This month, I’m thrilled (and terrified) to announce the biggest change in my life in the past eighteen years. At the end of December, I left the job I’ve held for sixteen-and-a-half years and the world of insurance that’s been my professional home since 1976. I hadn’t planned to retire for several years, but that’s life. Things change and we have to adjust our plans accordingly.
The writing appeared on the wall six months ago. My company underwent a reorganization that involved dismantling my job, removing every duty I found rewarding and piling on a mountain of tasks that sucked any pleasure out of going to work. In the first four months I lost twenty pounds, at least a third of my hair, and hundreds of hours of sleep.
I could (and possibly should) have left immediately, but I’m stubborn and wanted to leave in my own time and on my own terms. I needed time to think about my future. I’m a planner by nature, and I knew I’d feel better about my decision if I had a plan. I also needed time to heal. I can’t explain it, and most of my family doesn’t understand, but I wanted to conquer my anger before leaving. I wanted to start my new life enthusiastic and energized, not damaged and drained.
Many (most?) writers would look on this situation as a gift—the opportunity to write full time. But I’m not that kind of writer. My creative well isn’t deep enough to write all day, every day. I need more variety and time to allow it to refill. I did some research and stumbled across the concept of the “portfolio career”, a career made up of several part-time jobs, and knew I’d found my answer. My next career would be as a slasher (as in job/job/job).
Because I wanted my new life to revolve around writing and books, the pieces fell into place naturally. I definitely plan to continue my own writing. I’ve never been able to give that up for long even in the face of distractions or rejections. But I also want to try my hand at a couple of new endeavors.
Many writers would think I’m crazy, but I love editing. That’s the way my brain is wired. Errors in printed material make me crazy; my fingers itch to correct them. I’ve worked with two professional editors on my three published books, and I’ve edited several pieces for other writers. I love the process and know how hard it can be to edit your own work. In this day when so many authors are turning to indie publishing, I’d love to help them produce a professional product they can be proud of.
I’m also intrigued and inspired by the process of cover design. I majored in art history in college, so I’ve been trained to evaluate and critique visual images, but I can’t even draw a convincing stick figure. Fortunately, modern software eliminates that problem, allowing even the graphically challenged to create gorgeous book cover designs. I’m learning the ins and outs of Photoshop and loving the results. After decades of developing a high level of expertise in one area, it’s so much fun to learn something new!
And if that weren’t enough, I’ve also launched a new blog entitled The Second Half at http://alisonhenderson.blogspot.com where I’ll be chronicling my journey and encouraging other displaced “fiftysomethings” to reach out, explore, and discover creative new lives.
Wish me luck!