Wise Up: How the Advice of the World’s Oldest People Can Focus Your Writing

Have you ever seen coverage of the world’s oldest living people? Reporters evidently are required to ask the same question: What is your secret to such a long life? Now that’s a good question, but the answers are even better. I found that their wise comments bring focus to how you live and enhance good writing as well.

Obey your parents. Usually the person who says this reminds the listener that this advice also is one of the 10 Commandments. A pretty basic teaching for kids, plus it is the only command that comes with a promise—that you will live a long life if you do. Hmm! But then again, there is something to the basic teachings that help you later in life. Obeying my parents actually paid off in my writing. In fact, the first time I was ever published was because of my mom. Our local newspaper published a scary story contest for middle schoolers. When our teacher made us all write a story for this contest, I wrote the scariest alien story I could muster. When my mom heard this, she immediately made me rewrite it, telling me to imply scary rather than hit people over the head with it. I took this idea to heart and was published in the local newspaper! Go for the basics and keep your writing simple (and listen to your parents).

Exercise every day. Some of the oldest living people get out and walk every day. Good writing thrives on writing some each day. It may not always be good, but it will build your writing prowess for the long haul.


Keep your mind sharp. Older people say they keep their minds sharp by challenging it, whether with a crossword puzzle or a game of checkers. How do you keep your mind sharp as a writer? Force yourself to write things you don’t normally write. Try writing a haiku, sonnet, or Shakespearean play. Read all sorts of writing. Pick up something you have never read before. Try something you always thought you would hate. You might be surprised!

Learn something new. I knew a gentleman who learned one new word a day and used it in conversation at some point during that day. You can learn something new as a writer by visiting the Edit 911 blog every day, taking classes, or talking with other writers. Make it a goal to learn new things!

Say, “I’m sorry.” The world’s oldest married people often utter that statement! Learn to admit your mistakes. Ask for forgiveness. It will change your life and help release some burdens that you can carry for years otherwise. If you mess up as a writer, sharing more information than you should have, saying something offensive, or embarrassing your mom, ask for forgiveness! Don’t be afraid to get back on the horse again after failure.

Take your medicine. Yes, sometimes the world’s oldest people get there by the miracle of modern medicine and lots of vitamins. As a writer, sometimes you have to take your medicine too. Pay your dues. Put in the time, effort, and work. It will pay off!

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