Second Act: Writing After Retirement

After working for over thirty years as a mechanical designer at a nuclear physics laboratory, I was ready for a change. I wanted to do something after my retirement to continue to give my life purpose. I didn’t want to just sit around the house reading books all day, or join a bridge club, or play tennis, but I was also worn out by the stress of meeting the demanding schedules of conducting physics experiments. I didn’t really need the money, but I wanted to continue doing something interesting.

Returning to Writing

Ready to move on, I reflected on childhood experiences that made me happy. I had always dreamed of becoming a writer. I loved language and words. When I was a little girl, I was always writing and illustrating stories about inanimate objects in our house coming to life. 

Isn’t that how A.A. Milne came up with the idea for Winnie the Pooh? Winnie the Pooh was his son’s Teddy bear. Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger were all his other stuffed toys. 

But my parents didn’t encourage me to follow a creative path. “Learn a trade,” my dad said to me. So, I went to a technical school and learned drafting. 

Now, after retirement, I yearned to return to my first love.

I wanted to be a writer as a kid

Finding My Voice

My retirement coincided with the COVID pandemic. Even though I didn’t want to sit around the house all day, the pandemic forced me to do that. Like many others, I found solace and inspiration online.

Through some stroke of luck, I stumbled upon a free online seminar via Zoom on finding the writer within. Through that seminar, I found my writing coach and joined a longer program to help me write a book.

I joined a community of a dozen other authors, and we cheered each other on to write a first draft of a book. It was intimidating, but those writers gave me the confidence and courage to keep going.

writing community over zoom

Like most writers, I also felt held back by my beliefs. Thankfully, our writing coach had us do a little exercise to overcome our limiting beliefs.

She had us write one of our limiting beliefs on an index card and glue a picture of something that would give us strength over the limiting belief to hide it from view.

I found a photo of a Mongolian woman, riding a horse across the steppe, with a huge falcon on her arm. I thought that bad ass woman could overcome any limiting belief! I wanted to be like her. On the back of the index card, we wrote an empowering belief to shift our limiting mindset. Mine was “Someday, I’m going to be someone’s favorite author.” I proudly put that card up on my writing desk where I could see that falconer every day. 

Now, I don’t even remember what my limiting belief was. 

My First Book

Once that limiting belief was out of the way, I was able to write my first novel about my granduncle, Joe Harris. 

Uncle Joe played baseball in the early part of the twentieth century. His baseball career was interrupted when he was drafted to go to Europe to fight in the Great War where he was injured. He returned to the US in the midst of the Spanish Flu pandemic, resumed playing baseball, and eventually played in the 1927 World Series against Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. 

Luckily for me, my cousin had already done tons of research into Uncle Joe’s life. I just had to put it into order in the book and fill in the gaps with my imagination. At the end of the writing program, I had a first draft of a biographical historical fiction novel. 

Over the remainder of that year, I revised and rewrote Joe Harris, the Moon. My writing coach helped with the roadmap of book production. A close friend designed my book cover. I learned how to format, bought a set of ISBN numbers, and in December of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, I held my first book in my hand. 

I was thrilled. It felt like I had just completed a marathon. 

my first book

A New Identity

Now, I call myself a writer, not a retired mechanical designer from a nuclear physics laboratory. This declaration boosts my confidence.

Writing challenges my mind. It’s a continual experience as there is always another story to write… My second book is a memoir called Look! You’re Dancing: A Memoir of Dogs, Dance and Devotion. I’ve written my third book now, and I’m currently querying agents about it. 

This second act that I’ve chosen is gratifying and allows me to contribute my creativity to the world in new ways. I write the stories that I want to read. And I am still adding value to the world. 

i feel confident i'm a writer

It's Never Too Late to Start

If you’ve always wanted to be a writer, know that it’s never too late to start. 

If you need help getting started, staying accountable or building up your confidence, I highly suggest getting a writing coach and joining a writing community. A writing coach can guide and offer advice and insight to help you complete your writing project. And a writing community can help you know that you are not alone.

Joyce A. Miller

Joyce A. Miller is an author who lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and her greyhound. Her books are Joe Harris, the Moon and Look! You’re Dancing, A Memoir of Dogs, Dance and Devotion. Before she started writing, Miller worked for over 30 years as a mechanical designer at a nuclear physics laboratory.

Second Act: Writing After Retirement By Joyce A. Miller Write the Real You

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