Question: When I stop working, will I do … nothing?

Bored man waiting at a desk with an hourglass

Image: stokkete/

The common problems facing the newly retired include: ‘too much time, lack of structure, a sense that our physical surroundings suddenly appear outdated, excitement about the future coupled with a palpable fear of the unknown.’ At least that’s what Julia Cameron reckons in her book The Artist’s Way for Retirement.

Her list is broad-ranging.

A friend of hers was worried: ‘All I do is work. When I stop working, will I do . . . nothing?’

‘The answer is no,’ writes Cameron. ‘You will not do “nothing”. You will do many things. You will be surprised and delighted by the well of colourful inspiration that lies within you—a well that you alone can tap.’

Tapping into the well of inspiration

Of course, you can choose to do nothing. Or not be inspired to do something. There are enough people who stop work and just stop. They may continue to breathe. Their heart may keep beating. They may be alive, but are they really living?

Then again, you can choose not to tap into that ‘well of colourful inspiration’.

Most retirees I know choose a different way. They’re actively involved in life. They’re working on projects; involved in the community; some are travelling; others are developing their gardens; they have plans for now and for the future.

They have an intentionality about their lives, which was part of them before they retired.

Does that mean they’re without downtimes? That they don’t have doubt? Of course not!

The benefits of creativity

Even Cameron has downtimes. She says she goes from one writing project to another, ‘always frightened by the gap in between. I catch myself distrusting my own process. No matter that I have forty-plus books to my credit, I am afraid that each book will be my last, that I have finally been stymied by age.’

Her answer to the problem is summed up in one word, ‘creativity’. That’s what got her going before she reached retirement age (she was born in 1948).  That’s what fires her up now.

What is it for you? What will you bring into retirement that will be like a ‘colourful well of inspiration’ for you?

Bruce Manners: the author of Retirement Ready?, Refusing to Retire, and founder of

Category: Lifestyle, Planning

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