Last time I talked about staying challenged and mentioned one way that a lot of folks do that.  Writing.  I bet writing is maybe the number one thing that people turn too when looking for a creative outlet.  We all know how to do it, though not all of us well, and it is the most accessible and probably the most expressive way to be creative.  But in the past, writing was something we did for ourselves.  Getting published was a pipe dream at best.  Even if you did get published, it might have been more trouble that it was worth.

Not anymore, however.  I’m published.  See my book over there to the right?  That’s me.  It’s an ebook that I published myself.  But I could, with a little formatting, self publish a traditional book too.  Five years ago, what I did would have been nearly impossible.  Ten years ago, you’d have to spend hundred, maybe thousands to self publish.  Otherwise, you had one route, traditional publishing and all the headaches, rejections and shattered dreams that came with that.

Now you can directly publish your own books, for free, on platforms like Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and Amazon and easily sell your books for real money.  You can publish print on demand too through places like Lulu and CreateSpace and sell those too.  You can be a published writer!  Maybe you can retire earlier that you thought if your passion, like mine, is writing and you can actually make a semi-passive income doing it.  It’s only work if you don’t love it, right?  And money doesn’t have to be the focus.  You can just enjoy the fact your writing is being read by others.  Blogs are an alternative, but nothing is as satisfying as a book and seeing people buy it.

And writing is just one way you can express yourself today and actually be seen and appreciated by others, even make a buck or two.  Many folks enjoy photography but like publishing, selling your photos, or even getting people to see them at all was tough.  Now you can have a blog or gallery website up and running in minutes.  You can sell images to visitors that are printed by third party printers.  I love photography too and taking pictures is satisfying all by itself, but to have other people enjoy your work, even pay for it?  That’s awesome!

You can do the same with movies.  I know of many aspiring filmmakers who are using affordable tools to make movies.  Timelapse, shorts, even feature length movies.  Check out Randy Halverson at DakotaLapse.  His films are amazing and he’s just a regular guy that has a passion.  Technology has allowed the average Joe to have a shot at the big time.  Fifty Shades of Grey, the hot new book that’s sweeping the world is by an indie author who self published on Amazon.  Sure, your retired and you aren’t looking for a job or to even make money, but to see your book on the New York times Best Seller list is pretty cool.  Not to mention the six figure deal she got!

Technology, however, allows us to do more than just challenge ourselves creatively.  It can allow us to reach out and connect with other people in ways that a decade ago were unheard of.  I used to have a pen pal in Japan.  We lost touch, however.  E-mail is impersonal and slow.  Today, people can Skype.  We can collaborate virtually.  We can share pictures, video and more almost instantaneously.  I could upload a video of myself playing a song on my guitar to YouTube and others could lay down their tracks and we could make a song though we’d never met.

You can organize people and start a movement.  The Tea Party movement started that way.  No matter what you think of the movement, it was born on the web by people thousands of miles apart.  The rallies were organized on the web.  Imagine what you could do if you were so inclined.  You could change the direction of a whole country, like they did.  Or you could just organize something as mundane as a bike ride for retirees.  New websites are popping up everyday that are taking advantage of the social aspects of the web.  Who knows what you might be able to do tomorrow.

Enjoy teaching, passing on your knowledge about a subject?  YouTube is full of how-to videos.  From guitar lessons to cooking, someone somewhere is offering their knowledge and many times for free.  Maybe you have an unfulfilled passion for journalism.  Your only choice isn’t volunteering to write the church newsletter anymore.  You could blog about politics, upload video commentary on current events, even produce your own documentaries.  Citizen journalists are breaking some of the biggest stories of our time.  Matt Drudge and the late Andrew Breitbart are a couple of good examples.

Maybe you’re a tinkerer.  You’ve got a shop and wonder what to do with it.  Beyond the normal wood working projects and shade tree mechanics, the sky is the limit.  New materials allow anyone to build just about anything.  Rapid prototyping allows anyone with a computer aided design background to create and produce custom parts.  Computers and robots allow other companies to mass produce from those prototypes.  The web has allowed retailers in specialty parts to sell to the masses bringing the cost down.  Some guy in his garage can design, prototype and mass produce an invention with ease never before seen.

These are a few examples of the wonders technology provides us today and those wonders get more amazing every day.  As I mentioned last time, when you are looking at 20, 30 even 40 years of active, productive retirement, the idea of a second career based on passion and sheer curiosity is possible.  Once the need to make money is eliminated, your creative side can take over.  So you write a novel and no one buys it or you produce a series of educational videos of YouTube or invent a better mouse trap and no one cares?  You got something out of it.  You can take risks you normally wouldn’t and please yourself can be more important than pleasing clients and customers.

With kids and a mortgage, quitting your job to pursue your dream of being a nature photographer, for instance, may not be advisable.  However, as a retiree who is financially independent you can follow that dream.  And with technology, you can do it not just as a hobbyist but as a professional.  You don’t have to settle for playing pro photographer, you can be a pro.  Paycheck and all if you wish and love every second.

So, you’re reading this and saying, I don’t want a job.  Neither do I.  When writing becomes a job, I’m quitting.  It hasn’t yet, though.  I love it.  I’d do it even if I wasn’t making some walking around money.  Golf with the guys or bridge with the ladies might be fun, but is it going to keep you challenged and satisfied for two or three decades?  Probably not.  I think to be successfully retired for that long requires something more.  The ideas above are just that, ideas.  There are many other ways to challenge oneself and next time, I’ll list a few more ideas.