I have been asked to speak to a group of aspiring authors about lessons I have learned since I began my writing journey over a decade ago. The mistakes made and a few successes while researching, writing, publishing, and marketing five books, four nonfiction and one novel, have taught me a lot. And I have three more books in the pipeline, so I’m still on a steep learning curve.

Among the lessons learned that I’ll share with the aspiring authors:

  • Get out of your cave—as enticing as it is to sit alone with your research and writing, your product can only get better by asking for and listening to critique
  • Before embarking on your adventure, ask yourself why you are writing—the answers will inform both your writing and your marketing
  • Grow thick skin—rejection by agents and publishers is inevitable
  • Everyone will have an idea for what your next book should be—and some of those ideas will be good

You might ask what does all this have to do with retirement? One thing is that I didn’t start pursuing this passion until I was retired. Could I have found the time and energy to have written while still working? I’m not sure, but in retrospect, likely so. And with hindsight, I wish I had. I would have had the opportunity to develop my craft and would not have waited four years into retirement to pursue my passion.

The other thing this has to do with retirement is that one of the lessons I plan to share with the authors, who cover a wide range of ages, is “Don’t quit your day job, unless you already have.”

What should that mean to an aspiring author, especially, but not limited to, one who is nearing or already in retirement? The logic goes like this:

  • Bulding a writing career that will support you is difficult, and only a few are successful. If you ascribe to being sure to know why your are writing, being sure whether it is about the money and/or something else will be helpful. By the way, this applies to whatever your life/retirement pursuits might be.
  • Success in retirement, or in life in general for that matter, is about so much more than the money. One of the key elements of a meaningful retirement is identifying and pursuing your passions. Is it writing, gardening, long-distance running, tutoring, dancing, playing bridge, travelling?
  • If writing (or any of those you identify) is a passion for you, build it into your retirement plan (or regardless of your age, into your life plan). Identifying your passions is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Relentlessly pursue them.
  • If you are not yet retired, bringing your passions into your life early enables you to practice retirement. And why would you not want to get an early start?

What are your passions? What are those things:

  • You can’t wait to do and love to plan doing
  • You lose track of time when you’re doing them
  • You are energized by telling others about
  • Others recognize and admire your love of
  • About which you build relationships with others who share your interest

If you’ve not done this personal exercise before, I suggest that you find some quiet time to sit down with paper and pen. That’s right—unplug for a bit and go old school. Simply, or not so simply, create a list of the things you are passionate about doing. Next to each of the passions on your list, write down what you do now to pursue that passion. Then brainstorm and write down some ideas about how you could pursue it even more.

Stumped? Some people have a difficult time identifying their passions, perhaps because they have been putting so much of themselves into their career that they have lost track of those things they love to do. Here are a couple of ways to discover or rediscover your passions.

Ask a couple of close friends or family members what they think you love to do. You might find that they can identify in you what you have not been able to.

Ask yourself, “What did I love to do when I was 10 years old?” In that timeframe in our lives, we are old enough to decide what excites us, but it is before life gets in the way of actually doing them. In my case, when I was 10 years old, if I had a baseball or a book in my hand, I was happy. Now in retirement, I’m still playing baseball, writing books, and my first book was about baseball.

You get the idea—identify your passions and relentlessly pursue them. Doing so will help make for a great retirement. Don’t wait—bring those passions into your life now, regardless of your age. Think about it as practicing retirement.