Tag Archives: retirement

What I Know For Sure About Writing

When I attended retirement planning seminars over the course of my career, the psychologists who provided guidance on how to mentally prepare for the transition always seemed to ask the same question: What do you want to do in retirement?

To me, the answer has always been a no-brainer: writing.

My first glimmers of self-awareness about writing came in high school and university. Of all of the assignments in a students’ life, I enjoyed writing essays and compositions the most – and the longer the better – despite the groans from my fellow classmates.

When I stepped into the career world, by some strange stroke of luck, I often ended up in work teams where my colleagues were more than happy to let me raise my hand and volunteer to write lengthy reports, business cases, user manuals and web content while others would probably rather raise their hand and volunteer for root canals.

Writing tasks made me so happy because they presented learning opportunities in an area for which I held a keen interest in becoming better and better.

I enjoyed writing for my managers and executives, as it presented a unique learning opportunity to learn and adapt to their respective writing styles. With the knowledge that I wasn’t writing for me, I was writing for them, I never took personally any comments about what I produced. In fact, after working on a few memos, I truly relished getting to a point where I could receive a request, get a few key points about what is intended in the message, and go back to my desk to draft, edit and return a product that was exactly what they wanted and in their own voice. There was no greater compliment to me than when they said “André, this is like I wrote it myself!”

And then to be able to change on a dime and write something for one executive (in their voice) closely followed by another piece for another executive, I truly felt like I could become a “literary chameleon”.

There were also those times when some products were hard to write, like a message to deliver disappointing news or a message to take something complex and making it sound simple without missing a critical detail. Those were the times that I tapped into what I felt were fine architectural or engineering skills that were needed to build the right message. The successful completion of those products was the reward in itself.

The work days that consisted of mostly writing or editing, I’d finish more energetic than when I started. It was very much the same feeling after completing a long composition or an essay in school. Writing is that one thing that energizes me, the more that I do it.

But more than that, I think my 33 years working in the corporate world was truly the best training for what I hope will become a second career in the creative writing field. Some of what I learned in corporate writing does indeed translate to creative writing:

– I realize that even the best ideas need time to refine and develop, and I have the patience to ride it out until the story is just right.

– Working on a piece that doesn’t come to fruition immediately doesn’t bother me. I know when to keep working and when to take a break.

– The best of ideas come to fruition (i.e., publication) when they are meant to be. No amount of pushing can accelerate them or make a square peg fit in a round hole. I am comfortable with writing a story and leaving it on my hard drive until the timing is right.

– I can write quickly and effectively under tight timelines, but my preference leans toward planning out my work and writing steadily in consistent iterations.

And then the things I learned on my own along the way include:

– I found out that a blank page doesn’t scare me. Writing is that one thing I can do that doesn’t fall into a trap of analysis paralysis (anymore).

– I don’t write with the intent to become rich and famous, I write out of a yearning to tell stories not told before or in a voice not heard before.

– I accept that not every story will appeal to everyone.

– I accept that I still have a lot to learn.

– Over the course of seven years and almost 400 blog posts (which would be equivalent to four or five novels), my interest in writing doesn’t seem to be wavering. If anything, it keeps getting stronger.

– As I witnessed with this blog, making a connection with a total stranger who says “hey, something like that happened to me as well. I know what you mean” is a delight for me.

– I have more than one story within me, so if not story A, or story B, maybe stories C, D or E will get out of the gate first. For that reason, I don’t really fear rejection letters. To me, they just mean “not this one”, “not for me, thanks” or “not now”.

– In reading autobiographies of authors and playwrights, I have come to accept that change is inevitable between the first submitted draft and the final product. If an editor suggests cutting or changing some parts that don’t advance the story (if I hadn’t realized it myself by then) I wouldn’t take it personally. Even in movies, some material ends up on the cutting room floor and that is just a fact of life.

– I don’t know how to shut off the “ideas generating” module in the back of my mind, and thankfully I took notes along the way which is why I have so many journals, sketch pads and index cards of ideas.

I don’t think it was an accident that many of my work assignments over my career required me to write as much as I did and have me working with some outstanding mentors and coaches, for whom I will always be so very grateful.

When you take all of those factors into consideration, those were the moments which contributed to my knowing for sure that writing was my passion and my calling.

In a nutshell, I think it would be fair to say that I didn’t choose to write. It chose me. That is what I know for sure!

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Pre-Retirement Training: Learning to Relax

I’ll never forget the day when a psychologist came to speak at a pre-retirement seminar I attended and suggested “don’t wait until retirement to start on those big retirement plans”.

She then elaborated by offering examples like people who spend their whole lives talking about sailing around the world only to find out that they get sea sick, or people who talk about spending more time on a given hobby only to realize that they don’t really enjoy it that much.

Fortunately, I don’t think that will happen to me.

Most of my readers know that my #1 aspiration in retirement is to write. Thanks to the blog, I have been able to practice creative writing with (much to my own amazement) pretty consistent frequency over the years, which gave me the opportunity to write content so completely different from corporate briefing notes, issue sheets and instructional bulletins. Whether at home or at the office, I have proven to myself that writing is that one activity that for me, creates its own unmistakable energy and enthusiasm.

But surprisingly, what has actually been more challenging (in preparation for retirement) has been learning how to rest and relax. Who knew that I needed to train myself to do that?

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but have you ever had days thinking to yourself, “Am I ever tired?! … I better lie down” only to find yourself already in a horizontal position on a comfy couch, La-Z-Boy or bed in the comfort of your own home?… or worse yet, in a furniture store?

I’m not talking about tired in the sense of deep burnout, I am just referring to a sense of being pooped out from feeling like a perpetual motion machine.

I have come to learn that my own worst enemy in that regard is myself. I wouldn’t say I’m overly demanding, but after decades of living on my own, I had to develop a routine to stay on top of the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry and the home maintenance, because it wasn’t like the magic toilet scrubbing fairy would descend from the heavens. Someone had to do it, and when living alone, I invariably drew the short straw every time. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Humour, mental health

My Growing Disconnection from the Corporate Ladder

With retirement just a few months away, what has been interesting to me has been taking a moment to step back and to observe how my mindset has changed, without deliberately doing so.

Things that used to occupy a significant amount of thought, energy and a constant state of preparedness have slowly faded into the background.

I think it started around the time I made the decision that after five times accepting short assignments filling in for a manager, that I decided management really wasn’t for me and that climbing the corporate ladder was off the table.

After so many years of being groomed for management, and having so many people say that they believed in me, it was a difficult decision as I didn’t want to let my mentors down.

But the reality was that while I was indeed capable of managing a team, I felt more fulfilled when I was rolling my sleeves up and delving into the technical aspects of the work, more so than when I was leading others through the work.

It also made me appreciate that much more the job I really enjoyed the most over the span of my career to the point of jokingly asking my boss for a “no trade” clause, as I had made up my mind that this was what I wanted to do until it was time to say farewell.

Those two decisions alone brought me so much relief in not having to actively look at job postings anymore, or going through the lengthy processes of applying, testing and interviewing, which always seemed to feel like “homework” when there were other things to which I would prefer to devote time and energy. Continue reading

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The Changing Perception of Time

When I turned 55 last fall, I admit that I had a bit of a “life flashing before my eyes” experience. It wasn’t because I was having a near-death experience or anything like that, it was just the inevitable reminiscing that takes place around a major milestone, much like we do at New Year.

In that same train of thought, last month, I chose the date I will be retiring (in late spring), another pretty big life event. Since then, the subconscious walks down memory lane are hitting me faster than I can keep up with them which in turn, had me contemplating how we perceive time.

In chatting with family and friends (remotely, of course) over the holidays, I was reassured to hear that I am not alone in how my perception of time sometimes seems a little out of step with the clock and the calendar.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am indeed 55 years old and that I have offered up 33 years of my life to the public service, but in some ways it just doesn’t feel that way.

Deep down, I still feel like the same guy that I always was. But before I can allow myself to get too cocky about it, arthritis pops up to remind me that I am not as young as I think I am… that, and the fact that it takes an afternoon nap and copious amounts of caffeine to be able to watch Saturday Night Live (live) these days.

While my childhood seems like a distant place in time, sometimes feeling like it was hundreds of years ago, other life events seem significantly closer.

It really doesn’t seem that long ago that I was nearing the end of my university years, completely sick of studying, exams and homework, and itching to get on with my life. I vividly remember the hope for that “big break” into the working world. These are the scenes that seem to be replaying a lot in my head at the moment. Continue reading

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The Writer’s Dilemma: Say It or Save It?

When I first started blogging almost seven years ago, the process was pretty straightforward: get an idea for a post; scribble it down; scribble more ideas; write the post; edit to make it sparkle; review again; if happy with the end result, post to the blog.

There is also a whole decision-making process surrounding the possibility of “if NOT happy with the end result”, but in the interest of not boring you with the 53 loops of reviewing, editing, overthinking and playing with Ivy the Wonder Cat, I’ll skip that part altogether.

I have been very proud of the content in my blog and in how it has connected with readers around the globe. The response has been heartwarming, deeply gratifying and a definite incentive to keep going.

Regular readers know that this blog has been a way for me to spread my creative wings and to keep practicing a form of creative writing until such time as I retire from my career of over 30 years, when I will switch to full-time writer.

With that finish line in sight scheduled for 2021, which isn’t too far off, I often find myself debating whether an idea should be articulated in a blog post now, or whether I should save it for one of the stories I will write later. That is a whole agonizing decision-making process on its own.

Again, in the interest of not boring you with that roller-coaster trajectory, a diagram that is sure to have you running away screaming, I’ll skip the specifics. Continue reading

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When My Retirement and Writing Dreams Got More Vivid

In February, there were two news items that hit the airwaves that made me feel goose bumps all over:

On February 19, 2019, it was the headline “Netflix to Open Dedicated Production Hub” followed closely on February 28, 2019, with the article “And, action! Filmmaking complex gets go-ahead”.

Regular readers and close friends know that my big plan for retirement is to write. The form of writing I might consider has yet to be determined. But I am convinced that once I have developed a few of my story ideas into outlines and then into drafts, the most appropriate format might become self-evident.

But if I listen to my gut now, something tells me it might be more along the lines of television, plays or movies, more than novels, just given the time I have spent studying television, as opposed to just watching it.

Plus I have always been fascinated by the process of making stories come to life in the television or cinematic medium, to the point of volunteering for my local community television station 20 years ago, and staying with it for 3 years.

Working in a creative medium with other like-minded people was an experience I will always fondly remember. At that point in my life, I didn’t realize the extent to which I was missing a creative component. When I found community TV, things really came together. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Inspiring, TV, Writing

How Old Blog Posts Can be Like Old Home Movies

This fall, I celebrated my fifth year as a blogger with great joy (… and surprise) at having achieved this milestone.

From the beginning, I always thought of the blog as my rehearsal space to sharpen my creative writing skills, as I began the transition from full-time career #1 to full-time creative writer. The fact that many of you have joined me in that journey and encouraged me along the way has been incredibly heartwarming and a source of boundless gratitude. Thank you everyone!

I admit that some weeks it was incredibly difficult to find the time or inspiration (or both) to produce some fresh content, as well as to stay on top of my social media presence to get the word out there. But with only a few weeks off here and there, I managed to keep at it and to not give up. For that, I am incredibly proud!

When time has been in short supply, I had to focus my efforts on moving the blog forward, and not looking back. Then weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, and BOOM! Five years went by and I suddenly had a repertoire of almost 300 blog posts. How did that happen?

And that is where the fun began. When time finally permitted, I went back and read some posts from my first year. Continue reading

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Would I Volunteer When I Retire?

Ever since I turned 50, not a day passes that I don’t consider what I might want to do in retirement.

It is kind of funny because for the first half of my career, it was all about mentally preparing for the next work assignment and the next career step, hoping to strike to right balance between something I can be good at, something lucrative and sustainable, and something that will keep me happy.

At this stage in life, the hunt is still on, but not so much about the next career step as it is for activities I may be interested in pursuing in my next chapter.

Of course, there is no rush. As I suggested in my post about my retirement “gap year”, sleeping, recharging my batteries and writing for the fun of it will be my top activities in that first year. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking note of the activities that make me happy and which hold particular meaning to me.

Volunteering is one of those activities.

Much like with one’s career, I think it is very important to pitch in not only where the need exists but also to volunteer for causes that are close to one’s heart. In doing so, the time spent volunteering should be more fun and energizing rather than draining.

This is what I tried to explain to my dad many moons ago, when he objected to my volunteering just as I was launching my career. In retrospect, I certainly understand his point of view in that it was important to focus my full energy to my burgeoning career. But early on, there were days that I felt that my job was not tapping into my full potential, especially from a creative perspective.
That is why I was looking for other outlets. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Cats, Inspiring

Could Robots Replace Writers?

Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?

While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.

To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.

For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.

To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.

A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.

To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing

Fashionably Fifty

mens-clothingI certainly would not consider myself a fashionista or an authority on the topic of fashion, but let’s just say that I genuinely believe that cultivating a personal sense of style does have its merits.

Throughout my professional career, dressing appropriately was something I took seriously, to demonstrate to my colleagues and my superiors that I was interested, engaged and committed to my work and to my career.

By offering attention to detail in my professional wardrobe, I believed it was a sign that my work would also reflect the same attention to detail. To me, it helped project credibility. Also, by dressing appropriately for the office, I never really had to worry about being called to last-minute meetings, as I was always suitably attired.

I would like to think that at this stage of my life, my skills, my track record and my professional reputation speak for themselves. But still, I have no interest in showing up for work while wearing the same thing I would be wearing if I was at home, binge watching Netflix.

Throughout my life, I have turned to men’s fashion magazines for tips and hints for cultivating the right look for me, for my age, and for my body type. After building and refining what I consider to be a classic wardrobe, combining durable investment pieces and a few colourful statement pieces, even if I don’t need to buy anything new, the magazines help me validate that the pieces I am wearing are still contemporary. Continue reading

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