Sunday, November 27, 2016

Writers Never Die -- Or Retire

I'm at a strange crossroads. I'm sort of retired, but not really because writers never actually retire. Not as long as their brains function.

In a couple of weeks I will receive -- gulp! -- my first Social Security retirement check. I have already received my Medicare Health Insurance card. I am officially old. A couple of months ago I eased out of my "other" writing job of writing and editing a monthly small business magazine. I still do a little work for it -- proofing and some rewriting -- but it is no longer a priority in my life. I work part-time for an animal rescue group keying and logging in medical and adoption data. But my main job now is my novel writing, so I've transitioned back to that. For a couple of decades all I did was write novels for a living. Then I hit a dry spell or impasse -- I'm not sure what it was. I just know that what I wanted to write and what the editors at the publishers I'd been working for wanted were two very different things. So, I stopped writing novels and concentrated on writing non-fiction again. I had been a newspaper reporter before I sold my first novel.

Here I am back at writing novels full time and doing a bit of work for the animal rescue organization. And I'm eligible for Social Security. Yikes! How did I get here? And why don't I feel retired?

Well, of course, I'm not retired. And God willing, I won't be until I'm incapable of writing or dead. Even after death, writers don't instantly fade from the landscape. Our writing endures. For the vast majority of us, it won't endure forever as with such luminaries as Dickens, Poe, Shakespeare, Austin, etc. But our work will linger for a good long while after we're gone. It will remain nestled in readers' brains and hearts and they will smile when the recall "that book" they so enjoyed or "those characters" that made them sigh or smile or cry a little.

When you're writer, you can't turn off your ideas. Even when I was writing nonfiction mostly, I was dreaming up fiction stories or rewriting the ones I was reading. It's like eating for us. You can go a while without it, but then you have to indulge or wither away.

So, here I am at the crossroads of retired and still working. I know a lot of people are here with me. Most of them, however WANT to retire and simply can't because it's not financially feasible. I can, but I don't want to, so I won't. I'll keep working, keep writing, keep plotting, keep looking for more readers for my books.

It's an odd place to be, though. Every day -- even weekends -- I feel that I must work as I have for so, so many years. Today is Sunday and I haven't written on my novel-in-progress yet and I might not! Maybe that is my form of retirement. I will take days off. I won't write on Sunday and maybe not even on Saturday. (Yes, I know, I'm writing now. Just go with this.) That seems like a good step toward retiring. I might even go away for a few days and not take my laptop so that I don't write while I'm gone. 

Baby steps. That's the ticket! I'll take baby steps toward slowing down and not feeling that I must work every day or perish. That go-go attitude kept my mortgage paid, the lights and heat on, and food in the fridge. I've lived a blessed life, being able to make my living as a writer since even before I graduated from college.  I know this. I've known it every day when I sat down at the computer (or typewriter, back in the day) and set to work. Breaking away from that every day routine will take some effort, but I feel I should do it. I should retire a little.

Now if I can just make those characters in my head be quiet for a day or two at a time, this might just work.

Work. There. I said it again. See what I mean? Oh! I just thought of a killer scene for the book I'm plotting! Jeez Louise. This retirement business is tricky.