More on writing, reading, and living a balanced life

I actually snickered audibly when I typed the words “living a balanced life” in the title, because the whole thing suggests that I am about to write knowledgeably about those topics. Let me assure you right here at the beginning that nothing of the sort is going to happen. It might as well read, “More on quadratic equations, speaking Persian, and splitting atoms with an eyelash curler and some WD-40.” What’s really going to happen here is this: I am going to pour the rinse-water from my brainwash out onto this screen, and then I am going to ask you all some questions, and then you are going to leave your honest, heartfelt answers in the comments section. Or not, whatever, you know, it’s fine with me.

I’ve got myself really thinking about the writer’s life and what that means to me. I’ve been thinking about how I want that life to look. I’ve been wondering what it is I really want to do. Work from home? Write a book? Work for a magazine or a publisher? All of the above? And how am I supposed to achieve any or all of those things? Yeah, yeah, I know that yesterday I was all “I’m a writer, I’m going to write every day,” but how does a person really get published? How do you even begin to start writing a book? How? (There, right there, those are your first questions.)

And what do I ultimately want to write, anyway? I joke all the time about writing a novel, but I’m not sure that will ever happen. Not because I lack confidence, but because I don’t really believe in fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love fiction, but deep down I am convinced that there’s really no such thing as fiction. I don’t think it’s possible to separate your own experiences from your creativity, so nothing is truly “made up.” Even if your main character is a dog, a dog who talks. In Italian. Even if this is your protagonist, this smooth-talking Italian pooch, he will inevitably wear a bowler hat like your great-Uncle Howard and call everyone “Darlin'” like your grandfather and drink coffee black with raw sugar like that nice old man who used to ask for your section at the diner where you worked in college. And anyway, reality is more interesting. I can’t imagine trying to make stuff up when I have such a rich store of material, compliments of real people, like this, and also this, which is an actual note my great-aunt wrote to my grandmother:

Hi Sister,

Sorry I wasn’t here when you called, I’m on jury duty and was serving on a criminal case all this week. It was a child abuse by father. It took a lot out of me. We found him guilty. He is to be sentenced in April. Hope I don’t serve on a case like that anymore. Seems as though everyone is doing okay right now. Hope you get compensated for what they did to your hair. Take care of yourself and let us hear from you.

Love, Shirley

Admit it. You started out sort of creeped out by the whole jury duty story, but now you are wondering what on earth it was they did to her hair. Priceless. Still, I think about writing a novel. Some of you talk about writing a novel, too. Tell me about that. How will you begin? What will you write about and how long do you think it will take you? How will you write a novel and not a mostly true story where only the names are changed?

As for reading, it shouldn’t surprise you that most of what I read is online and of the blog variety. My regular reads range from trying-to-conceive struggles, pregnancy stories, and family updates to edgy humor and political banter. Some of my favorite bloggers are famous; most of them are not. Occasionally I get to read a book, a real grown-up book with chapters and no pictures. But no matter what I’m reading, even when I’m having a little battle in my head, that little battle I told you about yesterday (This is brilliant. It makes me feel like I too could be brilliant….Brilliant? Ha! You can’t write like this. This is real, this is published!) I am still profoundly inspired. I used to tell my students all the time that the more they read, the better they would write. I believe that. So who inspires you? What have you read lately (or ever) that made you want to go immediately to the computer or trusty notebook and start creating? Whose writing would you like to emulate?

In the end, of course, it’s all about balance. Life is full, and we spend most of our time on the items at the top of the list: making money to pay the bills, caring for our families, keeping up with details. At the end of a long day of work and groceries and laundry and dinner and bath time and the bedtime routine, there isn’t a lot of time for creativity (case in point: I have been writing this post in 5-10 minute increments since 9:30 this morning–12 hours!). We don’t leave our creative selves much breathing room. My friend P., who is also looking to make more room for creativity in her life, reminded me recently that I don’t have to quit my job to write, that I just need to write something and put it out there. She is right, of course, but what she’s talking about requires balance, finding a middle ground. Even if I don’t get a single answer to any question I’ve asked so far, I’m hoping for some insight about how to move into that middle ground. How do you do it? How do you find balance? How do you make sure the writing (or painting or whatever it is you do) doesn’t get the shaft? How do you live a balanced life?

Talk to me.

5 thoughts on “More on writing, reading, and living a balanced life

  1. Ok, so I can’t answer even one of your questions, honestly or dishonestly. But I am heartened by your stance on reading. After reading your yesterday’s post, I was thinking to myself how I do like to write, but I am really a Reader, not a Writer.
    And I’ll see your 2 posts in 2 days a raise you – ah… one post. In one day. Ok, so you win, but it’s really all about how we play the game, right? Anyway, what I mean is, you’re inspiring.
    Wait! I can answer your last question about a balanced life. Work less, sleep more, eat well, give up shit you don’t like. That’s my answer.

  2. I have no aspirations to write beyond my blog, which is getting more neglected by the minute, so I can’t answer much.

    However, OF COURSE I can tell you the best thing I have read recently, and I am sure you have it in your school collection. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (sp? both first and last) is breathtaking, compelling, original, and heartbreaking. I loved it. I finished it in a court room while going through jury selection and I wept surreptitiously.

  3. I am taking the easy way out- I am planning on turning the blog into the book. Complete non-fiction with a few Irish story telling tricks (bwha ha ha).

    The thing that MOST inspires me to write is leaving my house- which I sadly rarely get to do. If I could have a day to just get out and be in the world it recharges me and I feel super creative. There are also books that I read that inspire. I force myself (if need be) to read a book a month. It used to be a book a week, but I can only read when GM is not up.

    Lately I am reading teen lit as it wakes up some of the angsty that I like to embrace.

    Of course we could all write a book together…

  4. If you never write another single word, you are already the most brilliant person I know . I may be a tad bit bias but i doubt it. As for the balanced life, most peoples life never turn out like they thought it would, sometimes its worse and then again sometimes its better than they ever hoped for ,as for your life I dont know all the things you hope for, I KNOW WRITING HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF THEM AND having a baby and getting your masters are some others and this spring you will be getting that Masters Degree, and the sweetest baby in the world just turned one the day after Christmas and you are by far the best mother I have ever had the pleasure to know. Balancing all that takes some skill , which you have more of in your little finger than most people have in there entire body. So a balanced life comes one day a time and if more days than not are balanced at the end of the month then we should count ourselves lucky. As for your writing , I am an avid reader and there is NO better writing than yours that I would rather read you just have to get it out there so other people can enjoy it, the stories and poem you have written over your life need to be some where else other than in your file cabinet or wherever you keep them send somewhere ,to that place .

  5. mind, body, spirit…eh. I think that the true balance in life comes when we smile upon our actions as well as the actions of those around us. Like when you wrote the amazing blog you just did…after rereading it several times, you simply can’t help but smile at the almost timeless effort (though it took you 12 hours, they were fragmented into minutes). I too have always pondered writing a novel. It does take time and dedication…but I’d agree, go with fact, not fiction. I mean you’re absolutely correct in stating that each fictional character is actually factual, because each one is created within the realm of our minds. Anyway, good luck with all that you do, and write that book. I’ve never read anything from you in the past, and this, it caught my eye!

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