I haven’t been around here since winter – gah, apologies! – mostly because I took on a third part-time job back in February that just might have pushed my schedule from really busy to utterly overwhelming. It was one of those opportunities that I gradually fell into even while telling myself that I didn’t have the time. The position involves helping high school seniors successfully transition to community college, which is right up my alley and connected so well to what I was already doing that I found it impossible to say no. All three of my jobs allow me to spend time with some fantastic people… just not with my characters, my critique partners, or you, my lovely internet friends. I’ve been fighting for months to find some sort of balance with all the elements of my life, and pondering just where my writing fits after going months without penning more than a few paragraphs.
I am not one of those authors whose impulse to write is always insistent and all-consuming. I could never give up writing entirely, but I can easily go a few weeks or a few months without writing and feel fine (other than the undercurrent of guilt, anyway). My hands do not start grabbing pens on their own volition, my characters do not stage a coup and take over my brain. My creative world just takes a nap, or finds other means of expression, and I have to work to wake it up again when I return to the page.
Until recently, I haven’t had the energy, ability, or impetus to wake it up. My insane school year schedule doesn’t leave me with much time at all to write. I can steal some free minutes here and there, but at those times I usually feel too exhausted or frenzied to craft anything creative. I read instead, or try to catch up on work or sleep, or gaze out at our jungle of a yard and imagine myself doing something to tame it.
I also enjoy most of my time at work, however, so there isn’t that burning need to escape the daily grind that motivates some writers to give up their early morning or late night hours in the pursuit of publication. (Not that anything could ever, ever, ever motivate me to wake up before dawn like some writers, but you get the point. I used to wield my night owl powers for writing at least.) I find a great deal of satisfaction in my day jobs, so that even if I won the publication lottery, or the literal lottery for that matter, I think I would still want to hold on to one or more of them. (Although, okay, if I win the actual lottery, I reserve the right to spend half of the year on my dream New Zealand horse farm/puppy playground/sports and lawn games arena/writing retreat staffed with a personal chef and someone who knows anything about horses.) There are still many reasons I would love to be published some day, but that career change escapism is no longer one of them.
I definitely realize that having three reasonably enjoyable and meaningful jobs is a fortunate problem to have in the current climate, so I’m not trying to complain, or to claim that it’s impossible to write unless you’re living in a garret with a steady supply of free time and misery. It just means I have to fight for time and seek out other sources of motivation.
All of this could have turned into my retirement from writing, but I promise it’s not! During the summer two of my jobs blessedly slow down a little, so I’ve finally had a little time these past few weeks to breathe and plan. I'm finding (to my relief) that I’m just as committed to writing as ever. I've accomplished a good deal of brainstorming and drafting this week, and it feels fantastic. It feels like a new pattern and balance to my life. It feels like momentum.
What keeps me going even when it seems more logical to let writing go?
~ The fact that this world and its characters have lived in my head for years now, and I've put parts of their story on the page in multiple imperfect iterations, and yet I’m still not tired of them in the slightest. (Though they might be tired of me for making them wait so long for a final product.)
~ The fact that I love the writing community and have always wanted to be part of the world of books that has shaped (and continues to shape) who I am.
~ The fact that I want to prove to myself that I can tackle this puzzle of a novel and figure out how to solve it. I like to stretch my brain, and I don’t like failing or giving up. Even though plotting and fantasy world-building are seriously so freaking exhausting, guys. HOW DO ALL OF THESE AUTHORS DO IT?
~ The fact that I have some wonderful (and wonderfully persistent) people in my life who have been supportive of my writing dreams for a while now, who may hurl kumquats and pineapples at me if they don't get to read a full manuscript from me in the reasonably near future.
~ The fact that my writing time never feels wasted, even now when I have so little time to spare.
I don’t know yet how I’ll find a better balance come October, when work gears up full throttle again. I just know I have this summer to carve out as many vacations as possible into my fantasy world and travel as far as I can with my endlessly patient, frequently stranded characters.
How goes your writing life? Can anyone tell me the secret to finding that life balance? Or crafting an effective plot? Either one, I'm not picky.