Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Life of a Writer

I retired last October and sometimes I feel like this has been one long weekend. I get up in the morning when I want to. I put on my sweats, make some tea and then read for as long as I feel like. So far so good. The day stretches out before me and I usually have no idea what I’m going to do. There are the daily chores like cleaning and laundry and sometimes we need to go shopping. I can take a swim or go to the recreation center and work out. Maybe read some more in the afternoon and take a nap. The problem is, it’s going to be one hell of a long weekend. Shouldn’t I be doing something else, something more meaningful, perhaps?
Throughout my life, the weekends have been respite and recovery from the week. I guess I could make the case that retirement is rest and recovery from a life time of doing what others wanted me to do. I started school at age 5 and since that time I’ve either been in school, been in the Army or have been working. So now at the age of 62 I can do pretty much whatever I want. But after all the doing for others, much of the time I don’t know what I want. Well, here’s what I’ve figured out so far, “Make your best guess and then go for it.”
I’ve dreamed of being a writer for many years. I used to imagine myself traveling the world as a merchant seaman like Joseph Conrad or Jack London. Working on the ship all day and at night when the others are drinking and playing cards, I’d be lying on my bunk writing novels. Or like Aldous Huxley or Herman Hesse, going to my villa in the mountains of Italy, writing all morning and then strolling down into the village for a drink, maybe visit with the locals. I could give many more examples of the romance of the writers life because I have read about many great authors. But what I’ve discovered is I want to live like a famous author, I just don’t want to have to write.
One of my elderly clients was a writer and a filmmaker of some success. I often talked to him about writing and my struggles with it. One day he asked me, “Do you know what the definition of a writer is?” I thought I knew the answer, but played into his little game. “No what?” He answered, “It’s a person who writes.” Yogi Berra couldn’t have said it any better. Sometimes the truth is very simple and at the same time very profound.
So one of the activities of meaning I am going to engage in during this long weekend is writing. Not for fame or fortune, but so that I can honestly answer the question “What do you do?” with the response, “I’m a writer.”


  1. I love this piece, Mike. Your voice is strong. You have passion for the art, and you realize as I have that it takes work. Right now in the writers' group I have 3 people worknig on novels. These novel writers swim in their passion; each week they bring in something and the writing gets better and better. Part of the writer's dilemma is standing in front of a room in only your skivies. So vulnerable; yet when we discover we are all standing around in our underwear with just a thin layer of cloth hiding the lot of us, it gets easier. Keep writing! You are good. You should submit some of this to AARP mag.

  2. I hope I can find peace like this in retirement... reading, writing, a little bit of my own heaven on earth!


  3. I felt like I was reading my own story when I read yours. I to have always wanted to write, but never found the courage to call myself a writer. I have often written short stories to amuse others or to cheer someone up from a disappointment. I love your story and wish you all the success as you go forward. I am in hopes of doing likewise. Your prose have helped me see past my retirement, my writings, and my horizon. My brain did not retire nor did my imagination. Thank you for shedding the light I needed so much.


  4. I have had a revelation this morning. Many times during our retirement we can get depressed because of the relocation we go through during it. I used to be 5'7" tall, I used to have measurements of 38,19,34, I used to have long blond hair I could sit on, I used to be able to point my toes and make my shapely legs do gymnastics. I'm about 5'5" now. My chins have run into my chest, my chest has run into my knees. In fact I call my bosom knee warmers now. It's all a matter of relocation. I still have curves, they have just relocated a bit. The key is to pick your chins up and keep walking. You never know when you might find a chicken for dinner.

    Hope you had a good Sunday. After church my dogs took me for a walk around the neighborhood. I got to meet all the friends they run off to see during the day. I have Brandy, a beagle about 8 years old. I also have Winston and Baby Girl. Winston is 2 and Baby girl is not yet a year. I also have Greta, an ancient min-dash hound. Greta stays inside because she cannot see too well and she cannot hear. She follows me around like toilet paper stuck on the heal of my shoe. I don't know how many times I've almost stepped on her.

    I could not tell from your earlier email about going shopping. Do you drive or does Peggy drive for you? I can drive but gave up my car as part of my down sizing. I have a disability bus that picks me up and takes me to the grocery or any where else I need to go. I usually go to the grocery once a month. If I need to go to the doctor they would take me for that as well. However, in the state of Texas once they have declared that you are truly disabled, you are not allowed to have Medicare or Medicaid for two years. This means I will not be able to get health insurance for another year. It does not make sense to me, but it is the law. I had a bought with pneumonia last year that cost me a bundle because I had no insurance. I'm still paying for that one.

    Anyway, the dogs and I walked around to another part of the lake and were having a great time. All of a sudden Winston came running at full speed past us with a big ball of foil in his mouth. The other dogs took off after him. When I got home, all three were on the front porch trying to rip into the ball of foil. When I took it away from them their faces looked as if I had just hit them. Apparently, Winston had stolen it off someone's grill. I quickly ushered everyone inside. The foil had a whole chicken in it along with some vegetables and onions. I knew if the owner of this delightful dinner saw Winston they would be along in a minute looking for him. I stayed on the front porch for a while, but no one came by. The dogs had not broken through the foil so I put it in the oven. I heated it up and ate it. It seemed like a shame to throw it away.

    I then took a walk without the dogs in the same direction as we had come and in the direction Winston had run from. I finally found a grill still going. I approached the house but no one was at home. There was a note on the door to a relative. It said that someone had gotten hurt and for them to take everything off the grill and meet them at the hospital. I tucked a $10 bill into an envelope along with a note. I explained about my dog, how much I enjoyed the dinner, and a wish for a quick recovery. I did not tell them where I lived, just in case my apology was not enough.

    How was your Sunday?


    I wish I had your talent. I wish I too could be a writer, but my spelling left me when spell check came out. I've forgotten all the grammar rules I used to know. I wish you all the best, you are living my dream.

    Winston Baxter at

  5. Have you noticed that "Finger To Keyboard" isn't as romantic as "Pen To Paper". Write on borther.