I was just 56 when l retired. Or perhaps to be a little clearer – took early retirement.
To be honest it scared the pants off me. I’ve never been a risk taker or gambler. I don’t even take out a tatts (lottery) ticket!
As a little kid I always wanted to become an author as l ate, drank and breathed books. Our local library could barely keep up with my reading capacity. Teachers even offered me access to their book collections. I wrote stories and poems constantly and told my little sisters bed-time stories each night.
My parents said writing was not a good career path and suggested l look at a shop job, hairdressing or perhaps nursing.
Over the years, like many people of my age, I worked in many jobs. My family watched me drift from occupation to occupation. It is wonderful to hear my parents and siblings now say how proud they are of my books and writing career.
Again like some in my age group my super (pension) was quite meager and certainly not shaping up to carry me through my twilight years in comfort. To be honest l really didn’t think about it much until my husband suggested l take early retirement and concentrate on my writing.
For years l’d submitted my stories to publishers but seemed to somehow get my timing wrong. Trying to make it as a writer is pretty hard when working shifts and long hours.
My super was the perfect amount to launch my writing career and covered set up and production costs for quite a few books. In fact I only used a small amount for the first books. All those occupations l had worked in honed my writing skills, taught me how to lay out books, run a small business, and how to distribute and promote my product. With some one-on-one with a computer guru l learned the necessary skills to design my books and my invitations to book launches.
My pathway as a self-published author was quite involved. I borrowed a few “how to” books but found the information too sketchy to be of any great help and resorted to tracking down other authors who had travelled similar paths. They very kindly answered most of my questions and gave me advice. Many authors don’t want to put as much time into promotion and selling as l do – and who can blame them!
I rather enjoy the challenge of getting my books into outlets and am happy to do radio, television and newspaper interviews – often writing most of the material for the press. Of course you can pay others for this service depending on the size and depth of your pocket. I often give workshops on the “how to” process and try to tailor what l present to the needs of each aspiring author.
What l didn’t predict in my journey was the loneliness I battled while working at home. Travelling for thousands of kilometers and being on the road for up to six months of the year selling and promoting my books was also very isolating. It did however allow me to see vast tracts of our beautiful country and meet lots of amazing people.
I still missed the dynamics of a work environment and my workmates. My husband again came to my rescue suggesting l volunteer at our local museum or perhaps the nursing home. At the museum l found new best friends and marveled at how busy and active they were.
Small country towns would fall apart without volunteers. My mates, mostly in their 70’s and 80’s, are much more upbeat and innovative than my younger friends. To be truthful they make me feel a bit lazy and unfit. All of them race from meals on wheels to marine rescue, to hosting their own local FM radio program, then off to the museum to work as a guide or perhaps to the local lions club or men’s shed. They have busy social calendars and fund-raise for a myriad of local charities. They walk, swim and cycle while their active brains whir along dreaming up new projects.
This is quite the opposite of how retirement was once viewed when l was a youngster. We watched the older generation sit on verandas contemplating past events. In my twenties l noticed some men were totally lost when they retired, often dying not long after leaving the work force. I wonder if this was due to health issues or simply because they were unsure what they should do with all those hours of inactivity?
So much has changed. Many retirees tell me they are far busier now and there are simply not enough hours in the day. Our retired are highly skilled people who still love a challenge and often go back to university to study.
As for me – well now I’m editing book 12 and have had some major successes with my stories. Many of my children’s books have had several reprints and my editions are now 2,000 books per title. Last year l released four new books and reprinted one of my children’s picture books. I had a collection of short stories sell out in just three weeks much to my amazement and the delight of my stores.
And that scary step into the unknown – well l founded my publishing name in 2012 and Little Ant Books is becoming well known. I like to think that, like those hard working ants, l’m just a part of the colony doing my best and building my nest egg. My book sales and author visits to schools now generate enough to produce future books.