Marilyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer, published author and speaker who began her journey at the age of 50 by taking a leap of faith – answering a Craigslist ad for which she had no experience. What followed was a wild ride that led to her co-owning a magazine and writing for others, publishing two books (so far!) and sharing her message on stage.
What is your passion? What do you love the most about what you do?
From my earliest years, I was always curious about people and their lives – which earned me the label of being “nosy.” Becoming a writer changed everything. Interviewing was an incredible gift that soothed my inquisitive nature. People shared openly about their lives, the joy of the highs and the lessons learned from the challenges. I loved every minute. All I had to do in return was give their story wings. To this day, I still get goosebumps while listening. And what a life lesson. Up until I became a writer, I was told my insane curiosity was unacceptable, that I had to change. Not true. My love of hearing others share their story is what makes me good at what I do.
Can you share your thoughts on the importance of purposely building one’s community?
I didn’t fit in as a child, so I thought there was something wrong with me. That made it hard to let people get close. During one interview I heard about Ujamaa, a day in Kwanzaa, and the principle behind it struck a chord for me – coming together as a village to raise each other up. I had been trying hard to build a connection with everyone I met. The truth was not everyone was going to like me, nor would I like everyone else. It was time for a new direction.
I began to purposefully build my tribe, my community, by making connections that felt mutually beneficial. We didn’t compete, we cheered each other on. We were not critical of each other, we were positive and supportive. My Ujamaa community is the reason I finished my first book despite terrible self doubt and was later able to step on stage to speak. They continue to raise me up and I am honoured to offer them the same. We celebrate our successes together.
Why did you switch from magazines to books? What can you share about the titles you’ve published so far?
I wrote for magazines for many years and over time began to tire of the short articles required. So much of what was shared with me in interviews – often the really interesting parts – were left on the cutting room floor. When writing books I could include so much more. I assumed it would be an easy transition, but I soon learned that writing 800-word articles was very different from writing 60,000-word manuscripts. There were low moments when I cried in frustration and I almost gave up a few times. The support of my publisher and community was crucial. The day I held a print copy of my very first book in my hands is still a fond memory.
Life Outside the Box: The Extraordinary Journeys of Ten Unique Individuals – arose naturally from my decade of interviewing. I hope to turn it into a series. It features ten stand alone chapters, each showcasing a mini-bio on a person whose interview inspired me. The purpose and message? No one needs live a life defined by others; there is no one right way to live or one right path to walk.
The Wisdom of Listening: Pieces of Gold From a Decade of Interviewing – is filled with 38 stand alone mini chapters. Each features one single bit of wisdom – when and how I first heard it and how it affected me personally. It took years of interviewing to realize that listening to people open up about their lives was changing mine. It was an honour as well to be able to pass on the wisdom shared with me through this book.
Do you have any advice about starting in a new direction, especially at a later age?
I love this question. When I was ready to embrace this exciting new direction at age 50, I had no idea my journey would be different than when I was 20. I quickly found the world was not standing with arms open wide saying, “Marilyn, you’re here! We’ve been waiting for you.” And there were subtle hints of ageism. Let’s face it, our society can be very youth oriented.
In my mind I saw a bright, determined, intelligent, hard-working asset. What I came to realize was the publications only saw a mature woman stepping back into the workforce after some time away, and into a capacity she had no credentials for. It took more than walking through an open door to get my new direction kick-started – first, I had to build the door. I had to get creative.
What worked for me was to make the connections I needed by reaching out through Craigslist. For someone else, it might be launching your own business or starting a podcast. All I can share is if you know in your heart there is something you are meant to do, then when an opportunity presents itself, leap with your whole being and give it everything you have. Passion and hard work are your superpowers. Use them. More than anything, imagine your best life and then live it without apology.