Why I’m not retiring
A reader just wrote that she heard I was retiring. Who said that?
No. I’m not retiring. Let’s be clear about it. I. Am. Not. Retiring.
Not that I haven’t considered it in moments of frustration. Life for a writer has changed. When I started – more than 30 years ago – all I had to do was write. Ha ha. That’s funny. I was a full-time mother of three young sons, a full-time wife, a full-time homemaker. And all I had to do was write.
Consider it, though. A mother’s work is often mindless. Crucial. But mindless. Folding laundry? Driving car pool? Making school lunches. Cooking every other meal. Waiting at the doctor’s office, the dentist’s office, the hair dresser? Supervising play in the back yard? Physical presence is required in these things, far more than intellectual presence.
Writing filled that void. It was an ideal escape for me at a time when I was wondering why in the devil I got a bachelor’s degree, why in the devil I got a master’s degree, if my destiny in life was to match socks. I set my mind to plot and character development, and when the kids were in school, I wrote. It was very simple. The most challenging times were when I had to choose clothes – and make arrangements for my absence at home – in advance of a two-week author tour.
Enter computers, e-mail, the Internet, and social media. Suddenly I had to create a website and keep it current. I had to answer email from readers – well, I didn’t have to, not all writers do, but my readers are important enough to me to want to answer each note. I had to write blogs and reading group discussion questions and promo materials. Like email arriving at 10 at night, the work seemed to be never done. It was, frankly, exhausting.
So I took a little break. This was last June, was right after Blueprints was published. I had put off signing a new contract, because I didn’t want a deadline. I had already written a proposal for my next book, The Make Up Artist, and had even written the first three chapters. I put it all aside and did nothing for eight months.
Actually, not nothing. My days were full. If I wasn’t meeting a friend for lunch, I was playing tennis or spending time with my kids or learning Spanish or knitting or reading. It was kind of nice getting up in the morning and making a little list ( I’m a list person) of what I would do that day, and feeling no stress at all.
After a few months, though, a funny thing happened. I started thinking of The Make Up Artist more and more. The characters remained vivid, and I missed them. I missed the writing itself. I even missed the discipline that came with having a contract, discipline which in turn gave structure to my day.
I did not miss the deadlines or the pressure or the gazillion chores that came with being a writer in 2016. So I restructured things. I gave my agent the go-ahead to negotiate a contract for The Make Up Artist and a second book, but the deadlines are more generous than I will ever need, hence no pressure. I set the goal of two pages a day for myself – a far cry from the ten pages a day I consistently wrote, or tried to write and failed – two pages or three hours, whichever comes first. I put limits on what I am willing to do where social media is concerned. LinkedIn? Nope. Snapchat? Pinterest? Too much. I do Facebook and Instagram, and I do them well. Enough said.
So. I’ve taken control of my writing life. I will not retire because (a) I have too many good ideas to write about, (b) I love the art and craft of writing, (c) writing is my identity, the scaffolding that keeps my life in shape, (d) I love tennis and my kids and my friends, but I like having something totally apart from those, and (e) I have a cadre of loyal readers who wait for each book, and, if that’s so, why would I let them down?
Perhaps I was too driven before. Perhaps I’ve simply come to a place where I know myself better. Whatever, please trust that I am not retiring. You all will get your books, and I’ll get my writing satisfaction, and we’ll stay best of friends. Yes?
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Yes ma’am, I agree with you 100%. I have been an avid fan of you and your books for many years. We have much in common in that we have raised sons, we both knit, we are similar in age and we have a creative soul that must have an outlet. But, now we have grandchildren!!! And we are no longer “driven”. We can slow our pace a bit to fit in all (or at least most) of the things we enjoy about our lives. Yes, we will stay “best of friends”. You go girl! I look forward to The Make Up Artist – whenever it appears.
Your books are gifts to your readers. Thank you for continuing to write these memorable, moving characters and plots.
Good for you for taking back control of your time. Don’t get me wrong I would like a new book from you every month but I know that’s impossible. I have been a fan since Commitments and look forward to each book but I think a balance in writing and other things makes a happier writer. I hope you write forever but I also hope you enjoy other aspects of life.
I support you 100%! I’ll happily wait for your books to come out. You’re one of my favorite writers, but I completely understand your desire to restructure your life in a way that works for you. I’d never begrudge you that after all the pleasure your books have given me over the years.
We don’t use the “R” WORD in our house.
There is always something out there to keep us busy.
“Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.”
I enjoy your books! They are a great gift!
This makes me happy!! I love your books, but I want you to enjoy your days. Thank you for all the joy you give us through your unforgettable characters!
YES! And thank you!!!
Good for you, Barbara. I can’t imagine how life has changed for a writer in your position. You are actually the second writer who I follow and read avidly that has taken a break over the last year. I commend you.
Thank You, Barbara, for everything you do so we out here get to enjoy you wonderful books, whatever that takes, so that you are happy and therefore we, your faithful readers, continue to “get our books.” Your satisfaction is important to us too! That you take your precious time to answer our notes, as you have mine, is very satisfying to me as an avid reader of yours. I could not be happier to hear you are not retiring!!
For 3 years of retirement after 37 years of teaching, I have been trying to understand why I really do not like it but in one sentence you have identified it for me.
Teaching was the ” scaffolding “that shaped my life
I knew there was a reason I have read all your books They have always left me with much to think about.
Are you able to volunteer in your community?? I work at a library and we couldn’t survive without our volunteers. We have many retired teachers that help out with different programs.
Yes, yes, yes!! Don’t you enjoy the freedom age provides to reevaluate our priorities and think about ourselves first for a change?? I have enjoyed so many of your books over the years and really enjoy your blog!
Thank for bringing reason to the madness of the business world. Everyone, not matter what their field-including medicine-is advised to have a website, blog, FB, snapchat and every social media outlet. It’s too much. It takes away from our jobs and our real life reach out and touch human friends and family. Its nice to hear from a favorite author or my dentist’s reminder or notice of a once/year sale, but I don’t need or want a daily dose.
Thanks for your books and your sensible approach.
I am glad you are not retiring, Barbara, and I love to read your books while I sit on my terrace in Italy – after my retirement I am afraid to say. Looking forward to meet more of the fascinating, charming and humane figures you create. Thanks for the joy and meaningful entertainment you are providing. Keep on doing what you love to do. You are the best! Julia
Soooo….happy there are going to be more of your books!! I LOVE all of them!!