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:
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.
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.