Every time my mom brings up saving money for retirement, I have to chuckle. Not because I’d rather buy dog toys and crystals than put money in that boring thing called “savings,” but because it’s been said that retirement is just a myth for us creative folks.
Not because we can’t afford to. Despite our penchant for squeaky and shiny things, many of us do regularly contribute to that boring thing called “savings.” We’re also pretty savvy about establishing creative streams of income.
In truth, we may have even set up something like seven of them after reading somewhere that having seven streams of income was ideal. And yes, selling poetry scribbled on napkins during birthday parties counts.
And it’s not because we don’t want to retire. Goodness knows we’d gladly trade our computer keyboard and office chair for a paddle board and a beach chair. Or so we think. But once we get to the beach with absolutely nothing to do but smile, what inevitably happens?
We start that mad rummaging through our beach bag in a panicked flurry to find that long-forgotten sand-choked pen and crumpled scrap of paper so we can write down that poem that just popped into our heads.
During one yoga retreat in Mexico where the goal was to have a work-free week of bliss, I came home with 12 new poems, 23 cartoon illustrations of hammocks and iguanas, and a batch of coconut heads created from coconuts I found on the beach and my travel-everywhere set of paint pens. Sigh.
We creative types don’t retire because we can’t. We simply can’t. It’s in our DNA to create, so create we must. Think about it. When it comes to taking time any amount of time off from work, what’s one of the first things we start doing?
We start thinking about all those back-burner projects that we never seem to have the time to do during our workaday weeks. Like writing that book. Recording those songs. Finishing that painting.
Putting the final touches on the happy crystal-adorned wolf doll that looks more like a really angry crystal-adorned wolverine.
You know the deal. But there’s another deal we may not have considered. Like what retirement actually means.
For many, retirement means having time to do what they love. For us creatives lucky enough to make a full-time living with our creations, we’re doing what we love every day. (Or at least on days where our assignments don’t include an in-depth analysis of the life cycle of dust mites.)
Retirement is also often thought of as a time to indulge in complete and ultimate relaxation, which many may do by lounging about and grabbing the TV remote. We creatives get our relaxation a completely different way. Forget grabbing the remote, we instead grab a pen, Sharpie marker or hunk of clay.
Creating is our go-to for de-stressing, decompressing and expressing everything we may have been thinking, feeling or experiencing over our last five lifetimes. We need to be in perpetual creative motion. We need to release emotion. We need to create, or we die.
So instead of trying to conform to or bemoan the fact that we don’t get the traditional model of retirement, we should do what we do best. Create a new form of retirement that conforms to us.
We can even give it a snazzy new name that reflects what it truly is: a busy but fun time to do whatever we want and to heck with the rest of the world. But then again, for many lucky creatives, that’s something we already get to do every day.