Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To-do List

For years, a friend of mine worked several time-consuming and mind-numbing jobs in an effort to get her silversmith husband’s career off the ground. When his career finally took off, it did so in a big way. She was able to quit working, and they bought a house with a separate studio on the property. This was to be my friend’s space in which to do whatever she wanted.

The problem with that was that she found herself at a loss for how to use it. “There used to be things I liked to do,” she said to me in despair. “I just don’t remember what they were!”

This was many years ago, but I’ve never forgotten how unhappy she was and how long it took her to find a satisfying way to fill her time. You can't work all the time—or maybe you can, but who would want to?

Ever since I’ve been contemplating retirement, every time I thought something would be fun to do if I only had the time, I added that activity—no matter how silly or far-fetched it sounded—to a list.

I recently took a look at that list. Not surprisingly, most of the activities on it involve writing or reading, and the rest encompass other creative activities. These aren’t intended as money-making schemes, but ways to keep active and not stagnate. Included are:
  • volunteering with literacy programs
  • researching, writing, and self-publishing a book to be distributed to children in a particular situation that an expert told me is underserved (sorry to be so cagy, but I’m still mulling that one)
  • setting up and participating in writers’ retreats
  • going to the International Children’s Book Fair in Bologna
  • taking voice lessons
  • taking basic drawing lessons
  • joining a knitting group
  • checking out Nashville’s award-winning volunteer organization, Hands On Nashville

Those of you who have successfully quit your day job—what worked for you? How much pre-planning did you do?


  1. I can help you with one of those!! I teach a weekend-long "Beginning Drawing" course at John C. Campbell (near Murphy, NC) - kind of like camp for adults. The next one will be August 5-7th, 2011. Would love to have you there! :)

  2. It's a good news, bad news situation. After years of quasi-retirement I had to decide two years ago what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and I narrowed it down to three primary activities. This meant I had to do a fair amount of getting off committees, volunteering, etc., and I'm not sure it pleased a few people. Like most of us you'll probably take a "shotgun" approach initially which may leave you as frazzled as a full-time job.

    My neighbor across the street is involved in "setting up writers retreats." The next one is a week away in Owensboro, KY. but after that he could probably help you with what is involved in such a task.

    Self publishing gets a lot of criticism and much of it is deserved. But, it does serve a certain niche and is relatively inexpensive and easy to do with minimal computer skills.

    Whatever you do I hope it has a lot to do with childrens (teenagers, YA?) books. I just really get a sense that is where your passion lies. (Plus you're good at it).

    Whit Stokes

  3. Hmm, yes, I am kind of worried about the scattershot problem! I'll probably try to narrow it down as the time approaches.

    Although Elizabeth can definitely look for me in 2012!

  4. I quit teaching without an agent or even the whisper of a book deal, but after eleven years of rejections, I wanted to try writing full time.

    I signed with an agent four months later and sold my book four months after that.

    While money is at times tight, I'm so glad I've done this!

    Chris Eboch directed me here. ;)