I am poised to begin my retirement. My ‘Second Act’. I don’t plan to do nothing. In fact, I plan to do everything I have delayed for the last sixty years. But I am nervous. How will I schedule my time? Who will I see and interact with every day? Where and how will I spend my days? Will my finances support retirement?
I am standing on a dock getting ready to dive into a cool, clear lake. This book, Julia Cameron’s ‘It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again’, has helped me make that dive.
Years ago I read Cameron’s earlier book, ‘The Artist’s Way’ and thought it was great. This newer book is similar, but focused on people like me, ready to retire and move onto their second act.
It is organized as a twelve week course, which took me seven months. Life intervened.
I will describe the basics of the course, but I highly recommend that readers of this review buy the book and work through it themselves. It rewarded the cost and effort multiple times over.
Cameron encourages readers to journal every day. Morning pages Cameron calls them, a chance to free think and capture about 750 words each morning. I have been doing this for years, so this part was easy. So many writing coaches suggest that getting a daily flow of material happening is a huge priority. Dorothea Brande in ‘Becoming a Writer’ suggests that these morning pages, and an additional ‘Write by Appointment’, are required of anyone who wants to be a writer. I am now getting a further one thousand words in five of seven days, and I already feel more like an actual writer.
‘It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again’ then suggests a daily walk, to clear your head and focus your thoughts. This has been harder since my dog Sawyer died, but I am making it. I have found a bird sanctuary down on Maplewood flats I am enjoying. And the birds are great.
Then the harder intellectual exercise is to explore your past and write a personal memoir. Divide your age by 12 and then each week there is a set of writing prompts to explore your life for those 5 or 6 years. This stirred up a lot of ghosts for me. And I reached out to people, my mom in particular, to help me remember events and timings through my past. People I had forgotten came back in my memory, great and painful memories resurfaced. I unearthed long buried hopes and wishes, cleaned up, and considered again. I can’t tell you how vibrant some of these memories are. And at the end of the twelve weeks, I have a written history of myself that makes me proud, makes me cringe, and makes me laugh. A history that is mine alone. Everyone should do this exercise. It opens up so many positives. It maps out how you got to be here now.
It can be painful. A serious injury, a lost loved one, a cheating partner, a mistake in careers, a missed opportunity. People who have died or slipped away.
But it can also be joyful. Remembering that first kiss, that first big fish, that falling in love, that building a house, a life, a family. Accomplishments, travels, friends and family. I learned I had so much to be grateful for, so many people who had done me good, so many good times and laughs and wonderful experiences.
And from that history, it becomes easier to plot a plan for the next act.
Cameron also suggests weekly ‘Artist’s Dates’. These are fun. Once a week, alone, go do something you might enjoy. I visited the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, I had coffee on Commercial drive, I went to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural center in Whistler, I watched an old movie, I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery, I went to a birding store and a gardening shop. The possibilities are endless and fun and highly recommended.
The cumulative effect of the book, the exercises, the walks and dates and memoir discovery is amazing. It is revitalizing in a way no other book has been for me. It opens fresh paths to consider.
It is not a book to just read, but a set of exercises that must be engaged in. The effort is rewarded in so many ways.
I loved this book and cannot recommend it enough.
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October 26, 2022
Review of Julia Cameron’s ‘It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again’