The Balanced Life

The Balanced Life

Writing is usually a solitary business. We work on one book, complete it, start another, respond to editing on the first  book, and plot the third. Without a guaranteed salary we must plan our work and run the risk of working all days of the week because we are afraid next week there won’t be any work. No matter how many books we have published, we still look ahead and plan the next book and then the next.

I have a warning signal that tells me I must stop and take a day off. When I can barely find my way to my computer through stacks of papers, it’s time to stop, clear the floor space, organize the files, sleep in, eat well, visit friends and pretend I have a normal job.

I read Ngaio Marsh’s autobiography “Black Bean and Honeydew” expecting to find descriptions of how she wrote, where and when and the difficulties or surprising ease of publication. There was little in it about the day to day life of a writer. There were fascinating accounts of her work in the as a director in the theatre and intricate descriptions of the people she knew and the events she witnessed, and of course all in elegant prose. But there was little about her writing process. She simply said “And six months later ‘When in Rome’ was published.” It’s as if the fairies wrote it. Or perhaps she found the process so private she didn’t want to share it.

I try to describe the joys and tedious application of discipline in “Writing for Children and Young Adults” (Self-Counsel Press) under the section called, appropriately enough, “Sanity.”

I said:

Writing can be a very lonely and isolating process that puts demands on your emotional health. Writers live in their own world, intent on following ideas and inner emotions. They move into altered states of consciousness or deep concentration, living out of the world and in their minds.

And then

That kind of isolation can produce loneliness, and the intense concentration can create an unbalanced life for a writer.

Whether it is stacks of paper on the floor that signal you have been writing without a break long enough, or a regular commitment to playing basketball with friends, or the necessity of stopping to make dinner for a family, authors need to balance their lives with physical activity and emotional contact with others. We run the danger of being found fossilized, with our hands on the computer keyboard, only alive in our imaginations.

blog feb 16