I heard Kate DiCamillo speak at a book festival last year, and she described getting a job at a warehouse when she first got serious about writing. The job gave her time to write, but it also gave her the mental space to write. She spent her work day using her body and then her writing day using her mind. It created a balanced life.
That kind of balance is hard to come by, but it’s vital for a writer to produce good work. And it’s a concept I’ve been learning the hard way.
For the past six months, every time I’ve sat down to write, I’ve had a niggling thought in the back of my mind: I really should be working on that magazine. It’s happening right now. I really should be working on that magazine. What magazine? It’s an annual publication for a community service organization I belong to. I have a professional background in journalism, magazines in particular, so it made sense for me to volunteer to handle the publication.
Except . . .
I haven’t been volunteering in the community and writing. I’ve just been writing . . . and editing . . . and pestering other people about turning their stories in. And I haven’t magically come up with more writing time. I still have the same limited time to sit down at my computer, but now I’ve had to divide it between my manuscript and the magazine.
As a result, I resented the time I spent working on the magazine because it dragged me away from my book, but when I worked on my book, I had the guilty sense that I was neglecting the magazine and all the people expecting me to get it finished. It’s been a miserable process, but, like most miserable processes, I’ve learned something important.
I enjoy writing, so it’s tempting to veer toward the writing aspects in everything I participate in. But if I do that, then I end up with a lot of writing to do, but no extra writing time. Which means that my manuscript gets short-changed. But I get short-changed, too. If I spend my whole life writing, I won’t have anything to write about. I need to get out there and experience life so that I can bring those experiences back to the page.
The magazine is almost finished. I will email the printer as soon as I finish this post. And I won’t repeat this mistake. I’ve already signed up to mentor teenage girls.
How do you find balance between writing and the rest of your life?