Hazel McHaffie

Retirement? What retirement?

Not much time for literary reflections this week, I’ve been fully occupied helping my daughter turn almost 90 metres of fabric into curtains for a city centre flat with massive windows. Gorgeous rich material, thick thermal linings, and the finished articles so heavy it takes two of us to lift each one.curtain fabric

The thinking, planning and cutting require full concentration, but once the lengths are cut and the patterns matched, pinning, tacking, sewing 3 meter long seams gets a bit repetitive, and the old mind is free to wander. At one stage it wandered into the issue of retirement.

Plenty of folk (most I suspect) think I’ve retired. They don’t see writing as any kind of work. I’ve got used to that, and nowadays I rarely challenge them. Given the general sense that an awful lot of folk think they could write a book if they only had the time and weren’t busy doing more important things, it’s an pretty abortive mission.

Besides which, retirement’s a rather slippery concept, isn’t it? This week Olympic swimming medallist, Rebecca Adlington, announced her retirement – aged 23! She has recognised the demands of competitive swimming – a young person’s sport, as she says. She knows firsthand what it takes to reach the very top, and she acknowledges that her body cannot do that any more. She will move into something else. But she and the press call it retirement.

So, what does retirement from being an author look like? At the moment I love what I do; I’m bereft when I can’t sit scribbling. Ideas still flood in. Plots still emerge. Characters still come alive. I’ve started to get feedback on my latest novel, Over My Dead Body, and two of the critics say this book is my best yet. Others may not think so, but such endorsement is enough to make me feel I’m not ready to write that final ‘The End‘ just yet.

But … will I know when it is the right time? As Terence Blacker writing the Endpaper in Autumn 2012 of The Author says to writers:

‘There is no silver clock to be handed to you by the managing director, no pats on the back, no speeches.There are not even colleagues around to tell you that your time is up. Thousands of authors, all over the world, are working away right now without having noticed that they retired several years ago.’

Succinctly put. I shall hold that thought.


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2 Responses to “Retirement? What retirement?”

  • Carol Clanton says:

    You are too young to retire plus your grandchildren need ro perform in your plays on Boxing Day.

    • Hazel says:

      Thanks, Carol. The grandchildren are still enthusiastic about the Christmas stories so that writing continues. They are my barometer there. I guess I just need to keep an ear to the ground and hear the rumblings from my adult readers as clearly.

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