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Nancy Alvarez Headshot

65, Female and a Writer: Almost Felled by Twitter Et Al

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For my entire life I have earned my living as a writer, first in New York City and then in Hollywood. Unfortunately that world has been undergoing drastic changes, and I, along with hundreds of older writers, have felt the impact. Many sleepless nights over the last two years have been spent agonizing about how to continue to write, publish, and find an audience. When a former student suggested a marketer, I dithered. Finally I succumbed, though I had no idea what that decision would entail. I jumped off the cliff willingly, and totally blind. Nothing I have ever done has been as difficult, frightening, or challenging. And nothing else has made me feel more alive.

Let me back track. Initially, I began by writing articles over thirty years ago for the New York Times Magazine section and Cosmopolitan. When my first husband was hired at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, I, of course, moved there with him, though I had no idea what the move would impact my career. Then I had an utterly Hollywood experience. My husband and I went to a party. There I met the story editor for The Waltons. Though I didn't reveal this to her, that was one of the two shows I watched on TV. Instead I talked about my new agent, the screenplay I had written to obtain same: all true. She could have checked. Besides, I am congenitally honest. I did tell her how much I liked her show. She suggested I call her if I had any story ideas for her. I came up with five, the first one in the middle of the night when I found myself sitting up in bed thinking about Grandpa Walton, and how the family might react to the heart attack I was going to inflict upon him.

That woman hired me to write my first script. Thus began my career in Hollywood. I have written many scripts that I have been paid for, written teleplays that have been produced, taught screenwriting at both UCLA and USC, and had a satisfying and creative life. None of which prepared me for taking on the world of technology, web sites, Facebook, and other social media networks.

My marketing maven informed me I needed a new website, one that was interactive. I had no idea what that would entail, or how much I would have to do to create it. No one in my small town knew how to produce a website using WordPress. Someone managed to put one up, but it didn't function properly. In the meantime, I had learned how to add text to each tab, different if it was a 'page' or a 'post' tab, drop and drag a picture, a video, a URL. Getting a headache? So did I.

A year has gone by. My head is still spinning. I have taken notes on all that I have learned from the woman who did create my new, interactive website. I have also learned how to use my new business page at Facebook, how to tweet, write articles like this one, create a power point presentation so I can speak to women's groups about my memoir/workbook, and on and on.

You may be thinking you're too old for this! Why bother?

My answer, after much soul searching is: because we're not dead. I, for one, am healthy, active, and very much here. I love to write. I want to help others by writing about my experiences and the experiences of my friends. If I was going to continue my creative life, I was going to have to learn all this tech stuff even though it felt totally foreign to me. I won't lie: much of the learning was unpleasant. But now I am communicating with folks I have never met, and with many of my daughters' friends. All of this effort has exercised my brain. I feel more alive then when I began. If you are stymied by this new tech and social media world as I was, find someone who can help you learn about it. Do a few hours a day, not six or seven like I did. It might even be enjoyable simply because it's new, or because it connects you with your kids, or just because it exercises your brain cells. I'm told that doing that prolongs life, another big plus. What do you have to lose but a little time?