In many ways, there's no reason why someone shouldn't be writing as well at 85 as at 45. But it made me think: when, why and how do authors retire? Do we have to go on till there's no breath in our bodies? Are we allowed to stop? Sometimes, should we? Some people, writers or not, lose touch as they get older - and losing touch is a complete no-no for a children's author, so what if that happens to us and how will we know? Will someone tell us? What if we're different from Eva Ibbotson and actually decline in our writing ability, as is possible? How do we decide when it's time to hang up the keyboard?
Leaving aside the question of money, which for most of us is not a very big question - or at least not a very big answer - I have some questions for the published writers amongst you.
- Do you expect to carry on writing until you no longer can?
- Have you given any thought to when or if you'll stop?
- Will you announce that you've retired? Or will you perhaps carry on writing but not go through the publishing process, not jump through the hoops that publishers and reviewers set?
- Perhaps you're tired of the whole thing and are secretly looking forward to stopping? (It would be a hard thing to admit, wouldn't it? After all, we're supposed to love writing. But it's hard work, often very hard work, even before all the promotion stuff we're supposed to do.)
Perhaps the ideal is that we reach the stage when we no longer care about success and simply write for the love of it. Maybe that's what Eva did. Maybe that is the secret. Maybe, to adapt the words of Robert Frost, my favourite poet, she still had stories to tell before she stopped and words to write before she slept.