Some of us writers tend to think of writing as separate from work and play, like it’s a third piece of the balancing-your-life puzzle rather than filing it under one or the other. I’m one of those, purely out of semantics. I think of ‘work’ as my day job. I think of ‘play’ as goofing around online, watching TV or going somewhere with A., or some form of entertainment. Writing?
Well, writing, at least for me, is a synergy between the two. It’s work — hella hard work sometimes — because my brain isn’t just thinking about the part of the story I’m telling at that very moment, but also thinking about the story’s end result so many as-yet-unwritten pages in the future. At the same time it’s an incredibly fun process, because I’m creating something and I’m proud of my ability to do so, especially after all these years of practice. To that end, I end up thinking of it almost as a second job, albeit one that I enjoy doing.
The trick, at least lately, is to remind myself not to sit on my ass all day long, sun up to sun down. There’s a life out there, outside of the nonstop chugging of my mind gears. That’s why we make it a point to hit the local YMCA a few times a week and take long walks on weekends. But I also need to remember that not everything on TV is crap. We’ve been really enjoying Wolf Hall on PBS the last few weeks, there’s always another Attenborough or Burns documentary to watch, and Canada and the UK seem to have a wealth of great mystery shows that we can stream.
Back in the early 00s (aka the Belfry Years), I had to remind myself to put down the writing and go out and play now and again. This is why I went on road trips to Boston and elsewhere, took the occasional night off to watch The X-Files, check out my current stash of comics, or read that new novel I’d just picked up. Still a bit sedentary to be sure, and I was still working out plot ideas in the back of my brain, but I made sure I didn’t become a hermit.
Nowadays I’ve made it a point to get up during break times at work; I’ll walk down to the lobby to check the mail or get that load of laundry. I’ll watch an episode of Murdoch Mysteries with A before heading up back to write for an hour or so. I’ll listen to my mp3 player and think about plot ideas while walking a half hour on the treadmill at the Y. I’ll still sneak in some writing whenever I can, but not entirely at the expense of living a life outside of writing.
It’s a tricky balance to maintain, and as always, there’s no set-in-stone way to go about it. It’s all about whatever works for you personally.