One of the joys of being an indie author is the flexibility. As self-publishing writers, we can set our own working hours, choose our own place of work, and determine our work-life balance. We can also set our own retirement date: there is no forced exit when we hit a critical big birthday that might force us out a conventional day job.
That is, if we plan to retire at all. Only when my fifteen-year-old daughter came into my study recently, where I was tapping away at my keyboard, to ask me when I was planning to retire from writing did I realise the idea had never occurred to me. I had assumed I was in this for the long haul, until I reach the point where I can no longer string a sentence together. Although I may need to pace myself as I get older, I can't imagine reaching a point where I lay down my pen and say “That's it, I'm done.”
Out of curiosity, I put my daughter's question to the ALLi hive, whose answers we're sharing below, with the authors' permission. was almost unanimous. It also provided an interesting unofficial postscript to Professor Alison Baverstock's extensive research on “What Makes a Writer?”, on which we reported in this previous post.
How do ALLi author members' attitudes to retirement chime with your own? Feel free to join the conversation via the comments box!
Never Say Retire!
- Clare Flynn: A writer never retires. I'll write until I lose my faculties.
- Jill Marsh: Nothing will stop me telling stories. When there are still stories to tell, why stop?
- Helen Baggott: I'll never stop.
- Brenda Felber: Well…since I'm in my mid-sixties and am wrapping up the 7th in a 50 book series (one in each US state) I'd say I'm not retiring from writing any time soon.
- Dharma Kelleher: I plan to write till I drop.
- Deb McEwan: Ditto what Dharma Kelleher said. I have bad dreams if I don’t write so it’s also therapeutic.
- Jean Gill: I've stopped 1000 times in 40 years. Now I just accept I can't.
- Chris Calder: Ask me again in 30 years' time.
- Brad Borkan: A number of my relatives are still working into their mid-to-late 70's in real jobs — doctors, etc. They don't need the money. They love what they do. Why stop if you love what you do? The only time to stop is if it is no longer fun.
- Caz Greenham: Writing for me, is a hobby-passion. Not something to retire from.
- Bill Griffin: You retire from work, not life, and you have the chance to give your time to what you love doing. That's the measure. I'm sure writing qualifies.
- Eliza Green: Retirement is for jobs you hate.
Writing as a Retirement Plan
For many authors in day jobs, writing is a long-term retirement plan – with the bonus of an income to supplement their existing pension scheme.
- James Eggebeen: I'll stop writing when I can't. I'll stop the day job when I can.
- JL Gilliland: Writing is my end goal. I have a regular job for the bills but hope to eventually retire to full time writing.
- Thomas Shepherd: Writing is my retirement plan! I hope that at some point by the time I reach “retirement age” my author/illustrator career will be able to take over…
- Dianne Ascroft: I hope to retire from my day job before the standard retirement age but I don't have any desire to retire from writing. I may spend more time doing other things I love once I leave the day job but writing will still be one of my activities for a long time.
Writing in Retirement
Many members are writing post-retirement from their day jobs.
- Lynette M Burrows: I retired so that I could write full time. My hubby won't let me retire. If I don't get words in, I'm a grump.
- Tony Whelpton: I decided to retire from running my own little publishing company when I was 75. (I had been writing and publishing foreign language textbooks.) But after a while I felt there was something missing, and self-examination told me that I had a compulsive need to write. So I started writing a novel, something I had never had time to do before, and eventually I published my first novel at the age of 79. Now I am well underway with my eighth. Well, I am only 86 next month, and I intend to carry on until I drop. My only regret is that I didn’t start writing fiction earlier in life. It’s not just because people actually pay to read my novels, nor even that a lot of people like them; it’s more that I can’t stop. You see, there’s a whole world in there, in my brain, and I just love telling its stories!
- Clare Howard Weiner: I hope to continue writing – whether stories or a blog – hopefully stories. Though as a child, unusually for a writer, I drew my stories, I never thought of writing them! Still drawing/painting… still narrative stuff.
- Lesley Krier Tither: My measly British state pension is so poor and diminishing rapidly that I daren't even think about retiring. Plus I love writing so much I don't want to, until I can't do it any more!
- Ann Brady: I changed tacks and went from factual to fiction. I’ve also been learning about the publishing side of things so retirement for me has been very interesting.
- Errin Stevens: I took up writing with this very issue in mind. Well, I had the impetus and some professional affinity to start with, but as I considered vocations from within the context of aging and the type of collegial support typical of today's workaday world, I knew it was something I could age into and work at under my own terms. My LinkedIn tagline is a nod to this very thought process: “Writer Without Permission.” Because I don't require permission, and, yay!
- Ann Patavino Votta: I love this. It is so inspiring. At 75 (76 next month) I've self-published two memoirs because I had stories to tell. I never thought that writing was an ability or aspiration, but you have given me something to ponder. Perhaps I have more to say!
Writing for Pleasure
While a lot of our respondents couldn't imagine not wanting to write for ever, others were slightly more circumspect.
- John A Hoda: Writing never. Publishing when it becomes too painful.
- Elizabeth Gates: Huge satisfaction in honing one's skills as a writer with every new project. No satisfaction in honing one's skills as a marketeer so no money made. Perhaps I've ‘retired'.
- Anna Castle: I'll stop writing when I stop enjoying it. I will not be one of those writers who grinds out a 15th book in a series, obviously bored to tears with their protagonist! I do hope to get to the end of Francis Bacon's life, which is — eek! 25 books away at the rate I'm going! Must start skipping more years between stories, or I'll never make it.
- JJ Toner: I have lots of ideas for books, but I'm getting a bit long in the tooth. If it was solely my choice, I'd probably write till they carry me away from my keyboard, but it's not solely my choice and not everyone in my family would vote for me to keep going indefinitely. (*trying to be tactful here*) Apparently, there are other things in life besides writing books.
- Tahlia Newland: I've already retired from writing, but when I get a pension and no longer have to work for money, I may write again, because it won't matter then whether or not I earn anything from it.
- Kassandra Lamb: I am “retired” after three careers. Now I'm doing what I've always dreamed of doing, but after eight years and twenty books…um, not ready to stop, but can imagine a time when I get tired of the pressure and decide to rest on my laurels, i.e., write what I want when I want, not what the readers want; and I won't care if it makes money. That's my definition of retiring from writing.
We Are What We Are
Many of our members shared my surprise that the question was even necessary.
- Nick Hamlyn: A writer is something that you are, not just a description of something that you do. You can't retire from it.
- Cheryl Russell: Writing is my passion. If I ever stopped life would be empty, meaningless.
- Terri Lampkin Sherrill: Writing keeps you young. Stimulates the brain, gives you a purpose, keeps your friends a little worried you might write them in as a villain – haha. I will never stop.
- Karen Inglis: I'll never stop until it's no longer possible… I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have this writing occupation (which I have all but ‘retired' into from business writing…!)
- Mandy Park: I write because I love it and have stories I feel compelled to tell. And right now, I have enough stories rattling around in my brain to keep me going for far longer than I'll ever live!
- Neelie Wicks: I’ll never give up, or leave communities like this one.
- Rebecca Lang: Write on! I don’t think my generation gets a retirement in Oz.
- Belinda Pollard: I hope to write till I die. One of my biggest fears is the thought of getting dementia and not being able to write.
- Wendy Soliman: I'm 69, have written over seventy books, work every day, seven days a week, and the possibility of stopping hasn't even occurred to me. What would I do?
- John Lynch: When I was in salaried employment and people asked when I would retire, I said I'll retire when I stop enjoying it. The moment came when I was 72, I'd been in Suriname for five days and my KLM flight home was delayed by seven hours after I'd already checked out. We ended up flying at the same time as the Air Suriname flight and Paramaribo Airport can't handle two flights at the same time. The thought came out of the blue: “I don't want to do this any more.” I made a couple more trips but my heart wasn't in it and I said I wanted to call it a day. But at 72 I'd been in salaried employment for just under 50 years – I've been writing since I was seven. When will I stop? Who knows – but probably when they're putting me in a box and people are sending flowers and saying ‘Thank God the old b*****d's gone at last.'
- Erron Adams: I must be the odd one out here. Have a book to publish next year, that's it, one and done. Was thinking of a sequel but overall I'd rather go fishing. I never thought of myself as a writer (a tortured poet when young ;-)) but as a person who had something to write and did it.
- Liz Young: I'm retired already – writing is my retirement dream!
- Helena Halme: I cannot see a time when I will not be writing. I often reply to similar questions about retirement that I will die with my head resting on my laptop. Write till I die!
- Janet Pywell: I’ll be trying to tap in one more word on my next novel as they’re closing the lid on my coffin x
- Debbie Young: Maybe I should have inscribed on my tombstone: “The End”
- Charles Levin: I'm thinking SO NOW WHAT? for the tombstone.
- Lisa White: Or “to be continued” ? I had a psychic reading once & apparently I've been surrounded by books in many past lives!
- Mary Flood: And like Yeats say that the grave consists of no conventional phrase…
- Kassandra Lamb: Note to self: leave instructions to loved ones to put a long-life-battery, LED-keyboard laptop in my coffin with me.
OVER TO YOU What's your take on retirement as a writer?
JOIN THE ALLi FORUM If you'd like to take part in regular discussions like this, you can do so by becoming a paid-up member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, which will give you access to our members-only Facebook-based forum, and 20 other great benefits! For more details about ALLi membership, click here.Why #indieauthors never really retire - or at least, why most don't plan ever to stop #writing! Compiled from the @IndieAuthorALLi hive mind by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet
At the age of 76 I’m just starting my writing career – my first novel will be published in the early spring.
A writer retiring: isn’t that an oxymoron?
Can we take the Indie out of this post? I don’t think any author ever really retires!
Oh, and Debbie, personally think your gravestone inscription should read “To be continued…”
Ha! Missed this earlier, glad to read everyone’s takes. I’m in the first group. I’ll retire when I’m dead, and my last words will be “can you send this to my edito–”.