"When writing a novel, that's pretty much entirely what life turns into: 'House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day."
- Neil Gaimen
Hold your hats folks, I’m philosophical today.
Most of us have two or three main factors that we try to balance. Family, work, and school are the big ones. For us writers, there’s another obvious factor – writing. Then blogging can sneak its way on top. There are numerous additional things we juggle – weight and diet, an engagement, a second job, e-mail, sick pets, sick self.
Managing all of these can be a huge problem.
We live in a world – particularly the publishing world – where only the ruthless survive. The multitaskers, novel-a-yearists, and opportunity-grabbers are the only ones who manage to stay afloat. Look at J.A. Konrath's blog. What is his eternal message? Do everything you can, and more than you can. Take every opportunity and invent your own opportunities. Persist and never stop persisting.
The moment you get serious about writing, this burden is dumped on your shoulders. To be more and do it better. It’s a commitment and an obligation, a passion and a virus; a need, a love, a job.
Most of us start out doing this because we want it. We’ve always dreamed of being an author; we enjoy reading; we have a story that yearns for exsistence. We find time and we find a way. We make it work. Opportunities crop up. We snatch them, excited and thrilled. We learn more, write more, revise more. Our progress coalesces. Start a blog, someone says. We start a blog. You should enter this contest, someone says. We start entering contests. The pieces come together, and we gain momentum. Our identity as a writer becomes something tangible.
It’s great and it’s wonderful, and it’s a very thrilling time. So when – and how – does it go bad? Why? Why does it have to be this way?
I guess the how is pretty obvious. There’s only so much one person can handle. You can try and try to do it all, but eventually, something is going to suffer. But when opportunities continue to arise and your life continues to grow more complex, how do you know when to put on the breaks?
I follow a blog that interviews a lot of writers. In the interviews, one question is asked over and over: How do you balance your life with your writing? And the universal reply is, they aren’t sure, or they don’t think they do.
I don’t think most of us consciously “balance” our lives. Sometimes when things get to be too much, we do sit down and try to work out a new system so that everything fits and every commitment can be met.
Which is fine – until life changes. Someone gets very sick. Taxes go up, and you need more money, so you take a second job. What you had time for before is now extraneous. It just happens; there is no tipping point.
So that leaves me with why.
Why do we let it get this far?
Why can’t we always find a way?
Why must we push ourselves so?
We know that to let go of something means to loose ground we fought so hard over. We know that letting go means expelling some of our momentum. But I think we also look at is as taking the “easy way out.” It’s cheating. We didn’t fight as hard as everyone else, and we should have. But if we stay because of guilt, isn’t that just as bad in it’s own way?
What reason is the right reason to do anything?