Still working elders

Writing Corner May-June 2023 Developing Systems

Sharing Stories
April 28, 2023 at 4:41 p.m.
Working in elder years is a pleasure I always looked forward to having.
Working in elder years is a pleasure I always looked forward to having. Ariele M. Huff

Writing Corner May-June 2023
Developing Systems

As a 73-year-old woman, I’ve recognized the need to develop many systems for health, finances, and socializing.

As a lifelong writer and writing teacher, I’ve been developing systems for those careers since I began them.

From early on, I realized that my “night owl” proclivity worked well for my jobs. Put the kids to bed, give last feedings to animals, lock up the house, turn off lights, prepare the kitchen for use in the morning. Then, spend some time with my husband…talking or whatever we please. 😊 Once everyone else has nodded off, I go to my office and take advantage of the reality that my most prolific writing time is from 10pm to 3am. 

In my youth, I often did “all-nighters,” including whole book edits, whole chapter writes. I still do those, less frequently, but I know this is my best time for creating new curriculums, articles, poems, or book ideas.

For students, clients, friends who are “morning birds,” I recommend rising before others by an hour or two or waiting until they leave for school and work.

Or, like I did at the height of parenthood, just getting used to a backdrop of repeated teen songs and/or squabbling. For a time after my nest emptied, I found myself leaving on music or television while I worked, as I’d become so accustomed to background noise.
It was amusing and satisfying when I awoke to the reality that I could stop doing that and return to my methods of having undisturbed work time.

In my late fifties, I welcomed a system I’ve called slenderizing which worked like this: I’d become aware that I was feeling too busy. At the point where the joy in my work started to sap, I’d look carefully at all my job commitments and select one or more to delete or just to give less time to. This also is a continuing practice.

At 72, my attention was drawn to not having every word I wanted just as I wanted it. Quel dommage! (Translated by some as meaning “What a pity.” I like the image of “What a damage!”)

My system for this was to write those words and phrases, first on a small piece of paper on my monitor stand. 

When that was filled with “Ashram,” “filial duties,” “automat,” “Vagus nerve,” “vicarious,” and a few others, I put a grocery shopping sized slip of paper on the side of the refrigerator, where it slowly but surely added “peccadillos,” the all important and oft-used “Freitag’s Pyramid,” “vaudeville,” and “burlesque,” as well as some others.

About a year later, I went with a 3.5 by 8.5 magnetized back of a notepad. It contains some favorite words I find I need more now as a senior, like “patronize.” I look frequently enough at these sheets that I’m convinced I’ll never forget what is on them, no matter what else I don’t recall.

There are many other smaller systems like how I save my published pieces (in notebooks filled with plastic sheet holders or file drawers) or find information for articles (interviews and reliable sources) or research for my fiction (find more than one source to fill out story-contemporary setting, plot, characterization, philosophical, or dialogue issues), or put a rolled pillow in the middle of my back while I work, and so forth.

Doing this column has been educative. I’ve continued using all of these systems once they were begun. And, I think, have generated new ones as they’ve been needed. I’m congratulating myself on doing this work-necessary filtering of what I decide is the best for me and my career.

I’d love to have you join me in an online or ZOOM class sometime.

 Contact me at to request a class flyer. I have Wednesday and Thursday evening ZOOM groups and will be adding a daytime one on Mondays in summer.

SHARING STORIES is a weekly column for and about the 50 plus crowd living in the Puget Sound region. Send your stories and photos to Tell local or personal stories; discuss concerns around aging and other issues; share solutions, good luck, and reasons to celebrate; poems are fine too. Pieces may be edited or excerpted. We reserve the right to select among pieces. Photos are always a plus and a one-sentence bio is requested (where you live, maybe age or career, retired status, etc.).
SHARING STORIES is featured on, the website for Northwest Prime Time, a monthly publication for baby boomers, seniors, retirees, and those contemplating retirement. The newspaper can be found in the greater Seattle area and other Puget Sound locations. For more information, call 206-824-8600 or visit To find other SHARING STORIES articles on this website type "sharing stories" in the search function above.

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