On Being A Writer

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the mind of a writer?  Today, I’m taking a short break from writing about retirement (come back next week if that’s what you care about).  I’m pulling back the curtain to my brain.  I’ll share why I love writing this blog, and how I go about it on a weekly basis. I hope you’ll enjoy my perspective on what Being A Writer means to me.  In the conclusion, I’ll make some application to your retirement and encourage you to find something which challenges you in the same way that writing challenges me.

It’s Time To Admit:  I Am A Writer.

Writing in The Retirement Manifesto’s World HQ with my assistant, CoCo.
Today, A Look Inside My Head. The Head Of A Writer. Click To Tweet

Side Note:  I’ve been “sitting” on this draft for months.  Why?  In short, it’s not my “typical” subject matter, and I was hesitant to publish something so far away from my normal “retirement” topic.  I didn’t want to turn off my readers, who come here to learn about retirement planning.  Today, I decided to take a chance.  If you don’t like the approach, feel free to come back next week (just don’t unsubscribe, please!).  I promise there are a LOT more retirement articles in my draft folder, and that topic will continue to be the focus on my blog.

If, however, you’ve ever been intrigued to know what’s inside my head, read on.


In 3 1/2 years of writing on this blog, I’ve discovered that I love to write.  However, I’ve never written about how it feels to write.  “On Being A Writer” shares my perspective on what it means to be a writer, and opens the curtains on how I go about writing posts for this site.

I've written 240 posts on this blog, but I've never written about being a writer. Today, I'm changing that. #IAmAWriter. Click To Tweet

Today, some overdue words on being a writer.


On Being A Writer

A writer who is truly brilliant wrote a book about writing. His book captured my attention, and I couldn’t put it down.

If you enjoy writing and/or reading, Stephen King’s On Writing is a must read. It’s an amazing insight into the mind of a brilliant writer.  Where he writes, how he thinks of ideas, how he edits his work.  The story behind the story of some of his greatest novels.  Some tips for other writers to improve their writing.

I devoured every word.

I’ll never pretend to be anywhere near the writer that Stephen King is, but his words have inspired me. 

He made me realize that I, too, am a writer.

He made me think about the process of writing, and what it is about the act of writing that I love.  Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so I decided to flatter Mr. King and share my own thoughts on being a writer.

Writing is an art.  Just as painters all paint differently, writers all write differently.  The one thing we all have in common?

We write.

On Being A Writer is an insight into the writer's mind, and the process I go through to write these weekly posts. Click To Tweet

Writing At Its Core

It’s odd that all of you have the opportunity to read every word I’ve ever written, but none of you have actually been with me when I write.  What goes through my mind when I write?  How do I develop ideas for this blog?  How do I write?  I’m excited to share some insights on that topic.

Writing is, at its core, a creative act of communication.  

The communication of a thought, transmitted electronically, from my mind to yours.  All done via the power of the written word.  Pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.  Telepathy, in a sense (telepathy is a theme I picked up in Stephen King’s book which I “connected” with).  A thought from my head to yours, without a word being spoken.  Cool, right?

The power of the written word is something that’s been with us since the first coherent texts were written back in 2600 BC.  Today, just like thousands of years ago, the written word is a powerful form in which the writer (me, in this case!) is able to communicate a thought the reader (you, in this case!).

I love the power of the written word.

Telepathic, indeed.


The Two Things I Love Most About Writing

First, I love the challenge of developing a thought into a cohesive idea.  The idea, once generated, must be developed into a concept, a story built on a foundation of words.  Most importantly, it must end as a finished product which is worthy of reading.

I’ll call this The Challenge of The Game.  Creating a thought, then putting it into words which stimulate, entertain, cause you to think and, ultimately, drive you to action.

Second, I love to connect with people and the feeling of making an impact in people’s lives.  I also love the blogging community and the hundreds of friends I have met through this passion project called The Retirement Manifesto.  I’ve decided to name this element The Power Of Connection.

Combined, these two elements of writing are what bring me joy as a writer.

Let’s look at each of them.


1.  The Challenge Of The Game

Imagine being a blogger, and trying to come up with an idea for your next post.  Ok, now build on that seed of an idea.  Find a way to weave it into a story.  Think about the outline.  Then, imagine sitting at your keyboard, and putting words to all of the ideas floating around in your brain.  Write it well, because thousands of readers will “hear” those words.

Repeat weekly.

That picture is my life as a writer.

The game of writing is a challenging game.  It causes me to think.  It gives my (over) active mind something to ponder on throughout the day.  It’s food for my brain, and I love it.

If Stephen King’s theory of “writing as telepathy” is correct, you may be visualizing the process I outlined in the first paragraph of this section. You get a certain mental image about a situation by the words that you read.  It does seem a sort of telepathy, though I’d never thought of it that way until I read Mr. King’s “On Writing”.

The Challenge Of The Game is a perfect mental exercise for me in retirement.  If you’re looking for a way to challenge your mind, consider taking up writing.


1a.   Getting In The Flow

What's the writing process really like? Today, I'll attempt to explain the pleasure of Being In The Flow. Click To Tweet

The greatest feeling as a writer is when you get “In The Flow”.  It happens frequently, and it’s a phenomenon that I love.  The Flow is a mental state where you no longer think about what you’re writing.  It’s almost as if the keyboard has a direct link to your brain.  You think, and it appears on your screen.  At times, you can’t type fast enough to keep up with your thoughts.  The Flow can become a flood.  Run with it.  And smile.

I learned early on to embrace The Flow.  Go with the current, and see where it takes you.  More often than not, I end up somewhere entirely different than where I had intended to go.  When you’re in The Flow, don’t edit.  Just write.  Let your brain cruise for as long as you can ride the wave (I’ve had The Flow last as long as an hour).

Write. Write.  Write.

Once the words are down, I take a break before I edit.  I typically spend more time editing than I do writing my first draft.  I never publish an article which I haven’t edited at least 3 times.  Try as I might, I’m still amazed how I often find an odd typo or two after I hit “publish”.  Frustrating, that.

But, The Flow.  Oh, The Flow.

It’s one of the true joys of writing.

Getting in The Flow is one of the true pleasures of being a writer. It's as if the keyboard were directly linked to your brain. Click To Tweet

2. The Power Of Connection

The second thing I most love about writing is The Power Of Connection.  One of the big changes that come with retirement is our connection to the outside world.  For decades, we’ve been interacting with folks on a daily basis in the workplace.  Human connection is a good thing, and it’s important to find a way to build and establish relationships in retirement.

For me, that connection comes from writing.

Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement isn’t just my byline.  It’s why I write.  I enjoy the satisfaction that comes from the many personal notes I get from you, the reader.  The stories you tell me about how my writing is making a difference in your life.  That is the fuel that runs my writing machine.

Sure, I love the process of writing, but I love the impact I’m making in people’s lives even more.

I’ve met many readers through the years, and I’ve felt connected to each and every one.  We share something in common, and it creates a strong connection.

The second form of connection comes through the blogging community.  The power of this community was an unexpected surprise early in my blogging career, and it’s a part of writing that I treasure.  I know hundreds of fellow bloggers, and I count many as good friends.  Each of us has a common bond, and it creates powerful friendships.

We’re here because we love to write.

Connection.


My Favorite Memories From Writing This Blog:

To close this post, I thought it’d be fun to share a few of my favorite memories from the past 3 1/2 years of writing this blog:


My Favorite Post:

I’ve written 240 posts to date, and I didn’t even hesitate when I thought about which have been my favorite to write.

From a personal perspective, the post I wrote as a tribute to my father means more to me than anything I’ve written.  In 18 Lessons I Learned From My Dad: A Tribute, I was able to share some insight on the man who means so much in my life.  We often fail to let those folks who mean the most to us know how we truly feel about them.  That post gave me the opportunity to let my Dad know how the things he had done through my life had positively influenced me, and it was my most rewarding post to write.

From a broader perspective, The Veteran is the post I’m most proud of.  To be able to pay back, in some small measure, for the service Don Mathews gave to this country was a rewarding moment.  Not only were the words a lot of fun to craft, but telling “The Back Story” behind that post gave me a chance to put into writing the best encounter I ever had in my 1 Million Miles of flying.  Thanks for your service, Don.  I’m glad we’ve become friends.


My Best Reader Interaction:

Back in early 2017,  I received an email from a reader named Stan.  He mentioned that he was going to be in Atlanta and asked if I’d be interested in meeting up for lunch.  We met shortly after and had a great lunch together.  Turns out Stan is a Doctor who flies airplanes over forest fires as a hobby (if you want some great stories about dumping fire retardant over forest fires from an airplane, check out his blog at cafmustang.com).

Stan isn’t the reason this was my favorite reader interaction, however.  That honor would come later when Stan told me the story of his Mom and Dad, who had nothing saved at Age 49 yet retired at Age 65.

That evening, I had an incredible phone call Stan’s Mom and Dad and wrote about the experience in It’s Never Too Late. Thanks for that lunch, Stan.  Even more, thanks for introducing me to your Mom and Dad.  They’re wonderful people, and you’re a lucky son!


The Favorite Words I’ve Written:

I’ve written a LOT of words on this blog, and I thought it’d be fun to add a few of my favorites to this post.  These were the first that came to mind:

  • “This is the story of my journey, told in The Present before it becomes The Past.” (my very first post)
  • “His name is my name, and my name is his.” (The Uncle)
  • “Many have told me that I’ve become my Father. If that’s the case, I’m sincerely honored.” (A Tribute To My Dad)
  • “Should I or Shouldn’t I?  I Should.  I Did.”  (The Veteran)
  • “Today Is My Last Day Of Work.”  (A Retirement, Well Done)

My Future As A Writer

When I started this blog back in April 2015, I had no idea where the journey would lead me.  I never expected that I would write an article every week for 3 1/2 years.  I never dreamed of the…

  • …places my writing would take me.
  • …friends I’d make.
  • ….awards I’d win.
  • …things I’d learn.

Of the Passion I would find.  

As I write these words in November 2018, I still have no idea where this journey will lead me.

I suspected my writing would slow a bit when I retired earlier this year.  It hasn’t.

I suspect my writing may slow a bit when we launch our Great American Road Trip in the summer of 2019 (stay tuned for details, we have BIG plans!!).  It might.

I’ve learned to enjoy the journey.  I’ve learned to Go With The Flow.  I’ve learned to not let a Passion become an Obligation (see 10 Commandments of Retirement).  I make no promises that my weekly writing will continue uninterrupted.  My life is about so much more than writing, though writing has become an enjoyable part of it. I suspect I’ll continue to write, but one never knows where this journey will lead.

I appreciate all of you who have been on this journey with me, and I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s peek inside my head (comments, please?  The exchange in the comments is something I truly enjoy).


Conclusion

As you plan for your retirement, explore areas that may provide a Purpose for your Life.  You never know what’s going to be a good fit, and that’s ok. Be open to exploration. I never expected writing would develop into the passion that it’s become, but I found it because I was willing to explore.  I’m lucky to have found something that checks three of the critical boxes for a great retirement:

  1. Mental Challenge
  2. Connection
  3. Helping People

One Thing Is Certain:  I love to write.

I Am A Writer.

38 comments

  1. I’ve been waiting for my library to get the Stephen King book in for a while now. I may just have to break down and buy a copy, but everyone who has read it said it is awesome.

    And the flow state, you are correct sir. When it happens it is indeed really amazing and I to find that I cannot type nearly fast enough to get the words down. The problem is it doesn’t happen to me all that often 😉

  2. This was excellent! What a great piece on writing, as an author I felt my head nodding along with each paragraph as if to say, “yes, yes, YES!” I can’t wait to read more of what you have to share!

  3. I must admit Fritz, when you said we get to look inside your head, your brain, your thinking process, I was TERRIFIED! I thought I’d see a rainbow of colors, all intertwined amongst brambles of grapevines and cobwebs, not to mention a few loose nuts and bolts rattling around. Your brain is a complex thing. Always thinking. Always analyzing. Always on the go. It’s a beautiful thing. Yes, writing is an art. It is your way of creating. Mine, is the actual “artsy” stuff – decorating, creating displays. I like to think of it as a visual feast for the eyes. Your creativity is a feast for getting people to engage in their own thought provoking process. Keep it up Fritz. I highly encourage everyone to delve into their own creative outlet.

    1. Stan!! My favorite reader interaction, here with his personal electrons!! I truly enjoyed our lunch, Stan (and your Parents, tell them I said “Hi!”). Let’s get together again if you’re ever up in the N. GA mountains. No offense, but I don’t think I’ll be spending much time in Atlanta now that I’m retired!

  4. I’ve heard of On Writing and it’s been on the back burner for a while. Thanks for the reminder. I just reserved it at the library and should get it soon. That’s the advantage of living in a good size city. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your experience with writing. I enjoy writing, but I’m not sure if it’s really my passion. I never liked it when I was young. However, writing is a lot more enjoyable since I became a blogger. Autonomy makes all the difference. I’ll keep at it while I still enjoy it. We’ll see where it goes. Hopefully, I’ll keep at it for 10 more years. Will you make it to Portland? I’d love to meet you in person.

    1. Glad I moved it off the back burner, it was starting to burn back there…

      We’re plotting The Great American Road Trip now, if we end up coming through Portland I’ll be sure to look you up! If not, I’m also planning on being at FinCon19. Either way, we’ll meet up somewhere in 2019, and I look forward to it!

  5. 240 posts? Not too shabby! I love that you’ve got so many ideas stored in that vault (I mean brain) of yours. Keep ’em coming!

    Flow is the hardest part. That your flow “flows” so easily is a blessing. I’ve really enjoyed your words these past few years — and your friendship, of course.

    Talk soon? Have a great Thanksgiving if not before then.

    1. As my sister says above, my brain is a complex thing, always on the go. Terrifying thing, indeed, though helpful to keep the hopper of potential posts always topped off!

      We do need to reconnect soon, I always enjoy chatting with you and Mr. G. We’re heading to Seattle for 2 1/2 weeks over Thanksgiving for the birth of our grandchild, can’t wait! I’ll send you an email to coordinate schedules for a call!

  6. Your writing inspired me to start my blog. I only post about once a month, because I am “freeployed” (my new word for retiring early). The flow you are talking about comes to me during art projects, but so far writing is really, really hard! I sure admire your ability. In fact, I think that by trying to write, I have much more appreciation for good writing. It’s one of the things that I truly enjoy about discovering and trying new things.

    The connection to this community of people is the best part. In a world that is often divisive, I find that the people I’ve met in person or online are so supportive, enthusiastic and inspiring. Like you!

    1. Inspiring someone to start a blog is an amazing statement. I’m honored, Susan. I’m glad you mentioned how our little online community of bloggers is so encouraging, one of the few places I’ve found in our society today that lacks the divisiveness that’s so prevalent elsewhere.

  7. I think what stands out is your discipline. 240 posts in 3.5 years = 5.7 /month is quite something. I get bogged down because I have nothing original to say.

    That, and discipline.

  8. This was very timely for me. I am not a writer but I am a reader and would like to be a writer. I do find the flow at times when writing for work. Outlining my ideas for a new project or taling about strategic needs I just let it go and come back later. I am doing my final reviews of all my direct reports in preperation for a change in leadership on Friday. Almost all of these coworkers have worked with me for over 20 years. All have asked the same question, “What’s next for you?” I let them know that I am looking for my next passion and will let them know when I find it. Maybe it is time to see if I can put something on paper, or actually electrons. I plan on a lot of Alaskan adventures over the next 3 to 5 years so perhaps I can get some of those down, at least for family and friends. It also looks like I have a new book to read, Thanks for the info. Great job on your posts and keep them coming as often as makes you happy. 15 days and counting.

    1. Ken, it sounds like you’re exactly where I was 3 1/2 years ago when I started this blog. It’s time to get started… (Keep me posted, I’ll definitely check out your blog when you start it. I’m thinking something like “Alaskan Wild FIRE”…Good luck!). And, good luck with that change of leadership, always disruptive, I know.

  9. Great post! I too am a writer and blogger who has love Stephen King’s book. I subscribed to your blog a while back as my husband and I are Rehearsing Retirement (TM) and I’ve started a blog about the process. Really appreciate your insight and wisdom. Blessings!

  10. Getting in “the flow” is very similar to getting in “the zone” as a programmer at my day job. They call it The Zone for some reason. The productivity skyrockets, however, I find it hard to get there as I need an uninterrupted chunk of time in a quiet place.

    If you ask other software engineers they will tell you the same thing. It usually takes 20 mins to get there and hopefully, it will last more than an hour if you’re not interrupted. But oh boy, is it worth it.

    The blog is now a big part of my life and I also appreciate when people send me e-mails to just thank me for the content. Keep up the good work Fritz, and thanks for reminding us the benefits of writing 🙂

    Greetings from London!

      1. Wow… I just read that. Are You Crazy??? 🙂

        Apparently, there are health benefits in having cold showers at home… A friend is trying to convince me but I haven’t given in yet!

  11. This, my good sir, is why I’m an English teacher.
    I tell the kids that English is the most important subject, because we teach people how to communicate effectively. At the beginning of every lesson I have the kids either read or write silently for 10 minutes – their choice of which activity to do. They LOVE it.
    It’s probably the only time of the day that they get unstructured time to do whatever THEY want to do. The creativity is amazing.

  12. Hey Fritz,

    I absolutely love the post. I can relate on so many levels to “The Flow”, particularly where you said sometimes it seems you can’t type fast enough to get the ideas out of your brain onto the page. I’ve considered dictation for that reason, but remain faithfully with just my keyboard. Even though I can clock out at 120-130wpm while typing, when you’re in “The Flow”, there’s no speed that can keep up with the mind.
    I’ve added “On Writing” by King to my list of books for Christmas. It actually filled out the final spot (I knew I needed just one more and this is exactly what I was looking for).
    Great to see into your mind. Maybe one of these days I’ll write a similar post to give readers a look into mine as well.

    Take care,
    Ryan

  13. Great post. I retweeted this. I have been a professional writer for over 30 years. I love putting one word after another. That’s why I moved to fulltime writing and blogging on financial stuff, and left my paycheque behind, ha.

    As I wrote in that retweet, the most important aspect, for a writer, might be knowing what to leave out.

    1. Thanks for your retweet, and the nice things you said about my blog on Twitter! Much appreciated!! S. King spent quite a bit of time talking about reducing what you write, you should always delete, not add, when editing. Good advice (I tend to get long winded, but have learned to go with it and try to edit it down after the fact. Still a work in progress…).

  14. I have the book right in front of me. Now, I just need to start reading. 😀
    Hope to see you in Portland next year.
    ps. I hate your recaptcha plugin.

  15. Fritz,
    This post is a gift. Not only for what you wrote, but for the On Writing book recommendation. The book is a great read not only for the writing advice but the story King weaves through it. I went from respecting him to loving the man.
    In re-reading your previous posts its clear its clear how important the book was to you.
    FYI – I’m 61 and I’ve just started the Khan Academy grammar course 🙂
    Thanks again and thanks for all you do for your readers.
    Happy Thanksgiving!!

  16. Shortly after I started my blog, I moved. In the moving process, I went through my stuff and came across stories, journals, and poetry that were like 30+ years old. I realized I was born to write!

    Blogging helps me formulate my thoughts into a cohesive manner and I believe it also helps me verbally communicate more effectively.

    I love the flow. Editing – not so much but is so necessary and as you said, it takes multiple edits.

    You definitely are a writer! Keep it up & I’ll keep coming back.

  17. Great post Fritz, I love that it comes from the heart. You are a writer, there is no doubt about it! I get the impression you were smiling the entire time you were writing this post. Keep it up!!

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