Faye Thompson may be a best-selling author now. But at one point in time the author of four books, was once a featuring federal government employee. Her successful writing career is actually her second career, one she launched fully after retirement.
Writing had been a lifelong dream for Thompson. “When I was ten, there were not many books with characters that looked like me so I decided to write the change I wanted to read. That summer, I’d get up early and work on that first draft on my mother’s old manual typewriter, loving the musical tone of the carriage’s return. Hopscotch, tag, and double Dutch could no longer compare. I had found my purpose,” she recalls with passion. “My life would never be the same. A couple of years later, I created my very first vision board. It was filled with superlatives from The New York Times, Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Rex Reed, and Redbook all heralding my bestselling books. Jimmie JJ Walker’s quote was direct and to the point: ‘Dynamite!’”
When she started working, it was in government instead. “After working many years for the federal government, this new career has afforded me the privilege of reconnecting with my creativity, my passion for writing, my core,” says Thompson, who never abandoned her writing dreams. “Bishop TD Jakes’ books are particularly empowering. I have time to decompress and to reconnect my spirit with God’s Word. I turned my personal mantra, ‘Don’t Sit on Your Fabulous’ into a blog and recently released my fourth novel, Slippin’ Sippin’ Saints. Ultra Pearl Power is the name of my newly created publishing company.”
So when she could, she ventured into writing and has self-funded. “Personal savings, but I hope to qualify for small business funding,” she says. Self-funding is good but avoid touching your retirement fund. “You should not use any portion of your retirement funding that would take away from you the core income stream you will need to live reasonably well in future years,” advises George Schofield, author and developmental psychologist.
The biggest challenge was getting it all done before she retired. “Time management. When I worked full-time, it was easier to squeeze in time for writing during lunch breaks, evenings and weekends, because my writing time was limited. Now, if I don’t focus, I waste time. Finances: Budgeting my resources wisely to invest in the business. Learning to trust the God in me, listening to my instinct, and seizing opportunities—carpe diem: My bishop, Del P. Shields, was one of my biggest supporters. He patiently waited a couple of years for the release of Slippin’ Sippin’ Saints even as his health deteriorated,” she recalls. “When my publishing deal fell through, I was devastated, but I was not defeated. God gave me a sense of urgency. I regrouped and created Ultra Pearl Power. The look on my bishop’s face as I presented the book to him was priceless. It meant more than any book deal ever could. He read it and gave me his blessing before he passed. Life is fragile. Thank God for His divine order.”
Like Thompson, test out your second act idea. “When preparing to go into a new business after retirement, the most important step is to decide and test out (on a part-time basis) the business or career you’re thinking of pursuing. You need to plan for it prior to retirement, not start thinking of it after you arrive. When you’re still working pre-retirement, you have the momentum to get something started. It’s too easy to lose that momentum after retirement,” notes Mike McRitchie, Small Business Profit Analyst and Strategic Advisor.
Thompson is more than happy she took the leap to follow her passion.“Writing gives me the same joy now as it did when I was ten. The excitement, the fulfillment and the sense of purpose it provides has not changed. It is a constant in my life. Whether it is a poem, a composition, a term paper, a research paper, a note, an article, or a speech, writing is my niche,” she says.
Thompson’s latest book was just released and she has goals of expanding her brand. “Slippin’ Sippin’ Saints explores the Jonathan Swift quote: ‘We have just enough religion to make us hate but not love one another.’ No matter what we are going through in life, there’s an app for that—God. I want to help readers reconnect with their forgotten first love. We serve an awesome God. My goals are to gain national exposure for my brand Dramalicious Gems, and to implement a Don’t Sit on Your Fabulous female empowerment movement complete with merchandising: T shirts, baseball caps, coffee mugs, journals, notecards, etc. I would love to generate more income and see a financial return on my investment. Essence best-selling author. Amazon best-seller. I would love to show Oprah my vision board over her favorite vanilla chai tea,” she reveals. “Years ago when I applied for a job with the federal government, the manager caught me off guard by asking me what my career aspirations were. I thought about that vision board. I told him I wanted to be an author. Decades later, during my exit interview from the government, my manager asked the same question. She had read all three of my books and knew I enjoyed writing. This time my answer was slightly different. Now, I wanted to be a New York Times best-selling author. Smiling, she jotted down #1 New York Times best-selling author. I smiled, too.”
Launching a second act can be rewarding, in many ways. “A new lease on life. By pursuing a passion and being active in it, you are less likely to fall apart. I believe it used to be the case where many people died right after retirement because they’d lost their reason for being. Having worked their whole life, losing their friends and routines and people looking up to them for answers, they lost the will to live. Don’t let that happen to you in retirement,” says McRitchie.
“The primary upside of a second act is paradoxically the opposite of the downside. The freedom to reassess and begin some things again. Not only the freedom but the excitement of being able to make life choices based on who we are now or who we would like to be in our second act,” Schofield points out.