Sunday, July 5, 2015

Retirement? Hah! by Alison Henderson

When I retired two years ago, my sister told me not to worry about being bored. Stuff would materialize to fill my time before I knew it. Boy, was she right.

I’ve always considered myself an energetic person. Before retirement, I had worked full-time outside the home for decades while raising a family, managing a home, and writing four books. I expected that level of activity to continue, only now—without the outside job—I would be able to increase my writing output exponentially. Right? Wrong.

I neglected to consider the seductive power of slower mornings. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in more than nine years. (I’m sixty, so you can probably guess the cause.) The last few years I worked, that early-morning alarm became a snarling monster, out to sabotage my mood, my motivation, and my health. Of all the benefits of retirement, being able to grab an extra hour of sleep—no matter how fitful—is my favorite.

However, lolling around in the morning, reading the paper and having breakfast in my pj’s, comes with a price. Throw in a little gardening or an errand or two, and the morning has disappeared. Social media has to take some of the blame. When I retired, we moved from Minnesota to California. The weather is fantastic, but I lost my in-person social contacts. Also, due to the time difference, I feel like I’m behind the rest of the country by the time I sit down for breakfast. I want to catch up with old and new friends on social media and check out what’s happening in the world. More time gone.

And then there’s OG. He’s around all the time. When I worked and he was home alone, I didn’t worry too much about him. He was responsible for his own time. That’s just the way things were. Now I feel guilty if I don’t spend enough time with him, don’t give him enough interaction and attention. I used to come home from work, fix dinner, watch TV with him for an hour, and then retire to my office to write. I never felt guilty. I’m not sure why the dynamic is so different now, but it is. Maybe it’s because retirement is an adventure we’re facing together in a new place, with few social contacts aside from each other. I would tell OG to get out there, do something, make friends, except that he is by nature a grumpy, old hermit and would tell me to buzz off.

Fortunately, he likes to take a siesta every day after lunch. That’s my me time, my writing time. If I were good and wrote every day, those two or three hours would be sufficient to accomplish my writing goals, but during the upheaval of our relocation I let my writing slide. Now, it’s like I’ve fallen off the horse and forgotten how to get back on. Whenever a writer tells you how important a regular writing schedule is, LISTEN TO THEM. It is so much harder to get your groove back once you’ve lost it.

Last year, for the first time in five years, I didn’t have a new book out. I’m determined not to let that happen again. I know myself and my level of ambition and motivation—I’m not likely to want to do what it takes to publish two or three titles a year—but I do want to publish one book a year on a steady, routine basis. This year, SMALL TOWN CHRISTMAS TALES is on target for a fall release, and I’ve started the second book in my female bodyguard series. I know I can finish that one next year if I muster the necessary self-discipline.

To help keep me on track, I’ve recently connected with two new critique partners, fellow Roses of Prose. I’m now responsible to other writers to produce pages on a regular basis for the first time in years. I’m excited by the possibilities. Wish me luck!

Alison
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alsnhendersn

18 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

Breaking that writing routine is awful for motivation. Even if I don't write for a couple of days, I have a hard time getting back into the grove. It's easy to make excuses for why you're too busy... Hopefully, feeling you have to produce for your CPs will help get you back in the writing habit. Who are you working with? Call me nosy... LOL Don't forget I owe you big time for those covers and am happy to do an edit when you finish your Christmas Tales book!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Your retirement journey mirrored mine so closely, it's almost scary. Except my OG couldn't hack the slow pace of retirement and got another job. Even with that, it is hard to get and keep motivated to write. Leisurely mornings are so seductive, aren't they? I'm nosey too. Who are your new CPs. Best of luck to all of you in guilt tripp, uh, encouraging each other to produce. (I know mine is a GREAT ONE for that! LOL)

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine and Margo,
Barb, Diane and I are giving it a go. I can't speak for them, but I'm pleased so far. I'm not willing to give up my lazy mornings, but my afternoons are getting more productive.
Jannine, I know how busy you are this summer (and you have to get Tara ready and take her to school), but if you have time I'd really appreciate a quick editing run in August or September. We're looking at 45K - 50K words.

Liz Flaherty said...

As you know, Alison, I'm right there with you--only five years older. And still that busy. Just keep concentrating on how much fun it is--most of the time. :-)

Leah St. James said...

Can I just indulge myself for a moment here and say how JEALOUS I am of you, Alison and Margo...and any other Roses who have retired from the grind of the full-time job? (Not writing, I mean.) I know you worked many long, hard years to get there and certainly deserve it. But I'm still jealous. There, I said it. :-) Hope to join you in a (very) few years! :-)

Rolynn Anderson said...

Right you are Alison and all...keeping to one's own schedule is tough. When I was a H.S. Principal, I had 100 staff, 1200 students and ALL their parents keeping me hopping, along with a District Superintendent. Now, it's just me and my conscience. Tough also is the 'tree falling in a forest' syndrome. If I keep writing my books and nobody reads them...you know where I shouldn't be going with that! Mornings from 7-11 are all mine. I refuse all invitations to play golf more than one time a week. I'm not a phone person and my sweet hub sleeps later than I do, so this works. I'll have two books out this year. Like you, Alison, I want to keep up this momentum!

Jana Richards said...

I'm semi-retired, which means I work about four days a month, more when things are busy in the office. One the days I'm not at the day job, I know how easy it is to sleep in, or have a second cup of coffee and read the paper before I start my day. But I also discovered early this spring when I wrote my contribution to the Candy Hearts series that if I got up early (like 6am) and wrote for a couple of hours, I could get in my word quota before breakfast. It's an awesome feeling of accomplishment. I also wrote (nearly) every day, so the work was always fresh in my mind and ready to go. Unfortunately, after I finished that project, I slacked off. I have a lot of projects I want to work on this summer, so I need to make getting up early to write part of my routine once again.

Alison Henderson said...

Liz, you're right - it is fun MOST of the time. Now that I have more time, I've rediscovered my interest in cooking. And I can play in my garden any nice morning. No more weekends only.

Alison Henderson said...

Leah, I know exactly how you feel. Heck, that's where I was two and a half years ago! The last couple of years I worked, the job and the hours really dragged me down. You'll enjoy retirement, trust me.

Alison Henderson said...

Exactly, Rolynn! I have stories I want to write whether anyone reads them or not. Of course, I hope they do. But since that's largely out of my control, I have to please myself.

Alison Henderson said...

Jana, I'm afraid I don't have your self discipline. Unlike many writers, I've never been able to write early in the morning. I need to be physically active before the creative juices start to flow.

Susabelle Kelmer said...

When I saw the title of your blog post, I thought "I'm jealous!" But I can see how your routine could change so drastically when suddenly there is all this free time! I was slated to retire at 60, but a layoff and then having to find new work four years ago took that dream away - I was so close, less than 10 years! So I'm going to work longer, and still have to get all my writing time in along the way. I still have a middle schooler at home, and I have gardens to tend to, and a writing group that I moderate, and oh yes, that work thing up to 50 hours a week. I really have to push myself now to get the writing time in. Extra sleep? What's that? Fortunately, I don't sleep much, about 5-6 hours a night tops, and it seems to work for me. Good luck getting re-motivated!

Angelina Jameson said...

Oh yes, slow mornings do me in as well. I look up and it is lunchtime. :)

Alison Henderson said...

How frustrating, Susabelle. Just when we think we have things all planned out, life throws a monkeywrench into our plans. Good luck with those last few years!

Alison Henderson said...

So true, Angelina. Isn't that always the way?

Marlow Kelly said...

I totally understand where you're coming from. My husband is a shift worker and works ten days on and then has ten days off. it sounds great, doesn't it? And it is. But there are times when he's at a loss for something to do and turns to me. Now, I'm a no nonsense kinda girl, and I'm not entertaining anybody. Although I feel guilty...sometimes. Thankfully he's found a hobby. It's an expensive one - motorbikes. But he's happy and that's all that matters.

Alison Henderson said...

When we moved to California, I was sure he would take up golf again. Wrong. He managed to tear both rotator cuffs snow-raking the roof in Minnesota. Now, I'm hoping he'll find something more joint-friendly.

Diane Burton said...

After Hubs and I retired, we were so busy we wondered when we had time to work. My writing output has increased (and I love working with Barb & Alison), but I can easily fritter away my writing time. When we first moved nearly 2 yrs ago, I hunkered down with my writing while Hubs finished the basement adding our offices and a family room. Daughter took me to 2 newcomer events and I realized how I'd closed myself off from people in our new community. Hubs, who sound much like Alison's OG) is even going to events like monthly dinners and meeting new people, too.