Nothing new in that. There are lots of theories about retirement and many articles and books about the psychology of retirement. One of these is entitled ‘Enjoy Old Age’ and it was written by one of my psychologist heroes – B.F.Skinner – and that’s why I’m singly it out among many. Among the more unusual bits of advice in the book is – take up gambling (no more than you can afford to lose) because it offers an antidote to boredom, people enjoy the excitement and the unpredictability of the result. He also recommends watching sport because again the pay-offs are unpredictable.
Burrhus, for that is his name, writes ‘if you have never watched sports on television you may be puzzled by the absorption of those who do – and perhaps a little contemptuous of those who so passionately care about whether a ball goes out of a park, between the goal posts, through a basket, or into a hole.’ He goes on to say that we should learn about a sport then ‘you can begin to enjoy the game and share the excitement of those who are held by its unpredictable consequences.’
He also recommends getting into soap operas, but that really is a bridge too far for me. In fact you may realise, from what I wrote in my blog ‘I spit on sport’ that becoming passionate about sport has a significant downside for me. So I cannot recommend it even though, as I said, Burrhus is a hero of mine in the psychological world. He was 79 when he wrote the book in 1983, so that makes him 109 now.
As I suggested I am developing my own theories of a happy retirement. One of which I think I’ve referred to elsewhere but I offer it again. It is to develop a new identity. This identity will replace that you had as a career person. You will continue to value yourself albeit in a different way. I had a think about this for a while and then, with a little help from this blog, I decided my new identity would be – a writer.
And why not, I’ve got a lot of books, many of which are about writing – see right photo. So it’s not as if I don’t have previous in the area. Also see ebooks blog although admittedly most of that writing experience that was successful was because it was in my professional area. Outside of this area, I have a long and honourable history of being rejected by publishers and agents alike. But these are interesting times, grasshopper. We live in an age of self-publishing. Technology and the net have made many things possible including me regarding myself as a writer.
In this blog I thought I would focus on one specific rejected project. It’s called Dead Country and it’s going to be one of my ebooks. I’ve helpfully included in this blog the letter of rejection from an agent. In my optimistic days as a writer when I thought write it and they (publishers) will come I went along to the Harrogate crime festival. The presentation I attended was run by an agent, the same agent I had submitted my manuscript of Dead Country to a few months before. Her company had rejected it. As is usually the case there was no explanation just the simple ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter. Anyway to cut a long story short I did the despicable and rather unlike me deed of pouncing on her after the presentation and asking her if she would take a look at my manuscript – neglecting to mention that her company and maybe even her had seen it before and rejected it. You see I had a cunning plan, it was based on 3 factors – what were the chances of her remembering my previous manuscript? We know that these things are incredibly fickle, opinions change etc and finally and above all, she wanted only the first chapter. Bingo! I would write a new first chapter. Only when she had found this first chapter irresistible would I worry about how this brand new chapter actually fitted with the rest of the book written all those months before.
Well it didn’t quite work out as per my cunning plan. You can see from the second rejection letter that indeed she did remember it and no, she didn’t think it was any better second time around and would I now finally go away. What I did get was advice, intended, no doubt, to be helpful about the shortcomings of the book. Only by inference would I be able to work out how to improve it. Anyway, to cut this already cut short story, shorter still, I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for a rewrite and so into the bottom drawer it went. I dug it out as I came to realise that this blog with its massive readership could provide the manuscript with the breath of life it arguably needed (it maybe crap so reviving it is not necessarily a good thing).
And here we are. I’ve been reading it a bit at a time over the last few weeks. I have been trying to decide whether to go back to it and seriously revise / improve it or whether to just say bugger it and put it out in some kind of self published form. The agent, as you can see, didn’t like the dialogue so I paid this particular attention and there is a lot of it. I must admit this is not the gothic crime novel I somehow intended to write. It’s altogether too light-hearted for that. A kind of insubstantial Raymond Chandler type thing – you can tell I’m a writer, A MacMillan and wife although this is a reference lost on most people. She, the agent, also thought the main characters should be darker, more complex but I was unwilling to do this because they were us (my wife and I) and I didn’t want anything too unpleasant in our characters, as is, of course, the norm for heroes in detective fiction. That can come later, you know, when I’m writing a hit series.
So here it is, warts and all. I’ve decided to put it out there