- by Judy Griffith Gill
To Retire or Not to Retire
Have you ever tried writing with your laptop on a board bridging the valley between your tummy and thighs while your knees are bent? Believe me, it’s possible. It’s also awkward as hell when the boat starts to roll. That’s the point when I spread my legs out flat on the bunk for extra stability, jam my left shoulder into the corner with a bunch of pillows, gulp a Dramamine and hope the boat won’t turn turtle before I hit “save to disk.” It gets even more scary when suddenly the only other person on board—the guy whose sworn duty is to protect my life, my limb (well, okay, limbs, I do have more than one) and even more important, my computer, appears in the aft cabin, having left that all essential steering-station wherein lies every piece of our precious equipment like radar, sonar, compass, and fuel-gauges along with his steady hands on the wheel, and says in an urgent tone, “Honey!”
I look up, fingers freezing on the keyboard, fully expecting him to say something along the lines of “abandon ship”, but all he does is a “click” from the camera, resulting in a totally revolting photo he insisted be entitled “Writer at Work While on Vacation.” It is not a pretty sight, despite my decision to let people know I really am old, and not even making a hint of a stab at doing so gracefully, here’s a picture that’s probably just as telling, but not nearly so obnoxious. It’s entitled “Mature Writer Aging Well But Hardly Gracefully.”
Which brings me to the real subject of this little blog: As we writers age, when should we retire? Or should we retire at all? When I finally realized I was of a pensionable age, because people began sending me not one, but two pension checks each month, I began to wonder: was I taking up writing space better suited to the smart young things of 29 (the age I was when I sold my first book) whose work might be better understood by smart young editors who are around that same age and often a lot younger. I also began to wonder if run-on sentences were a sign of aging, but let’s leave that alone for now.
I discussed this aging issue with several other authors of, shall we say, “a certain age” or perhaps “developing a set number of new wrinkles per annum” or even “tipping slightly over the edge and wearing weird hats” and the consensus appears to be that retirement is not an option until we develop Alzheimer’s or some other form of age-related dementia to the degree that having written “Once Upon a Time” we sit and stare at the blank screen and wonder who wrote those words and why, and if there’s a point to sitting there staring at that screen with those four words on it and go have a drink of wine, instead. The consensus was each of us was different and we’d all recognize the time when retirement was mandatory. Or, on the other hand, we simply feel like retiring, taking lots of naps and having many, many glasses of wine. Because, of course, by that stage, we won’t remember how many we’ve already had.
In the spirit of fairness I confess I made a conscious decision to quit writing. To retire. To lie on my bunk, sans computer, or even with it but playing Solitaire, and let the Dramamine send me off into gentle slumber. I did retire. Honestly! I retired for seven hours, thirteen minutes and nine seconds. It felt really good for the first six of those hours. I smiled a lot. I got off my bunk and looked at the spectacular fiord scenery surrounding our boat. I sat steadfast beside my skipper on the command bridge. I even looked at a beautiful bald eagle soaring over the blue waves which had pretty white lace on top of each one. Then, before I could prevent it, right above the blue & white water, as the eagle soared higher into the blue sky, it unfurled a banner—I kid you not, just like one of those planes that tow a streamer saying “Jane! Will you marry me?”—my eagle developed a banner that did not go splat on the bow of the boat, but said, “Once Upon a Time . . .”
Damn her or his white-feathered head, I was forced to sidle away from the skipper who asked where I was going. I told him “to pee.” Not true! Three and a half hours later, with about eight pages following the eagle’s “Once Upon a Time” trick, I became aware that the engines had slowed, the rocking of the boat had ceased, and my skipper was hollering, “Honey!” Which meant I had to get off my bunk, store my computer safely, and go do the deckhand thing, scurrying up to the steering station and following hand signals while the skipper set the anchor.
I did all that, then went back, got my computer and began to write about eagles with white heads and how they should retire because if they weren’t old, they shouldn’t have white heads. Then I went into the bathroom, which on the boat we call, inexplicably, “The Head”, took out my Lady Clairol “Copper-Gold” and decided that as long as my head wasn’t as white an eagle’s, as long as an eagle could inspire me to write, I was absolutely not going to retire. That, in my opinion, is strictly for the birds–the bald-headed ones, so I’m still writing.
My next book, available right now, is a HOT rerelease of a former Loveswept, originally titled “Golden Warrior” but now rewritten, spiced up, and e-published as GOLDEN DREAMS, by www.belgravehouse.com