Commentary

John Canzanella: Retire? Never! Write a book

August 13, 2013 

John Canzanella

When I retired from banking and entered my second profession, teaching, little did I know that later I would embark on a third career, that of an author.

Anyone contemplating retirement, or in retirement, should consider writing a book. The technology available today makes the daunting task of writing a book so much easier.

When Karl Marx wrote “Das Kapital,” he spent years and years at the circulation room of the British Museum, sitting on a wooden bench and poring over books and statistics. He claimed that years of research on the evils of capitalism were responsible for his painful hemorrhoids. Some believe that his discomfort contributed to his vehement indictment of the capitalist system.

Well, Karl might not have been so irascible if he were writing today.

First of all, research is so much easier now as opposed to the 1860s. Without leaving the comfort of your home, anyone with a computer can call up resources such as the New York Times Archives. Narrowing down your search to a time period, you can enter the name of the subject and all the articles printed in the paper for those years will appear. And by using archive.org you can have free access to more than a million digital books.

The same site grants access to music and literature – want to hear the Grateful Dead live at the Uptown Theater on Dec. 5, 1979 or want to hear an audio version of James Henry’s book, “An International Episode”? – it’s right there on your computer! The resources are immense and any would-be writer can be overwhelmed by the sources available. But the ability to add authenticity to your novel or article is at your fingertips.

Everyone has a story to tell and it is possible to tell it cheaply and without too much difficulty. Not only has research become easier, publishing a book is not only easy, but relatively inexpensive. Publishing on demand (POD) has revolutionized the industry. Now you can electronically submit your magnum opus over the Internet and without ever meeting an editor or publisher, your book can look like a million bucks!

Don’t expect to make a million though. It took more than 10 years for me to write my book, ” Innocence and Anarchy.” If you include some hourly wage and the cost of self publishing, it would probably take more than a million book sales to come close to a respectable wage.

But that is not the purpose of writing a book. As one character in my book states, he wants to write because “I want to deny my mortality. I want something of me to live after I no longer exist. ... I want my writing, my words, to be my children.”

There is something about seeing your book and holding it in your hands that is difficult to describe. It is a solitary profession. It requires patience with yourself to create, to accept criticism with the proper spirit. Most simply abandon their book, discouraged by the time involved in producing something worthwhile. But for those who see the task to completion, it is the most rewarding profession you will ever have.

John Canzanella is the author of “Innocence and Anarchy,” about the people, events, and forces that changed the fate of three nations. Learn more at his www.innocencandanarchy.

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