It takes a village to do anything…
At 66-years-old I got my first book contract, and at age 7o I received the second for Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family.
I served three terms in the New Hampshire State Legislature. At 50, I became a professor. It has always been my goal to make a positive impact on society and change people’s lives for the better.
What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?
I actually wrote the book when I was 62. It took me four years to sell it.
When our first child married, we were told to keep our mouths shut and our pocketbook open so your kids don’t become angry with you. That’s rather insulting to parents. It’s as if all they want is your money. Kids want more. They want love and support and parents want the same. As families, we can do better. We can help engage each other. Families are each other’s safety net.
That’s the reason I wrote, Don’t Bite Your Tongue, How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children.
What obstacles did you face?
Technology. You have to learn technology. Publishers don’t want your yellow notepads. They want everything footnoted, commas right and periods correct. I had to rethink technology as my enemy and make it my friend. I viewed it as a mind exercise, like Sudoku or Bridge. I had to believe I could learn something new.
Writing was physically demanding for me. I had to sit for long periods of time. I had to stay in shape to write the book so I swam and biked everyday. When I had writer’s block, I was able to get a “brilliant” thought while on break. I always joked, ‘I wrote the book in the swimming pool.’
What helped you get through your obstacles?
In part, it was not being afraid of technology, but embracing it. I had to sit down at the computer and say, ‘Ruth, you can do it.’ When the ATM came on the scene, no one knew how to use it. If, the proverbial everyone else could embrace technology, so could I.
I have now found that the whole world is your help desk if you ask, and that I now can be of help to others technologically.
I was very fortunate to have a very supportive community at Brandeis. My colleagues thought I could write, even though I didn’t think I could. I didn’t want to be a fraud, so I wrote my first book, Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children. Followed by my second, Don’t Bite Your Tongue: Making In-Laws Into Family.
My college roommate agreed to meet with me weekly on the phone. I would send her a chapter and we would talk about it. Other college friends also helped me. It was fun to do. I had a lot of support, including many Brandeis work study students. They were spectacular kids, giving their perspective, researching and proofreading. It takes a village to do anything. Even though I was extremely lonely sitting in my room typing, the project helped me build a community of support.
The only person discouraging me was me. Because I had all this marvelous support from others, I decided not to listen to myself.
How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?
I felt like I climbed Mt. Everest. There was a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment.
What advice would you give to others contemplating finally living their dream?
Just do it. Sometimes you have to postpone your dreams for while. Pick a time when it’s best for you. It may be when you become an empty nester There are times when you have to take care of others. For many, when kids are in school, or parents are sick, you can only start on your dream. At those times, you can only have snippets of time. In my case, it was when I was in the legislature, raising three kids and getting a PhD. I was crazy. I could not have thought straight to write a book.
I used to write my dissertation from three to five in the morning. As a mother, I had no other choice. I wanted and needed to feed my children and provide for their safety and education.
You may ONLY be able to start working on your dream now, with the knowledge that it might not happen until you have fulfilled your other obligations. Figure out what is essential and what is an option.
In life, there is always oodles of hard work and oodles of luck. No one who succeeds is without both.
For more information about Ruth’s book, visit Don’t Bite Your Tongue, How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children.