This week, I started taking an online writing course. Some of you may be saying, “well, it’s about time!” I’m excited about this opportunity, but I am also nervous. I took a few creative writing courses in high school and college, but I don’t think I ever put my heart and soul into them. I think my fear of rejection and being criticized got in the way of me benefiting from the courses in the past. I protected myself. I wrote what I thought others would like. I did not share the work that I truly carved from my soul. I treated the classes as an obstacle course where I had to avoid booby traps instead of a fancy store from which I could buy as many treasures as I was willing to carry. This time, I vow to make a concerted effort to be courageous. I vow to be thirsty for what the class can teach me. I vow to see feedback as a gift, not a punishment.
As one of the first assignments for the class, the instructor asked us to write about why we write. I don’t think I ever considered that before. I always just did. They say that “writers write.” It does not matter if you are making a living at being a writer or if you are even publishing your work. The crucial factor when proclaiming yourself a writer is that you do the work and produce evidence that you have done so.
When I thought about the instructor’s question, though, I realized there was a more definitive reason that I write. There was a more tangible, focused explanation for why I began this worldview as perceived through my own written word.
Writing was always a wonderful experience for me, even as a child. I loved the order and patience the writing process imposed on my thoughts and feelings. I was a “smart kid” in school, but I also had no confidence or faith in my own perspective. I had a tough time telling people what I thought and felt. I was always afraid that someone else would interrupt to dispute my communication and I would not be able to defend my perspective. Perhaps even more scary, I would not get the chance to say everything I wanted to say. When I communicated what I wanted to convey in writing, I could carefully craft and lovingly curate my perspective. I could also galvanize my message in fact, tone, and intensity. There is little that is more satisfying to anyone than finding her voice- even when that “voice” makes no sound other than fingers pecking at a keyboard.
The idea of being a writer always lurked in the wild part of my mind, but I never seriously considered that I might be able to make a living by writing. I was able to feed my writing habit on the job by drafting correspondence, writing employee evaluations, and composing other technical documents. However, that tiny wild hair dream of being a real writer never came to fruition. It stayed confined in the wild pasture side of my mind. It was a free-range dream, but there were still some fences at the boundaries of my brain. Life and making a living got in the way and I never released the dream until I retired from my “real job.”
Retirement is the perfect time for my own little “encore” performance- to do the things I always wanted to do in my life but never had time to do. I wanted to “retire to” something much more than I wanted to “retire from” something. It turns out that the heart of my “to something” has been writing. I began by starting this blog almost seven years ago. I had no idea that I would continue for so long. I’ve published two books and have a third one coming out in a few months. I thought that, once I published the first book, I would bask in the languid afterglow of completing my writing bucket list. I did, but only very briefly. It turns out that it isn’t so easy to turn off the writing machine in my head once I’ve turned it on.
So, I continue. I may not produce a new post every single week, but I do pretty well with creating new content. The blog has birthed the books. I’ve also tried my hand at a novel (and found said hand to be sadly lacking) and I have just finished the first draft of a novella- my first work of fiction to get beyond the most embryonic stage. It is fun exploring. It is fun finding new ways to use that keyboard voice I embraced over 50 years ago. I am not sure why I am gorging myself at this literary smorgasbord or where this experimenting will take me, but, for now… I am content to just write on!
What are you doing in retirement as your “encore?” Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Use your voice today!