It seems as if it happens at least once at every writers conference I attend. Someone will say, “Once I retire, I’ll be able to write.”
I get it. It’s hard to find the time to write—and build or expand a platform of speaking or podcasting or blogging and more—while you have an actual job for which you’re supposedly being paid.
But I can’t say this strongly enough: Don’t wait for retirement to write and market your masterpiece for publication.
There’s a very good chance that, post-retirement, many of the platform pieces you have currently will evaporate. Say you’re a pastor of a fair-sized congregation in a fair-sized denomination; that influence and those contacts will probably diminish in retirement. Or, say you’re a kinda-high-ranking military officer of kinda-wide-influence in a kinda-large branch of a kinda-big nation’s armed services. Once you’re retired, you’re a very honorable but kinda-less-connected veteran.
See what I mean? Sure, sure, you’ll be a member of this fraternity or that organization; and you’ll have much more time to devote to such pursuits. But when your “active” status changes, so will much of your reach.
So, while it’s hard to carve out the time to do all the writer stuff (such as learning to eschew such terms as “writer stuff”) while you still have a demanding position and many responsibilities, it may be that your writing will become less marketable post-retirement. I wish it were not so, but it is what it is. (And, really, what else could it be?)
At least be open to the likelihood that your time is now, not later. Part of a writer’s job these days is to curate his or her current and future influence and reach (i.e., platform) in a way that attracts publishers and readers. For many, that will mean not waiting for retirement (or other “better time”), but “redeeming the [present] time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16, KJV).
Don’t wait ’till tomorrow,
don’t sit on your thumbs,
for you’ll find that, to your sorrow,
tomorrow never comes.
Don’t get to it someday,
don’t wait to a better later.
If you do, you’re gonna pay,
’cause time’s an alligator
that is gonna chomp your dreams
as you wait, a-dreaming,
and you’ll find out what it means,
no joke, to wake up screaming.
So put your hand unto the plow.
Do it, mate, and do it now.
Well said, Andrew! Time is an alligator, a very hungry alligator.
(…chompa chompa chompa…)
The clock hands spin
Around the dial.
No time to write,
So— start a file?
Pen day and night!
Not “in a while”…
Go for the win—
There is a young lady named Karen
whose poetic skills are apparent.
Though poetry’s hard
she puts the poor Bard
in the ranks of the weak and the barren.
It is a struggle to find time to write while working full time, but I have also observed that many people in retirement, unfortunately, become beset by physical issues that also hinder spending their retirement in the ways that they wanted to. So waiting is a gamble–and you may lose. Better to go for it now (easy for me to say, of course, but harder to do).
Somebody cue Carole King singing “It’s Too Late, Baby.” I’m already retired, Bob, so I wish I had read this 2 years ago! I did a lot of “hobby” writing when I was employed full-time (as a food writer!), but the beautiful part about writing up-to-and-including retirement is having the additional daytime working hours to perfect one’s social media skills, write for 5 hours straight, or call people in the middle of a business day—let’s say for instance, picking a name out of a hat, asking someone like Bob Hostetler to be my agent— that’d be a no-go if I were still full-time employed (bosses usually frown on that sort of thing on their time clock). So, while I 100% agree you, I’d like to encourage retirees like me who are reading this and thinking, well, that ship sailed…as our poet laureate Andrew so wisely said, just do it now.
Karen, I’m thrilled at the honourific, though my spelling might be different…
The Cowboy Way is where I’m at,
as matter of both choice and course,
so call me Poet Lariat,
except that I ain’t got a horse.
I wear a stained ol’ Stetson
pulled down low acrost my brow
like you see in every western,
‘cept I really don’t know how
they keep the blamed things on the head
when that desert wind do blow,
and just maybe, well, instead
of gunplay they would go
chasin’ all their wind-roiled hats
like a bunch of scalded cats.
“Pretty quick on the trigger ain’t you, pardner”…(optional spittoon sound effect)…
I always appreciate your thoughts, Bob! Thanks 😊
This is my favorite newsletter now!
Too late for me, too, but God does miracles in my life every day. I guess I’ll keep going until I can’t.
Terry, hang in there, mate. Please.
You don’t know tomorrow, nor whom you may inspire with steadfast resolve.
Amen!!! Check out psalm 92:12-15!! Flourish, baby! That’s our heritage and our promise!
Well, Andrew is on a role, and with Karen pitching in, I cannot resist contributing a sample of my own favorite form of high poetic art.
There once was a time some time ago
When I worked so hard I couldn’t know
How I could write
Try as I might
But now retired, the words just flow
The flowing words of our dear Sy
from inspired pen do fly
to hearten me
and this community,
to make her apple of God’s eye.
Great words Bob. You nailed it. I have found that without a steady full-time job, my self confidence has also suffered. More time to write is correct but also more time to talk myself out of writing….or more accurately to talk myself out of submitting my writing. And to further agree with your post…people expect you to be more available when you are retired. This is one of the greatest gifts of this season in life to be sure…but it gets harder to stick with the self-disciplined lifestyle that writing requires. I wish I had read (and heeded) your advice 10 years ago. But then on the bright side there is always Moses who shines the light on elderly energy and wisdom.
If you’d indulge me with yet another comment…
It may feel like it’s too late.
It may feel like you’ve wasted the golden years.
It may seem like you need a miracle.
Well, prepare for the miracle. Be ready.
I have two really lethal cancers (pancreatic and non-Hodgkins lymphoma), with bone metastases. It hurts, and it’s hard to breathe and even move.
I want to play rugby.
I want to break bones.
And so, I maintain a level of focused fitness that will let me go back. My left humerus is compromised, but on the right I look like Jonah Lomu. It isn’t easy or fun, but it’s necessary.
My right leg won’t bear weight, but I can do thousands of flutter kicks to make running again a possibility.
If God grants my hope, I will be ready.
If not, God knows I trusted His goodness, and can accept another road.
Yeah, bulked to the max.
You will do it. Andrew, your heart and your trust in our Savior is inspiring!! I’m gonna put you on what the old timers used to call my “prayer list”— let’s see how our Mighty King answers!
Hebrews 12:1, my friend— you’re living it! (I know this is a few too many exclamation points, but I’m a morning person.)
I appreciate Bob’s comments but I’ve been struggling to finish a book. The book isn’t hard, but all the stuff I need to do to get my author website going beyond where it is now, like figure out what my potential audience wants, figure out a way to get more traffic to my site, add metadata, which I still havcen’t figured out, etc. Those are the things keeping me from finishing my book. Then there’s the discouragement of trying to figure out if the audience I want to write for exists, and if so, how to connect with them. I turned 67 this year. I wish I’d done my book twenty years ago, but didn’t. A website would not have been such a big deal then. I am retiring in May, and I hope to have time to work on my website, write more and better blog posts, and create opportunities for speaking or writing.
I also don’t have much of a opportunity to reach a large crowd right now. Life didn’t go as planned, and I am a reference and instruction librarian for an SBC seminary. That might be a help, except that I’m decidedly not SBC. I have been writing a non-fiction book on spiritual formation. I teach as an online adjunct for another seminary, but that doesn’t give me much opportunity either. I live in southern California but the seminary is in Kentucky. So, working or retired, I’m still stuck with fixing up my website and finding an audience.
Ken, I hear you! I’ll be 68 this summer, and I just started my publication journey seriously last year. One thing that really keeps me encouraged and optimistic is knowing if this is something that Jesus has called me to do (and I believe it is), he will give me the time and the energy to do it. My job is to just put my head down and do exactly what he tells me to do.
It is hard, but not impossible! May I encourage you to keep listening to the podcasts and being part of a writing community like this? I joined a year-long fiction writing cohort that’s called “from premise to publish” and it’s so good and I’m learning so much. It has helped me tremendously. Plus, I’m going to the ACW writers conference in June. So I feel like I’m cooperating with what the Lord is doing and I encourage you (and any other overwhelmed boomers) to do the same! With His help and wisdom, we can do this!!!
(ladylike Christian cussing) I wish there was an edit function here—I meant CWI writers conference! 😇
Thanks, Karen. I keep wondering if the book was my idea or God’s.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Great points, Bob. I’ve been waiting to get a platform, but I do know a whole lot of students….
Good advice, unless you’re already there.
I recently retired and I see this time as full of possibilities. My energy isn’t being scattered among a thousand things. I have everything I need: none of us are guaranteed time and good health. As far as platforms go, I’d probably just fall off anyway. I’m just looking forward to the pleasure of writing and seeing where God takes me.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Such a good reminder for all of us, Bob. We are only given today. What will we do with it?
Joy Neal Kidney
But it’s never too late! Because of two decades of fibromyalgia, I didn’t publish my first book until age 75. Four years later, I’m working on book 4 of the “Leora series.”