Old writers don't retire... by Cally Phillips
Old writers don’t retire…
...They just work on a new chapter.
After three years blogging at Authors Electric, I’m finally moving on.
The simple answers is : Too many hats. Only one head. Over the past five years I’ve been in a transition mode, during which time a lot of experimentation is probably ‘the norm.’ I’ve done lots of things, not so much dipped my toe in the water but fully immersed myself in a whole range of new (and time-consuming) things.
As any good writer knows, too many plotlines will simply confuse the reader. There comes a time when you have to ‘kill your darlings.’ And that time has come for me. The venerated critic Samuel Johnson might have said ‘the person who is tired of Facebook is tired of life’ but for me, social media has become the one thing that HAS to change in my life. I don’t like Facebook . I can’t tweet to save myself, just don’t have the will or motivation. Read Brand Loyalty to find out why. Indeed the whole social media marketing feeding frenzy just reeks far too much of a facsimile of all the things I’ve spent 30 years trying to escape in the ‘real’ world. And had escaped in the real world, quite happily!
I’m lucky. I’ve got to where I wanted to be in life. I have a house in the country (with a woodburning stove and a polytunnel), a newly retired husband with whom I want to spend time, and two lovely dogs who are a daily source of entertainment. I have any number of places inside and out to sit and read. The only thing stopping me fully engaging with it, are the many hats I’ve been wearing while waiting for the ‘denouement’ to work its way out. Health could be better but that provides a daily reminder of the importance of time and the not wasting of it.
I finally realised it was time to write my own happy ending. So how exactly do you stop the world (real or virtual) and get off? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times over the last six months.
I’ve been writing it out since April. I gave myself a date of September 1st to make the change. In the rural world 1st September is the start of a new year. You’ll be reading this on September 4th . By now the change is effected. I’ve thrown away the hats. Killed the darlings. Let go. For me there will be No more Authors Electric.. No more ebook festival. No more farting around on Facebook. The less I have to do with social media, the happier I get. That’s a personal thing of course. I’m not advocating the same for anyone else. We are all unique and each have to find our own ways. After all…
Old writers don’t retire…
They set up literary societies. At least that’s what I’ve done .
As a writer ‘retired’, a literary society seems like a good thing to spend one’s time on. But it happened almost by chance. In April this year, to support the re-publication of ‘The Galloway Collection’ and in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of ‘Scotland’s forgotten bestseller’ S.R.Crockett, I set up The Galloway Raiders, which is now a bona fide literary society – affiliated with the Alliance of Literary Societies and with a growing membership, currently standing at just below 100.
The inaugural meeting of The Galloway Raiders was held on April 16th at the S.R.Crockett memorial and kicked off a week of ‘events’ in Galloway. Since then I’ve made new friends,(real and virtual) and found quite a few people who are lifelong ‘fans’ of Crockett as well as others who are just ‘getting into’ his work. The hub of the society is the website where there is a host of information about Crockett, his work and his context. My magnus opus if you will. Membership is free and there is a dedicated Members area offering more in depth information and special deals on printed and digital work. It’s a community of interest in the best sense of the world. And it’s already ‘paying me back’ for the time I’ve spent on it.
Life goes on after and outside AE, you see. No end is really an end. It’s just a change. September is a big month for me. The 24th is Crockett’s birthday. He would be 155 years old. There will be events across Galloway to celebrate this, including a cycle ride to ‘Rathan’ island to read some Crockett adventure/romance as the sun sets, and a home-baking competition (with readings) at a café/bookshop in Wigtown. I can’t attend either of these events but I know others will have fun.
And at the end of September I’m involved in the Wigtown Book Festival. I’ll be talking with journalist/critic Stuart Kelly about Crockett’s place among the ‘Lowland classics’ as well as delivering the keynote McNeillie Lecture. Despite being pitted against The Ryder Cup and more immediately Kate Adie in the next room at the same time, it will offer a great opportunity to put Crockett even more firmly on the literary ‘map.’ The more people know about him, the more his appeal spreads. As I pointed out in April, ‘you can’t like what you don’t know exists.’ This was the rationale that got me started on republishing Crockett’s work. The ebooks and paperbacks now exist and for me that’s enough. I feel confident that there’s enough information for people to make their own informed choice and for me this is more valuable than constantly stressing over ‘visibility’ and ‘discoverability.’ Especially when that means ‘farting around on Facebook’ or ‘blogging one’s socks off.’
And on 1st October I’m getting my head down into hibernation for the winter. A lot of writing to be done. And even more reading. At this point, The Galloway Raiders is more than enough to keep me busy in my ‘retired’ life. Keeping the website updated and fresh is more than enough of a toehold in the ‘virtual world’ for me. I’m about ‘sharing’ not about ‘selling’ and The Galloway Raiders is a fledgling community which I’m proud to be part of. The support and friendship of Authors Electric has been invaluable in my journey, indeed helped lead me to this place, but here our stories diverge.
You know what they say… old writers don’t retire… they just turn over another (virtual) page. Begin another (real) chapter. The narrative continues. Content is indeed King.