Should I write a memoir after I’m retired?

 by Jerry Waxler

Many people intend to write more after they retire, because they will have more time. I agree that you will have more time when you are no longer working a day job, but I’m not so sure that it’s free time you need more of. In my experience, more free time does not necessarily lead to more writing. It’s what you do with your free time that matters.

If you look at your free time as time to relax, then more free time will just mean more relaxing. Writing requires a shift in your attitude towards free time, and you can start making that shift right now. The trick is to realize that once you start writing, even if you only last for ten minutes, you will have energy than when you started. Once you develop the habit of creating during your free time, it will stick with you, and carry you towards your goals whether you are working, or after you retire.

When you go to work, you’re on a schedule. Your actions are well-defined, driven by the needs of the business. The people who work together expect each other to do their share. Writing lacks these pressures, and on the surface, this lack of pressure seems glamorous. Be your own boss. Work when you want. But when you actually try to produce readable, or even publishable material, independence loses its glamor.

Now instead of having someone tell you what to do next, you have to tell yourself. There’s no one to sort priorities, give you direction, or warn you of the consequences of slacking off. There are many other things calling for attention: television, the grandkids, or the tennis court. And in the back of your mind, or perhaps right there in plain view, is your belief that free time is down time. “Why should I work in my free time?”

My answer to that question is “Because creativity makes me feel better than anything else I could be doing with my time.” Through experimenting, I’ve found that by writing, I invest energy, but then get back more than I put in. This experimentation has opened a new chapter in my life. I found that by persistently writing, I have nurtured the sort of enthusiasm typically expected only in entrepreneurs or pioneers.

Once you see writing as a contribution to your life, you’ll cherish your free time as a time to create. You’ll find ways to get yourself to the desk. You’ll start habits to help you organize your material. You’ll set goals, even modest ones, that turn your free time into the luxurious glamorous opportunity to create something you can enjoy and share. It’s an awakening, not a retreat.

Start as soon as possible, like after you finish reading this. Take ten minutes and write about the last time you saw your childhood home, or describe your best friend in high school, or list five things you did that pleased your parents, and five things that displeased them. If you feel better, invigorated, satisfied in some sublime way, you have used your free time wisely.

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