I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know

Last week’s post “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” received a lot of comments. One of the comments came from Nancy, who cited a book another reader mentioned in an earlier comment. Nancy is reading the book and highly recommends it.

After reading some reviews of the book, I decided to pass the information on to everyone as it looks like it can help you find your path in retirement. Deanna originally mentioned the book back on June 11 in a comment and I thank her for that. Although Nancy picked up on Deanna’s comment, I obviously missed the import of the book. Ain’t that a kick in the pants! This scenario reminded me I don’t know what I don’t know and need to keep my eyes, ears and mind open.

The book, “It’s Never Too Late To Begin Again — Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond” is written by Julia Cameron. It should show up in my mailbox today, so I have not read it — just reviews and parts of it online.  I did read her book “The Right To Write”.  Cameron, 68, is an artist. Stop right there. The book is not about becoming an artist although there are many, many forms of art and you may end up finding one you like. Cameron is also a creativity teacher and her books include exercises and prompts for helping you figure things out.

In the introduction to this book, Cameron tells us why she wrote it. I think this will resonate with some of you as it did with me.

“Twenty-five years ago I wrote a book on creativity called The Artists Way. It spelled out, in a step-by-step fashion, just what a person could do to recover — and exercise —their creativity. I often called that book “The Bridge” because it allowed people to move from the shore of their constrictions and fears [self-imposed limitations] to the promised land of deeply fulfilling creativity. The Artists Way was used by people of all ages, but I found my just-retired students the most poignant. I sensed in them a particular problem set that came with maturity. Over the years, many of them asked me for help dealing with issues specific to transitioning out of the work force.”

Cameron goes on to describe the book as her attempt to answer the question we all have about this stage of our lives, “What next?” Along with the many forms of art, there are also many forms of creativity. No matter what your career consisted of doing, from engineer to fashion designer, you engaged in creativity in some way. I was a banker and real estate executive yet business required a certain amount of creativity to get the job done. Inventing your retirement life will also take a certain amount of creativity on your part. Cameron’s step-by-step approach may well help you figure it out.

One of the steps involves memoir writing. This exercise is not to make you into a writer. It is there to put you in touch with your life experience. It’s in keeping with my advice to re-visit your childhood self. About 18 months ago I took a memoir writing class. Since than I’ve taken several other writing classes and continued with memoir writing. Why? Because it caused me to drill down into my past and excavate so much of myself buried under a lifetime of working. It helped me remember me. It helped me to fully transition from work to retirement. I regret not passing this piece of wisdom on to my readers earlier. It took reading the reviews about Cameron’s book for me to realize what a gem this exercise is for finding out who you are and who you want to be in your third stage of life.

That said, if you do read the book, I would love to hear what you think and if it did indeed help. As always, I love to hear from my readers. You often pass on wisdom or information such as this and that helps all of us. A great big thank you and hugs to Deanna and Nancy!

9 comments on “I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know

  1. Thank you so much for this suggestion! i was really struggling with retirement after a year, so I took a seasonal 3-4 days/wk job to hit the “reset” button. Am looking forward to controlling my time and schedule again. This book will hopefully encourage me to move beyond my comfort zone.

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  2. Kathy, Hi! Thanks very much for writing an article to show that Seniors 50+ are capable of handling writing projects in the liberal arts and more. I come in the role as a Seniorpreneur showing that seniors have the capability to go to a higher level before or after writing their memoir book. I have also written a book about senior entrepreneurship and a blog with 36 articles about seniors issues in their pre-retirement and retirement life.


  3. This book is in my reading pile but I haven’t gotten to it yet! Maybe I should move it up a few notches. So glad to hear others like it and recommend it. I’ve heard good things about Julia Cameron and I kind of fell in love with the title of the book, so I ordered it sight unseen. Will be fun to hear yours and others’ reactions after having read it.


  4. Kathy, thanks for mentioning this book to your readers. I have more to add. My two aspiring writer friends and I have been reading and doing the exercises in the book – we are now on week 9. Not always easy, but we are all happily exploring not only our creativity, but how we want to live our lives. We especially enjoy Julia’s encouragement to have a weekly “artist date” to spend time recharging our creative batteries by treating ourselves to creative activities that we love. We enjoy reading our weekly memoir exercises aloud to each other. I would encourage people to do this book in the company of other folks.

    Thanks for your blog!


    • Thank you Deanna for the additional information! I just started the book last night and wrote my first Morning Pages this morning. I agree with you — the book is probably better if it is done with others. Two of the writing classes I took at OLLI continued after the term was over because we enjoyed the camaraderie and reading each others stories. One of the instructors also does a monthly artists date where whoever wants to tour a gallery with others is welcome to participate. Asking others to join in the adventure of finding a new path in retirement is also a great way to grow relationships and support each other on the journey. Thank you for that reminder! K


  5. Hi. I’ve read 2 of Julia Cameron’s books. Stared with The Artist Way at Work because it was in my work reading pile that I had never gotten too. Followed it with the original The Artist Way. She uses very similar approach and exercises in both, and since both Morning Pages and Artist Dates are mentioned, I’m guessing this one you recommend is similar! That said, I continue to do my Morning Pages -now at 9 months I think- and LOVE that tool. I try and do Artist Dates but rarely hit weekly as she recommends. I did the memoir exercize at the time, as well as others in the books. It’s a great series of exercises for self-discovery! I’ve recommended The Artist Way (original) to others. Let me know which other exercises/tools you find useful. I might also go back and do a review of the book for my blog – Was looking for a new topic!


  6. Pingback: Charli Agrees! I Don’t Know What I Don’t Know — Kathy’s Retirement Blog « The Golden Age of Charli

  7. I retired at 56-I am now 62, I still care a lot about how I look, what I wear and still get my hair colored, nails done, wear makeup and stay in shape. Am married 43 years and I watch 3 grandchildren 7 year old twins and a toddler. I don’t want another career, I had one and it wasn’t all that, all I miss about my career is the paycheck. My current life is more fulfilling than the rat race of working, getting approval and making someone else rich and I don’t miss it. I know who I am and don’t need to re-discover myself. I feel free of all the stress and my health has improved since retiring. Kudos to those who started anew and are happy with it, its just not for me.


    • Betty, Thank you for your insight. But starting anew may be for you one day. The book is not about starting a new career. It is about finding more than that. Most do not miss the rat race any more than you…I certainly don’t. Some loved their job and some did not leave of their own choice. Some didn’t like their job and want this to be a time of starting anew…they don’t want a retirement of sitting on the porch in the rocker. Some left wanting something different from their career. Some left without having grandchildren to care for…I’ve cared for grandchildren…very rewarding but I also know many people without that blessing. And I also know they grow up. We all have a different journey or path we are on. The book is meant to help those who are still searching for the satisfaction you are so fortunate to enjoy. Most of us also still care about how we look…I’m in great shape, wear makeup, don’t do my finger nails…I’m a gardener but do my toes…my hair is grey but so what? I still get it styled every six weeks and I like the freedom grey gives me. And again so what? I’m happy you are happy with where you are. That’s your journey. But in probably 10 short years your grandchildren will be off on their own adventure. You will be a young 72. Then what? Will you want to start anew or head for the rocker? My oldest grandchild is 24…we have a supportive, loving relationship but he has his own life and just started his own family…760 miles away from me. I am in his life but am no longer in it the way I was when he was 7. Your retirement journey and outlook on life will take many turns. Then what? At 62 you could live another 40 years. Then what? You may want to pick up the book for future reference. None of us know what the future will bring. We don’t know what we don’t know. The only thing any of us can be sure of is change! Best to you. K


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