I remember when I first started reading blogs, I came across a post by Nathan Bransford that warned writers (who tend to dream about the future as much as they dream about the imaginary lives of their fictional characters) to make life their priority and not sacrifice work or family for their writing. At the time, I thought: what's with the serious attitude? Are you trying to scare us fledgling writers off? You telling us we shouldn't hold out for a dream that may never happen? Well, I'm not listening to you buddy. I want this, and I'm not giving up!
I'm still not giving up--don't worry, that's not the object of this post--but I now understand where he was coming from. Writing and learning to write better takes a tremendous amount of energy and spare time (even time you can't really spare) and there are no guarantees you'll achieve authordom, let alone the success you imagine. I've often been tempted to slack off at work to sneak in a bit of writing time, and I even gave up a sunny potential-snorkeling day last weekend to work on revisions. But I'm learning to balance my writing obsession with my life.
I still scribble book notes at 3 AM like any other writer, because I'm willing to sacrifice sleep, but I'm not willing to sacrifice time with my husband. I read, go to the movies, snorkel (I spent the whole day at the beach a week ago), and I'm about to take a few guitar lessons, not to mention the IVF I'm planning later this year after seven years of trying for a baby...The point is, life has to go on, even while you're writing, and you have to be happy right this minute if you have any hope of being happy in the future.
Natalie Whipple (in her interview at Elana Johnson's blog) said, "You have to make the choice to live as presently as possible, and be okay with things not happening when you hope they will." This is a girl who's fairly successful, represented by Nathan Bransford, and she still goes through down moods where she's frustrated with the slow pace of building a writing career. I love hearing this sort of honesty from writers. I want to know it's not all sunshine and rainbows ahead. I need to know what to expect. I say, "Bring it on", but I know the way I've got to deal with it is to have a happy life on the side.
There is plenty of scientific evidence (wonderfully summarised for lay audiences on TED--I hope that's the right link) that we all have a preset happiness level. One man, a year after winning a $350 million dollar lottery, was just as happy as a paraplegic a year after his accident. What this means to me is I won't be any more content a year after I'm published than I am right now. Therefore, I must enjoy the process of writing, learning, and getting there. Happiness starts right now.
Are you happy? Is your writing stressing you out or are other aspects of your life to blame? Is there anything you plan to do to improve the balance?
Finally, a shout out to DL Hammons at Cruising Altitude for making me feel happy and loved with the Prolific Blogger Award!