As Jewelle was preparing to retire as Director of Grants & Community Initiatives at Horizons Foundation to devote full time to her writing career, we interviewed her to learn about her experience in preparation for this transition both practically and emotionally. We share her perspectives below.
The 3rd Act: What motivated your decision to retire now?
Jewelle: My spouse, Diane, raised the retirement issue first. She thought that I was at a critical juncture with my creative career that required more attention. I agreed. I have spent all of my life writing on the side. My writing career has been tangential because you can’t eat from writing. I have done good work, but there is nothing like time to make things better. I don’t have enough time to finish everything I want to write! I have saved ideas for plays and stories for the last thirty years. If I have my health into my 80’s, I have twenty five years of writing left. I am a realist. I still can’t possibly get all that writing done if I write full time.
The 3rd Act: In what ways did you prepare for your transition, both practically and emotionally?
Jewelle: Since Diane raised the issue, she instigated the practical financial preparation. After we did our own projections, we went to a financial planner who helped us think through things that we had forgotten.
Another practical issue is my writing space. I need space that fits my work habits. When I am writing creatively, I get up and walk around. I need space to stretch my legs and I need space that is not cluttered. I don’t want to be so distracted that I don’t go back to writing. I have planned some transition time in which I will clean up the basement and reconfigure the space. In that transition time, I am going to work on the Obama campaign too. By early November, we will re-elect the President and I will have my new space.
I don’t know if I can prepare myself emotionally for this transition. Every now and then, I have an emotional moment. I will miss being out and about on a daily basis. I will miss my co-workers and the grantees I have worked with here at Horizons. I think about how I will organize my day to write, read, see friends. I also enjoy talking to others about their work. I feel very lucky to have something I want to do and I want to maximize my opportunity.
The 3rd Act: How do you imagine your days will be different?
Jewelle: I will wake up at my natural wake-up time, 8:30…I like to stay up late. I imagine breaking up my day with writing, correspondence and administrative things. If I block out times for them, I will be able to move through them. Duke Ellington said “I don’t need time, what I need is a deadline.” I plan to create a schedule and then I know I expect myself to complete something. I will feel more in control of my time which is what retirement and the third act is all about. I am looking forward to taking a break to go outside in the sun.
Maybe I will get back to my hobbies like sewing, knitting, crocheting…that would be very relaxing. I am happy thinking about sewing again. It was a very meaningful part of my childhood. Sewing and the political campaign will feed me. I don’t have kids, but I will have time to be with nieces and nephews when I want to.
The 3rd Act: What are you most excited about? And what are you most concerned about?
Jewelle: I am most excited about not having to get up early, following my writing impulse every day and have weekends free to spend time with Diane. My concerns include spending all my time watching TV…(taping shows and watching them during the day.) I am also concerned about the impact on Diane, who has a stressful job. I don’t want her to think she is working hard and I am at home eating bonbons. I plan to do some of the tasks at home that she has been doing like taking out the garbage. I don’t worry about having things to write or obsess about getting published.
The 3rd Act: What will give you pleasure on a daily basis?
Jewelle: Going out in my backyard and sitting there for an hour or two when the sun is out, taking a walk in my neighborhood, and reading. Reading is such a pleasure and I haven’t had a chance to read as much as I love…I have lists of books I want to read.
The 3rd Act: Do you see your retirement differently than the traditional model?
Jewelle: I feel very fortunate to have my writing career to go to in retirement. It makes a difference to know that something lies ahead that gives me meaning. So many of us identify with our jobs. So knowing who I am in retirement will not be an issue.
Jewelle Gomez Bio:
Jewelle Gomez is the author of seven books including the double Lambda Literary Award-winning novel, THE GILDA STORIES. This cult favorite
lesbian, feminist vampire novel has been in print continuously since 1991. Her adaptation of the novel was commissioned and performed by UrbanBush Women Company, touring 13 US cities.
She worked in philanthropy for 30 years including on the founding board of The Astraea Foundation; the New York State Council on the Arts; the San Francisco Arts Commission and finally Horizons, the oldest LGBT community foundation.
Currently the President of the San Francisco Public Library Commission, she also serves on the selection committee for the City’s Poet Laureate. Her forthcoming novel is entitled TELEVISED and her play about James Baldwin, “Waiting for Giovanni” premiered at New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco in 2011. She working on a sequel to her vampire novel entitled, THE ALTERNATE YEARS.