if I can do it, other oldsters surely can.