Thursday, March 1, 2012

Maintaining a Balance: A Challenge During Retirement

Once again its time to learn how to balance

our crazy lives.

Today I'm honored to host

John J. Hohn,

author of  Deadly Portfolio

“Life is a little like crossing a big body of water in a boat. You really don’t notice that you’re going anywhere when you’re out in the middle of it. The only time you can see that you’re moving is . . . as you begin your journey and as you see it drawing to an end.”  --Matthew Wirth, Deadly Portfolio.

Wirth speaks to a common perception among people at the end of their working careers. Few writers earn a living wage from their craft. Most need to balance their scribe’s passion with the demands of job, family and community. Writing often loses out. The consequences for ignoring the muse are neither as immediate nor as dramatic as postponing the tasks of attending to marriage, parenthood, and the role of provider. For those who have sustained their scribe’s passion through to the later decades, retirement looms as an oasis of unstructured time. Therein lies the challenge.

Obligations follow the writer into retirement, harnessed or not, and the first task is to set priorities for allocating the hours. The amount of time left is palpable. An inventory of resources is key to making certain time is used wisely.

A writer’s resources include energy, personal support, professional support, physical comfort, good health, play, and passion for the art (scribe’s passion). In retirement, the scribe within gets first claim to the better hours of the day. Some rise early and work several hours. I rise to a twenty-minute walk with my dog Jessie and it gives me time to ponder any challenges in my work. Upon returning, I answer emails for up to an hour and a half and write posts for facebook, twitter and linkedin. Then I am off to the gym for an hour—a daily habit for 35 years, one that carried over into retirement. My body expects it. When I postpone it until later in the day, everything feels oddly out of sync. My physical fitness regimen has enabled me to maintain a cardio-vascular profile of man 20 years younger than my actual age.

Returning from the gym, I have breakfast, attend to the housekeeping chores that are mine to complete, and I then write. By noon, I have protected five of my major resources—energy level, health, scribe’s passion, professional support on the Internet, and my play (My gym friends include some Harley bikers who think it’s cool that an older dude works out and writes mysteries.) At noon, my wife and I lunch, after which I nap before returning to my desk for another hour or more to write. By mid-afternoon, my muse is spent. The rest of the day belongs to my marriage and my family.

My wife and I spend an hour watching something together on TV. I take another walk with Jessie so she can attend to certain biological imperatives, and I stay physically active with projects around the house and the yard. The structure may seem rigid, but I don’t apply a stern management hand. Twice a week, I chuck everything for a round of golf with my friends. Personal support also includes being attentive to my five children, stepson and grandchildren.  They are priority in my affections but do not take much time because of the logistics involved. They are as comfortable with our relationship as I am.
The senior writer is aware of what the years have taken away and what they have gifted in exchange. Physical stamina may have diminished but a deeper view of human nature compensates. The sense of being in the thick of things fades. Contacts retire. Connections are difficult to sustain. As the need to pursue every new trend wilts, a sense of detachment fills the void. Passion can be addressed dispassionately and a much more human and universal statements find their way onto the page.

I harbor no illusions about having the next great American novel within me. I stay committed my calling and nurture the modest hope that my books will one day be widely read and appreciated as good literature. Believing that may happen even years hence sustains me. The joy is in the journey.
I am a Midwesterner by birth. Yankton, South Dakota, is my hometown. I graduated from high school there in 1957. After four years earning degree in English at St. John’s University (MN), I became a teacher. My first wife, Elaine Finfrock, also of Yankton, and I had five children; four sons and a daughter. We divorced in 1977.

In 1964, I joined The Travelers in Minneapolis, MN and began what turned out to be a 40-year career in the financial services industry. During the that time, in addition to The Travelers, I held positions with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota, Wilson Learning Corporation, and Wachovia Bank and Trust. While at Wachovia, I marketed I retired at the end of 2007 after 17 years as a Financial Advisor with Merrill Lynch serving over 300 clients in the Winston-Salem, NC area.

 In 1986, Melinda Folger McLeod and I were married and I gained a stepson, Matthew. Currently, we divide our time each year between our cabin New West Jefferson, NC and our cottage in Southport, NC on the Cape Fear River. I enjoy golf, music, and reading history. I retired in 2007 and focused on completing my novel, Deadly Portfolio: A Killing Hedge Funds. I have been very gratified by the acceptance and reviews the book has received and spend my idle minutes thinking though the plot for my next effort.
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Please  let me know if you would like to be considered for a guest post spot, writing about balance.
And as always,
thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.


  1. Such an interesting read today. Truly enjoyable!

  2. As an artist, who spent most of her younger years as an accountant, I am very aware of the push-pull emotions of retirement: I know that I have only a limited time left to create but I also want to take life a bit slower. I can totally relate to the television commercial in which the woman rejoices that she no longer has to rise each morning to the ringing of an alarm clock. Thanks for sharing this enlightening dialogue.

  3. That was interesting and informative - lots to think about. Thank you for your visit to my blog - I'll be back to read more here, later.


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