Exploring Retirement

"The institutions and instruments which have been created to meet the problem of ageing, are in no position to provide us with a policy for that great majority of retired people who present no problem at all"

Peter Laslett: A Fresh Map of Life.

Exploring Retirement is written by and for retired people, to assist active retirees make the most of their additional years of good health. If you are interested in writing for Exploring Retirement, please contact editor@exploringretirement.co.uk For ideas to write about, have a glance at the July 2014 issue of Exploring Retirement, available by clicking on "Past Issues" in the navigation bar on the left of this page. These are only suggestions, please contact us if you have a different topic you would like to share your thoughts on.

We trust that you will continue to enjoy our monthly publication and please tell your friends about the site.

Welcome to the September 2017 edition of Exploring Retirement! In 2017 we are focussing on different creative activities in retirement, especially those that offer the opportunity to make new friends. If you are engaged in an unusual creative activity, we would love to hear from you.

Writing team

We have three regular contributors on our writing team. Here they are with a brief note explaining their principal areas of interest:

John Copelton, EditorDr John Copelton - well-being in retirementMichael McSorley, contributorMichael McSorley - lively comment on sport and cultureJeannette Lewis, contributorJeannette Lewis - inspiring ideas on retirement living

Creativity in Retirement: Writing

Writing in retirement can take many forms, from journaling about the events and people in your life to writing a work of fiction, such as a novel. Many people feel the surge to write about their experiences and there is a considerable body of research that says that writing can be beneficial for both our mental and our physical health. The mechanisms by which these benefits are achieved is not well understood but the most likely explanation seems to be that writing about events in our life helps us to reorganise and better structure our memories of them. If we can learn to see the things that happened from a positive perspective, it can be very therapeutic. Also, of course, the act of writing can be a great source of mental stimulation as we seek to express our thoughts coherently. Trying to explain our thinking to others can help us to better explain it to ourselves!

Other benefits that flow from writing can include:

  1. Discipline

    Writing regularly requires self-discipline. Setting aside time each week to keep a diary or just to think about what is happening in your life can provide a valuable source of perspective. You don't just think about what you have done, but why you did it and what was the outcome?

    The most difficult task in writing is to start! Faced with a blank page it can seem daunting. Personally, I begin with an idea, then jot down my thoughts, just to get started. After that I may l spend quite a bit of time researching the topic and checking facts. I spend a great deal of time rereading and editing. Paragraphs get rearranged, sentences get deleted and sometimes new ideas get included. The finished article may bear little resemblance to the one I started with, but is hopefully the better for it!

  2. Social

    A commitment to writing on a regular basis can lead to new social activities such as joining a class on creative writing where you will meet other like minded people. Many experienced writers recommend this approach as it can be a great source of ideas, as well as providing you with useful feedback on your writing.

  3. Awareness

    The best writing chimes with our common experience. You need to learn to actively observe what is going on around you. If you are going to write conversation, for instance, then you need to listen to how people talk. Maeve Binchy, the well known Irish writer, makes this point in the accompanying video clip.

  4. Researching

  5. An important part of writing is researching. You can do this at your local library, by talking to experts and interviewing people. This applies just as much to writing fiction as non-fiction. Whatever you write you need to get the details correct. A lot of research can be done online but you can't beat an actual visit to a location you're writing about to get the details just right. This is one of the ways that a commitment to writing can enlarge your life experience as well as your circle of friends.

Featured Activity: Forming Your Own Writing Group

Writing can be lonely business and it is easy to become discouraged. Many successful authors recommend joining a writing group. Belonging to a group of like minded people can be a great way to get ideas to write about and to get feedback on your work. It is really important though, before joining a group to sit down and have a quiet conversation with yourself about what you want to write about. This way you can avoid getting sidetracked by other peoples enthusiasms.

Finding a nearby group of writers need not be difficult. A good place to start might be a local further education college. Look for courses on creative writing. Other possibilities include the Extra-Mural Department of a University or indeed your local library. If they don't offer courses you might suggest that they do! If none of these ideas work out then you may need to expand your search. Try writing to your local paper saying that you are interested in starting a writing group and would like to hear from other like-minded individuals. Newspapers are always on the lookout for interesting items of news and will almost certainly publish your letter.

If you do decide to form your own group, then the next challenge is to find somewhere to meet. Your local community centre might be a good place to start. You can also approach the local library who may have a room for meetings. Consider when the group might meet. If you are expecting to attract a group of retired writers than you can be flexible. For those still working, early evening is usually best. You will need to get everyones name and contact details so that they can be kept informed, especially if there needs to be any change to the meeting arrangements. If material needs to be photocopied, who will be responsible for doing so? Probably best to make it clear from the start that anyone who wants photocopying, does it themselves.

While not wanting to be too formal, it is important to have a few ground rules. Will members commit to reading an authors work before each meeting of the group or will the author read their own work to the meeting? It is important from the very beginning to stress that only constructive feedback is allowed. No one likes receiving negative comments and the group would quickly cease to exist.

The most important thing to consider when organising any group activity is to make it a welcoming social occasion. If possible, a cup of tea or coffee and a few biscuits can serve to set the tone.

For a few tips on writing, who better than Ireland's own Maeve Binchy? With over 40 million copies of her books sold worldwide, she should know a thing or two about writing.


Michael McSorley

Michael takes a long hard look at the UK's decision to leave the EU and it's impact on the politics of Northern Ireland. It doesn't make for comfortable reading. Click here to read Michael's viewpoint.

Jeanette Lewis

This month Jeanette takes a look at the role of the internet in combatting loneliness among isolated older people. To read Jeanette's article, click here