Saturday, June 11, 2005

I Quit And Other Such Nonsense

I was listening to the radio and the DJ mentioned some recent gossip. Seems there is a rumor floating that Garth Brooks might come out of retirement. Apparently singing backup on his new fiance Trisha Yearwood's latest hit has sparked some latent creative juices. Except the DJ went on to say that Garth has claimed that no, he has no intention of coming out of retirement.

I bring this up not because I really care about what Garth Brooks is up to. Sure, there are a couple of his songs that I really do love, but to be honest, I hadn't even realized he had retired.

No, my point in mentioning this is the wonderment I felt about Garth Brooks being able to retire. It is beyond my scope of understanding how anyone in the...for lack of a better word... arts can ever retire.

Sure, there may come a point where an artist (and when I say artist, I'm talking about all singers, writers, actors, musicians) has enough money, enough fame, or perhaps enough headaches dealing with being a superstar that retirement sounds like a good idea. Maybe they have other things they want to pursue, a family they've too long neglected, or just a whole lot of sleep to catch up on. I can understand wanting to slow down or to move out of the spotlight. I can only imagine the kind of pressure placed on those who are successful to continue being successful, and that surely has to take a toll.

Not that I feel too sorry for these folks. If fame and fortune comes with a bit of work and inconvenience, it's a small price to pay if you ask me.

What I don't understand is how an artist can simply stop creating. I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that I will be writing until the day that I can no longer press the keys on my keyboard. I have enough stories in my head that I cannot imagine ever running out of things to say. Even if I never sell a single word, I love to write and I'll do it regardless.

But say that the writing fairies smile upon me and I am blessed with a successful writing career. I just cannot imagine ever retiring from it. I can imagine slowing down - one book every year or every other year or even every third year - but I cannot imagine stopping completely. It's like trying to imagine what it would be like to stop listening to music or to stop speaking or to stop eating chocolate. Writing is part of what I am.

Now, maybe when Garth Brooks says he's retired he really means he's no longer going to sing on tour or make records. Maybe he sings at family parties or friend's fiftieth birthday bashes. Maybe he's writing songs that he gives to others to perform. Because otherwise, I just don't get it. Garth Brooks has a God-given talent (and let's not get into the debate here if that is a fact or an opinion, just go with me) that I can only assume he enjoys using. How can he simply stop doing it?

I made a joke on HelenKay Dimon's blog today about the fact that since Nora Roberts has 5 out of the 10 Barnes and Noble Daily Romance Bestsellers that maybe it's time for old Nora to step aside. To retire so that other writers might have a smidgen of a chance to break into that list. After all, the woman has plenty of money, surely. And she's proven over and over (and over and over ad nauseum) that she can write a killer romance novel and rightfully owns the title of The Queen. There is something graceful in quitting while you're ahead and all of that. In case you need examples of how not to retire, just see Michael Jordan.

But honestly, I'm sure that Nora Roberts could no more retire - or stop writing romance novels - that we could stop breathing. It's what she does. What she is. The best she could probably do is stick her manuscripts in a drawer rather than send them along to her publishers. She'll probably be writing until she can no longer type on her keyboard. Sad for those of us trying to snag a slot on the 10 Daily Best Sellers list since she's hogging half or more of them. Good news for her fans.

I guess if you do something that you love and are lucky enough to make a living at it, retirement isn't a concept that applies. If you can retire from something, it means that what you were doing was a job. And even if you love, love, LOVE your job, eventually you want to stop doing it.

People don't retire from their passions. Do they?


HelenKay said...

I'm thinking we can't retire from our passions. They're too much a part of who we are. And, the Nora extravaganza? I say good for her if people are going to buy her. I just wish the book buying public would buy some others with the same fervor. Like come 2006, me, for instance....

MaryF said...

This article hit close to home with me because after 11 years struggling to get published, this spring I was ready to quit. But like you said, THEN what I am I going to do? What do people do who don't write, don't create? What do they do with their time? I can't imagine.

As for Nora, I read an interview with her once where she had been meeting with her financial advisor about her retirement. "Retire from what?" she asked. "My life?"