I used to laugh at retired people who said that they didn't know how they had found time to work. Surely retirement was nothing but long days to spend pleasing yourself? Well, except for my dear grandmother, with whom we lived, who stirred the dust up with a stiff broom every morning, and cooked for us all, and ... But I wouldn't be like that.
Only now it's happened to me. Before I retired I thought I might spend my time cooking my way happily through the six-foot tall bookcase of cookbooks (plus overflow) which now sits in the corner of my kitchen. Or I'd get to grips with the knitting machines - yes, plural - in what is supposed to be my craft room. Sew myself some clothes that fit my five-foot frame properly. Do a bit of gentle tourism round the National Trust's properties. Spend time in the French house soaking up French culture, food, and wine.
But at my retirement do I was presented, amongst other little gifts, with a thick notepad and a pack of biros and told to go and write that book I'd been talking about for ages.
As it turned out, it was a symbolic sort of gift, as I write at the computer most of the time, not longhand. But the idea already lived at the back of my mind. Then we moved to Wales to live near my daughter, and she met someone who was interested, as she was, in setting up a creative writing group, and things snowballed. I was instructed to attend, in case nobody else turned up. Her co-founder wanted to attend a weekend course on writing a novel, and wanted someone to go with her, and I had nothing better to do, and it did sound interesting. (Thank you Helen Carey). The other person dropped out. I carried on.
Fast forward to now. I do have four first drafts, one of which I've been editing recently. But those long empty days to be spent exactly as I pleased, well they have proved elusive.
My daughter? She has self-published two books of a trilogy. She also has two children now. Writing? Two hours on Sunday if she's lucky.
I admit that a great deal of the blame for my lack of progress is mine. I find it difficult to resist anything marked "Free!", such as webinars, newsletters, and, well, books. So the TBR shelf on my Kindle is around 16 pages long, and it's just as well I have unlimited download gigabytes at home. The cooking is done by my husband for the most part. I watch little television. I'm still taking those creative writing courses, and should get enough credits by the summer to get my certificate from Aberystwyth University, which takes up a day a week at the moment, and next term will take two. But apart from that, where does the time go?
Well it's now 11:26 am. We don't get up early, as the old man takes his retirement very seriously, and is not fond of getting up early now he doesn't have to. I'm thinking perhaps I should steel myself and leave him to snore while I make an earlier start, though it doesn't seem fair.
So far this morning I've done all the routine things like eating and showering. I've looked at and deleted about thirty emails (an average count for the last twenty four hours). I've downloaded two manuscripts from my online critique group, which I'll have to read and comment on by the weekend. I've still not sent them my selection for this week. I've fiddled about with chapter headings and summaries for the work in editing. This last at least is productive, because my first drafts are very tight and need expanding; consequently I'm forever moving scenes around and setting up new chapters, and the old headings and summaries are way out of date. When I get an idea for something that absolutely must be included in that chapter where ... it sometimes takes me a lot of clicking around before I can find the place. But it's not actually writing, is it?
And this afternoon we are going to the gym, which will take a couple of hours and leave me feeling quite drained. I'm not exactly a natural exerciser. Then more food, "Pointless" on the tv so I can tut over the educational standards nowadays, more computer time, and bed. That's it.
They say don't look at your emails first thing, or you'll spend all your time fitting into somebody else's agenda. And keep off Facebook. But when we went to France for a month I came back to 500 unread emails, and the thought of that level of backlog is horrific. I've unsubscribed from some newsletters (if they actually take any notice) but that hardly makes a dent.
I did write a blog, though. That counts, doesn't it?
Doreen lives in the empty bit in the middle of Wales, where since her retirement she has taken up writing. She says it's better than working any day.
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