There’s a joke at every college that you can study, sleep, and have a social life, but only two out of three. And when you’re out in the real world and trying to build a career at whatever you’re doing, that may as well be two out of three of work, sleep, and a social life. And yet we writers with day jobs are trying to cram a hugely time-consuming fourth task in there: writing. There’s never enough time.
These past few years I was on a treadmill that I know many writers can relate to. If it wasn’t working, writing, blogging, or watching the occasional TV show or basketball game at the end of the night, chances are I wasn’t doing it. I lived for the vacations I took every six months or so – those were my breaks.
The time I took for doing purely fun things slipped away, and the day when I was going to slow down kept receding in the distance. It was a bit of an unsustainable course. Now, I didn’t go Britney Spears and shave my head or anything like that, but something had to give, which is partly why I craved a fresh start and a new challenge in a new career. I knew I had to find a different balance.
This all came to a head the past few months. I was starting a new job as I was trying to finish up WONDERBAR #2 (which I’m now editing), starting WONDERBAR #3, spending time with family around the holidays, dealing with a sick dog who wasn’t sleeping through the night (he’s fine now), and other assorted massively time consuming travails.
The thing about this is that I know full well these are the problems of someone who is very blessed and fortunate, and I’m not asking for, nor do I deserve, sympathy. I know I’m lucky! Oh – gee, my hobby that I love is too time-consuming. Woe is me. There are people out there who are working far harder and who are struggling and for whom the idea of finding “balance” in their life is an abstraction.
But I also know that’s the guilt of the ambitious writer talking, and it’s a great justification for running yourself into the ground. Someone out there is always working harder and more successfully and look like they have it made in the shade. I have to remind myself to ignore that. If you have the luxury of time: It really behooves you to take some of it for yourself.
So these past few months I’ve been searching for a new paradigm. No longer am I working late into the night; I’m trying to spend my weeknights hanging out with friends. No longer am I spending every single Saturday and Sunday writing; I’m trying to spend at least one of those days doing something fun. My new job is going great and I’m trying to get out of the apartment more and reengage with the world. One day I went to the Steinhart Aquarium and just stared at the fish, which made me feel slightly crazy, but hey, what can I say world, I’m back!!
Have you ever gone through a similar rebalancing of your life? How did you find the right mix, and are you happier as a result?