Old Dog, New… Whatever

This post isn’t about writing books, but it is about writing—a couple different kinds of writing, in fact.

That said, it has less to do with writing than it does with our willingness to adapt and change and never being afraid to chase our dreams.

When I was thirteen, I read my first “adult” book, which was serialized in a magazine, called SOMEBODY OWES ME MONEY by Donald Westlake. Reading that book, a comedy murder mystery about a cab driver named Chet who simply wants to collect his nine hundred dollar bet, only to find his bookie stabbed to death, was a revelation to me. And I can say with certainty that it is the reason I became a novelist.

But I wasn’t always a novelist. In fact, I didn’t even start writing my real first novel until I was in my late forties (a considerable distance from thirteen), although I had written and published a handful of short stories. Before that, I was a screenwriter, and not a particularly successful one at that. I won the Nicholl award with my first script and turned around and sold it to Showtime shortly thereafter, but it was the first and last movie script I sold and I wound up writing for animated shows like Spider-Man Unlimited.

All of that started when I was well into adulthood, at the age of thirty-five. Before that I had been struggling to make it as a musician, first as a performer—I suffered too much from stage fright to make that happen—and then as a songwriter. I came very close to selling a few songs, was often praised for my music, but never was able to quite get over the hump. And then I felt I was too old to make it in the biz, so I fell back on my second love, writing, and wrote that first script I mentioned above.

I’m now approaching sixy-one, and can happily say that I’ve become a semi-successful novelist who has made some decent money and even seen one of his books make it to the small screen. I’ve talked about that before, I’m sure, so I won’t bore you with it now.

But at nearly sixty-one, despite my “success,” I’ve found myself feeling unfulfilled by only writing novels, and the lifelong musician (and screenwriter) in me has been yearning to do something different. Something I’ve never done before, but have been thinking about for many, many years.

So for the past several months I’ve chased an old dream. What, you might ask is that?

I’ve written a musical.

Yes, that’s right. It’s an “intimate” musical called Cradle Song, centering around a fractured family that desperately needs to heal.

And I went crazy and not only wrote the “book” (play script), but also the music and lyrics for the thing.

I’m told that this isn’t often done by one person, but, hey, I’m always up for a challenge. So I did it and it’s done and I can go to my grave knowing that I have fulfilled at least part of a dream. The other part, of course, would be seeing the play get produced. But that’s pretty much out of my hands.

So why am I telling you this, you ask?

All of this rambling is merely my way of saying that no matter how old you are, you should never deny yourself of the chance to fulfill a dream. To turn in a different direction and fly.

And if you want to be a writer (or a singer or a painter or a fill-in-the-blank) at eighty-seven but have never gotten around to doing it, don’t for godsakes let your age stop you. Don’t let anything stop you.

The world is full of people who love to tell us no. “You can’t do that. You’re too old. Too young. Too white. Too black. Too fat. Too thin. Too female. Too…” whatever.

Don’t listen to them. If you have a passion, follow it. And don’t worry about the naysayers and the rules. Just do it, as they say in the TV commercial.

Nothing and no one can stop you if you let your passion be your guide.

If anyone is interested in what I’ve been doing to fulfill my passion for the last few months, check out http://cradlesongmusical.com. And, of course, if any of you are play producers, feel free to use the contact page… 😉

Question: what dream would you like to fulfill that you haven’t yet chased after?

11 thoughts on “Old Dog, New… Whatever

  1. How very cool~!

    In high school, a friend and I, under the influence of The Who’s TOMMY, the musical Godspell, and several Cat Stevens songs (showing my nearing 61), stumbled our way through a three act folk-rock opera/song-cycle telling of the prodigal son story. We “finished” it, but left it pretty ragged as college and the rest of life put it in a closet and then a box and now in the attic. Lines from it still speak to me, but it’s obviously dated and “immature” – all of which doesn’t answer the question at hand.

    Maybe I’m too “Renaissance”, but I’d like to be a better musician and painter ~ go all Dan Fogelberg (showing my 58 years again), writing, performing, and doing my own cover art~ I look at Guy Clark who just passed at 72 and at first say, “No way,” but also find myself saying in the next breath, “Why not!”

  2. Dreams? How much time do you have? I want it all..to hit the NYTBS and USA Today lists, to become critically acclaimed, to win an Edgar and a Shamus…I could go on and on. But I’m willing to do the work to achieve my dreams. I’m in it for the long haul, and don’t expect any of my dreams to happen overnight. “Can’t” isn’t in my vocabulary. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the ride.

  3. Youre never too old to do something new. I preach that song every time I speak to groups. My first book debut a week after I turned 69. Since that first contract 3 1/2 years ago I’ve written 6 contracted books and I’m working on the 7th. If there’s something you want to do, please don’t let age stand in the way!

  4. Good for you! I think that’s cool! I have so many things I dream of doing–my problem is I need to figure out a priority list and work at it that way. Most of my dreams are arts related…writing that bunch of novels set throughout Arizona’s history I’ve been dreaming of; I want to learn to play banjo, not squawk on it; I want to learn to paint landscapes, animals etc in acrylic paint; I want to learn to draw human figures and pets; in my spare time I want to learn woodworking and making things of leather (more than a key fob like in those leather project cases we had as kids).

    But the one dream I have, even at the age of 50 that’s not art related is becoming a physical therapist (ideal) or trainer. Outside of arts, the thing I’m most passionate about is keeping people as mobile as they can be for as much of their lives as possible. People don’t have to settle for the old shuffling gait as they get old. It takes caring people to teach folks how to take care of themselves and at a price regular people can afford.

    Life’s not worth living if you don’t chase your dreams.

  5. LOL! Sue said it much better than my long post. “I want it ALL!” 😎

  6. As someone who had no aspirations to be a writer, I didn’t even start toying around with writing until my AARP card was wrinkled. My dreams and goals aren’t lofty. I enjoy writing, I’ve published about 20 books, some with small presses, some indie (I never know whether to count novellas or a short story collection, or a bundle as “books”), and I’ve made enough money to be able to walk into the Honda dealership and write them a check for a new (modest) car, and to walk into Tiffany & Co. and buy a (modest) pair of earrings. Do I aspire to be a NYT best-selling author? Not really, to my editor’s chagrin. But her goals for me and my goals for me aren’t the same. If one of my books hit a list, would I be happy? Sure. But at my age (next birthday will be 70), I’m not thinking of a 20 year career plan. I’m living each day, and trying to have fun while I’m doing it.
    I’d say I’m even more proof that you can start doing something at any age.

    Last night, my daughter gave a talk about “Bouncing Back, Charging Forward.” In the last 2 years, she had 2 hip surgeries, was diagnosed with MS, and went through a divorce. She’s a triathlete, and none of this has stopped her from her coaching and competing. She lives each day with an eye on tomorrow. And her motto is “always eat the cookies.” She’s happy when she’s swimming, biking, and running, and so that’s what she does.

  7. I’m following the one passion novels. I’d like to learn to play guitar, but that’s more of an itch than a yearning. Mostly I’ve been lucky that my wife hasn’t just encouraged me, or “allowed” me, to follow my dreams. For the almost 27 years of our marriage she’s insisted on it.
    We live by the motto that you’ll never learn if you can fly until you throw yourself off a cliff.

  8. Oh geez, all my dreams are so very out of touch! I wanted to be a dancer and was pretty good but so stubby and inflexible for ballet (and started too late) and not “versatile” enough for the Bway-type stage. (“Dance: 10, Looks: 3”). Would have loved to been a musician but started way too late for that one. (age 51 with piano lessons). In my heart of hearts, I would have been an astronomer. Hard to do when you can barely balance a checkbook.

    But I could always write. So I did. Made my living in newspaper work and loved it until the industry went to hell in handbasket.

    I am really impressed with you going after the old dream! GO FOR IT! and good luck!

  9. All this said, there are certainly dreams I haven’t yet fulfilled and being on the shorter side of life, who knows if I ever will. But it won’t be for lack of trying… 😉

  10. When I was a child, Grandma Moses was in her prime. She didn’t start painting until she was 78. She went on to live till she was 101, painting all of that time. She had a book published when she was about 100. Her life story inspired me.

    My dream is to continue to write, be successful, and to endow my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with an online business that, believe it or not, doesn’t require that much time. It is a business that I can teach my entire family. And no, their participation is not going to saturate the field. Because we will sell and broker all kinds of products, metals, petroleum, and precious metals all over the world.

    Of course, writing a few best sellers along the way wouldn’t disappoint me, either.

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