Retirement, maybe

My father who was a college dean and author worked into his 70s. Now, I’m doing the same thing even though I haven’t taught a college course for years, opting to rely on money saved during my successful years in the gigolo business to help make ends meet. There are, of course, writers older than I am who don’t have the resources from a shady past to supplement their literary output.

When I was in his school, I looked at the careers of Salinger, Elison, Bradbury, Ginsberg, Rand, and others and told people that’s what I wanted to do after I graduated from college. Most of them laughed. Now, years later, I see why they did even though then and now I don’t see that laugh as very supportive.

I view the notion of retirement as the time in a person’s life when s/he stops doing what s/he was passionate about for most of his/her life. S/he ends up with no salary, few benefits, and ends up moving into a home where everyone eats jello three times a day. There was nothing exciting about that kind of life, so retirement seemed like a silly thing to do unless you had a lot of stolen wealth hidden in offshore accounts to pay for a big-ass RV and a lifetime of driving around from one scenic tourist destination to another.

That doesn’t excite me either, though I think the odds have gotten pretty slim that I’m suddenly going to be the next James Patterson. So, I think about just stopping writing books and spending my days reading. Everyone has to think about this sooner or later unless they’re Tom Clancy who keeps churning out books even though he’s been dead since 2013. Maybe that cap he wears in his author’s picture is magic and allows him to submit manuscripts from “the other side.”

I used to have a cap like that but during the dark days of Vietnam, I traded it for a pack of cigarettes.

Of course, I might still get a call from Oprah’s book club.

My bookshelves have an infinite number of books, so if I want to retire, I’ve got enough stuff to read to last me, well, forever.


Writers who stop writing have moved on to what?

Writers who step away from writing often tell me they’ve “moved on.” I want to ask (but I don’t) “moved on to what?”

If one’s chosen career is to be a writer, I’m not sure where a writer goes when s/he moves on. Not that being a writer is sacred. Not that writers don’t get to retire at some point or even try something else.

Writers often say that doing the writing itself is their primary joy. Of course, if writing is a business for them, they can’t pretend that running at a loss every year will pay the rent or buy the groceries. A lot of writers get around his problem by earning an income doing something else, but continuing to write in their spare time.

Most of my writing life I earned a living by writing for computer companies. That’s what paid the rent. I’ve been officially unemployable ever since I was laid off after 9/11 even though the large tech company I worked for said they weren’t going to do that. Unless you’re famous or have a rare skill, it’s hard to find jobs when you’re over 50, which I was. So, I turned my parttime writing into fulltime writing.

Until I’d sold a few books, I told people I was retired. At my age, that was believable. I had no desire whatsoever to buy a motor home and spend my life driving around the country, or fishing, or stamp collecting, or whatever else retired people are supposed to do. Luckily, I found a few nonprofits who needed somebody to write grants, and I did turn out some successful proposals. But fiction was what I wanted to write, so that’s what I’m doing.

I can’t imagine moving on. My father was a successful book reviewer, article writer, and textbook author long after he was forced to retire from university teaching. He was happy doing it and so am I. Maybe psychologists will claim I’m taking after my father. I don’t think so, but is I were, I’d be okay with that.