Exploring Retirement


Welcome to the July 2014 edition of Exploring Retirement. Each month we provide articles on well-being in retirement and also feature activities to explore. Our intention is to build up a resource that can be used by anyone who is nearing retirement or who has recently retired. The material may also be useful to group leaders and discussion facilitators working with recently retired individuals.

This month we are looking at creative writing, with particular reference to writing for the web. The internet has created new opportunities for people who feel the need to express themselves to reach a wider audience. Our regular contributor, Michael McSorley, is taking a break this month and we are delighted to welcome a new guest contributor, Jeanette Lewis. You can read Jeanette's article below. Writing about life in retirement is a developing field and we are among the pioneers!

Feedback from readers is welcomed. Please let us know your thoughts on creative writing and especially if you have used the internet in any way, tell us how you went about it. E-mail your comments to editor@exploringretirement.co.uk.

Writing for the Web

There are many reasons why people choose to write. They may be very knowledgeable about a topic and wish to impart their enthusiasm for the subject to others. Some people have the ability to write in a humourous or entertaining fashion and want to share their observations on life. Whatever your reasons for wanting to communicate, the internet allows you to publish your thoughts to your readership at minimal cost.

Exploring retirement is a good example of an eclectic mix of writing styles. As editor I write about retirement from a somewhat academic perspective, because it is the emergence of new ideas that interests me. Michael on the other hand likes to share his enthusiasm for his interests in sport and the arts. Jeanette writes in a very fluent and lucid style, sharing the lessons that she has learned as her own life has unfolded.

Writing for the web does require a different discipline than other forms of writing. Readers can quickly grow tired of reading words on a small screen. Brevity is most definitely "the soul of wit". For this reason you are usually advised to "chunk" your thoughts into short paragraphs and to limit the overall length of each piece to somewhere between 500 and 1000 words. It is rare to find a long paragraph that couldn't be split into two shorter ones that would be easier to read. For similar reasons, most experts believe that you should keep your sentences brief and to the point.

Anything that helps navigation is worth considering. You can use sub-headings to signpost your main ideas. Again, try to keep your headings short and sweet.

Perhaps because it is so engaging, writing for the web requires especially careful editing. I read and re-read every issue many times before sending the copy to the server for publication. It is amazing how many times I have caught a simple typo at the tenth reading! The BBC (who better?) suggest you incorporate the three C's - Clear, Concise and Correct, as a good starting point.

The BBC also recommend that their website journalists be able to get all the key information inside the top four paragraphs of a story. It's a good discipline to have - can you sum up your whole story in four paragraphs? It means you have to strip out everything but the most important and interesting details. The top four paragraphs should provide all the information a reader would need if they didn't know anything about it in advance. The BBC suggest you try to answer all the 5 W's - Who, What, Why, When and Where.

The internet is a very different medium from the printed page. For instance you can, when appropriate, add photographs to illustrate your material. A good example of this would be Michael's article from last month about the Giro d'Italia, where he made use of some photographs he took during the three day event. You do need to be careful though, as a photograph may be stored on the computer as a separate file, which can be quite large and consequently slow to load on a computer screen. I remember well my dismay when the photograph of a lady exploring a sunlit path built up almost a line at a time! There are of course, ways and means to reduce the size of the file to overcome this problem. Good advice is not to try anything technically new, when you are near your publication deadline!

The internet is an exciting medium as it allows us to do more than simply describe our ideas in words, You can embed audio and video files for instance, as we frequently do on Exploring Retirement. You can also use embedded links to take your readers somewhere else on the web. Hopefully they will not have too much difficulty finding their way back!

Featured activity - Writing for Exploring Retirement

From our very first issue it has been our stated intention to make Exploring Retirement into an on-line magazine. I feel that this month we have taken another step in this direction with the addition of Jeanette Lewis to our team of writers. Jeanette is a happily retired lady who lives in Canada (Greater Toronto Area) with her husband and two cats. After a successful career as an executive in the not-for-profit sector, Jeanette writes a blog (www.postworksavvy.com) designed to inspire others to enjoy a happy retirement.

Jeanette's article is based on her recent trip to South Africa. While she and her husband were flying East, my wife and I were flying West to visit Vancouver and the Rockies! I can heartily endorse her sentiments about this kind of vacation adventure. It really does energise you, with an enhanced zest for living on your return.

While Jeanette lives in Toronto and Michael and I live in the UK, with the internet distance is not a barrier to working together. We would welcome others who might wish to contribute material to Exploring Retirement to get in touch. To give you some idea of the kind of things we would like to see, here are some suggestions for topics where new writers would be very welcome to make a contribution:

  • Book Club - monthly recommendations
  • Cook's Corner - recipes for healthy eating
  • Job Club - sharing ideas for part-time work
  • Life Review - reflections on life
  • Mailbox - readers share their views
  • Poet's Corner
  • Roving Reporter - news, view and interviews
  • Website of the Month
  • What Ever Turns You On - an unusual hobby or interest
  • Who's Who? - interviews with people involved in new initiatives aimed at the active retired.
  • Please note, these are only suggestions. If you have an idea that you would be prepared to write about, do get in touch and tell us about it. Don't let the thought of having to make a long-term commitment put you off. Even famous journalists writing for major newspapers don't always appear in every issue. We can accommodate holidays, short-term illness etc.

    Guest contributor - Jeanette Lewis

    How vacations can increase retirement happiness

    To read Jeanette's article, please click here