After six-plus years of retirement, I am still trying to figure it out. I was reminded of this as we celebrated a big family gathering for Christmas this past week. There were all the usual Christmassy things: the shopping, the decorating, the anticipation on Christmas Eve, the big all-morning opening of presents and then…then…that empty feeling that comes and hovers over you. “So now what?” you ask. It is all so consuming, so over-and-done-with so fast. If you’re out here in the back forty grazing on clover and dandelions like I am, you have to be careful not to let this feeling consume you. Some thoughts…
Upon retirement, an employee from the generation before mine got a big party thrown by gracious co-workers; was given a gold watch or some other expensive gift; and bid a fond and loving farewell. Said retiree then went home, threw the alarm clock out, bought a new set of golf clubs or fishing poles and learned how to play cards at the senior center. My scenario has been a little different.
I worked in radio. Rarely does anyone in radio get a big sendoff. More than naught, the boss calls you into his office—sometimes the same person who has loved and adored you in the past—and you are told through no fault of your own you are no longer with the company; his administrative assistant will then accompany you to your desk so you can pack your things up while he/she watches to make sure you don’t steal any paperclips or vital company secrets; you are instructed there is no need to come back tomorrow and you should check with human resources about the Cobra insurance coverage you’re entitled to; don’t let the door slam you in the ass; and, oh yeah, hand in your company ID and parking pass and any keys before you leave; and oh yeah again, we are giving you two weeks’ severance but you need to sign this paper first that prohibits you from suing us for wrongful discharge or any other reason you might dream up; and again, a final reminder about the door slamming you in the ass.
So I found myself looking for a new job just as the economy tanked and the unemployment rate lifted off the launch pad like a Saturn rocket. My white hair and other signs of the aging process didn’t help. Everyone who interviewed me was my son’s age and I kept thinking how I was at that age—no way would I ever hire an old guy, especially one who reminded me of my father. So, I eventually passed the criteria at the Social Security office and they started giving me back some of the zillions of dollars I’ve paid them all my life.
I don’t play golf. I do not like fishing. I hate playing cards. So I decided to write. It keeps me busy and entertained. Writing gives me a chance to laugh at funny paragraphs I’ve constructed, or cry along with the heart wrenches I torqued in between.
For once, there is no one around looking over my shoulder, triple guessing me or taking the credit for a job I did. It’s not an active, noisy environment, but it is a lot friendlier one–your always-supportive colleague is yourself.
Writing at my age has its advantages. First of all, I have known a lot of people and have had a lot of experiences. It is best to write about what you know about. At my age you know a lot about a lot of things. It doesn’t necessarily make you smarter—just better informed. I take this information and weave related circumstances and situations into some kind of patchwork that starts, builds and completes a story. I have done this several times since I retired, including publishing two children’s books and one adult novel. There are also a few more completed manuscripts in my files and one nifty (I think) yarn in my head that I have just begun weaving.
Writing my books has been much more rewarding than trying to get people to read them. I have read many of the advice books, visited tons of websites and attended countless webinars in an attempt to refine my book marketing skills. I have followed much of the advice, including writing this blog regularly; then tweeting and facebooking. I even considered giving away rolls of toilet paper with my book’s title printed repeatedly on each little square. No, not really.
All this keeps me busy; retirement has not been a total waste and decay of my mind. Only a handful of people have read any of my books. Getting people to notice them (they are all on amazon.com) continues a challenge. Getting people to actually purchase them (as little as $.99 for an e-version) has been even harder. Whether or not anyone will really read them is…well, that’s a barrier I have no control over.
So, in sum, if you choose to write, write about what you know and have lived. Then, keep doing it more. Do what Winston Churchill said: “Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Hence, I will continue my book marketing march, even at its current pace of two steps forward and one back. And, oh yeah, there’s one other point of advice I would add to Sir Winston’s… don’t let the door slam you in the ass.
Marc Kuhn is the author of three books. Recently published is an adult historical novel, THE POPE’S STONE. The other two books are for children: NEVER GOOSE A MOOSE…And a bunch of other things you should never do!; and ABOUT A FARM, lessons for life regardless of where you live.
All three books are available at amazon.com and each has its own .com website under its title.