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:~: Friday, February 24, 2006 :~:

Balance

The other day, I watched a student in my child's karate class practice his kata (a routine of moves, including kicks and punches). He eased through the complicated steps, spinning and even jumping for a kick at one point.

All this on a balance beam.

Some days we all feel like that kid, trying to make it through the routine of our lives without falling.

Wednesday, Joan blogged about what to do when you hit one of those rough patches we all hit with our writing. I've been in one of those rough patches for a while now (like, since August), for varying reasons. Of course, I've written some, but I simply haven't produced work as I had in the past. A worrier by nature, I brooded over not being able to write as I wished, looked for the cause, made myself (and my CP's) generally sick with my self-centeredness. Recently, I figured out what had gone wrong.

I lost my balance.

Actually, I didn't lose it. I gave it up rather willingly. A few years ago, I pinned my hopes on a goal, and I threw myself into achieving it. I found a way to fit the preparation for that goal into my already busy life. I nurtured the spark, delved into the work, obsessed over the nuances. You know what I'm talking about, right? Because we all do it. I threw myself into the writing, which is a great thing. The only problem is that I didn't preserve the balance of my life. I already had a successful, rather demanding career. I had two fantastic kids who were the center of my world. I had a marriage and a home and friendships.

No, I didn't lose the career or the marriage or the friendships. And yes, my life still pretty much revolves around those two Monsters.

But.

I tied a lot of me and a lot of my joy into the whole writing business. I defined myself as a writer, which meant a lot of my validation as a person came in the form of feedback on my work. Even with small successes, I was living with a lot of failure. Along that way, that helped sucked the joy out of many areas of my life. Eventually, it sucked the joy out of writing, too. Putting words on paper and generating ideas became chores to be avoided, rather than an art to be relished.

(And by now, I've sucked all the joy out of your day, too. But wait! There is light!)

Finally, I gave in. I know, I know -- you're not supposed to quit trying. But I did. I let the work sit. I quit thinking about the current characters and plot. (I couldn't quite forget the work I have under consideration). I played ostrich. Along the way, I began to find my balance again.

I played with my kids.
I read a lot, mostly books outside my genre, books I'd been waiting to read.
I planned and began working through one hellacious whole-house renovation project.
I got to know the guy I'd married all over again.
I spent time with my friends.
I focused on being the best teacher I could be. (Hey, state testing is coming up. I needed that focus!)
I learned that writing, and even more specifically, becoming published, wasn't the end-all-be-all of my existence. It couldn't be, or I was in big trouble.

Slowly, the desire to write is returning. The characters are whispering again, and some days the plot calls to me. The weird thing is, I'm sorry for the writing time I've lost, but I'm not sorry I lost my balance and tumbled off the beam. It restored my equilibrium. It's been a long, hard lesson to learn, a long, hard climb back on the beam, but I'm getting back up there. And I appreciate the patience of my friends and CP's who've supported me along the way.

So, the question of the day is two-fold -- How do you maintain your balance as a writer? And what's the hardest writing lesson you've had to learn?

9Comments:

Blogger Amie Stuart said...

Great post Linda! It really hits home with how most of 2005 was. by december I was ready to quit. Writing is still like pulling teeth but at least i dont feel like quitting (much) anymore. And not just slink away into the dark but quit with a big resounding hissy fit that ends in FU (sorry ya'll) quit. Poor Raine I've put her through the wringer.
The kids basketball has kept me busy and Iv'e been watching a lot of tv...even reading a little and you know cleaning. 8-o

5:19 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

This may not be what you want to hear, but I've never wanted to give up. I've sometimes wondered why I punish myself when I receive rejections and contests remarks, but in the end it's the need to put a story and the characters on paper that keeps me going. Even if I never get sold (heaven forbid) I have put my heart and soul into these stories for my family and freinds to read and enjoy.

I guess writing started out as therapeutic and has ended up not really being about me, but about entertaining and enlightening those who read it.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

I've never been balanced. Its something I struggle with only when I finally burn myself out...it's my personality--compulsive. But I've learned over the years when I'm getting close to burn out and then throttle back.

As far as writing, I know that if I don't sell, there will be a time I have to let it go, put it on the back burner and treat it as a hobby vs. a job, the way I treat it now. I don't know when that will be, but I figure I'll know it when it comes.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Fantastic comments, y'all!

Good to see you, Cece! I think there's a down cycle like this that a lot of writers deal with.

Paty, I *love* hearing that you've never wanted to give up. In my heart, I didn't want to either, but I also knew if I didn't back off a bit and find a little bit of balance (and breathing room), I wouldn't be protecting the work -- I'd be further damaging it. Love your attitude!

J, you're going to have to teach me to switch gears. ;-)

3:46 PM  
Blogger MaryF said...

Wow, I could have written this post! Thank you, Linda, for letting me know I'm not alone!

6:25 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I have to echo Paty's thoughts. Writing is therapeutic for me. When it stops being so, I'm not sure what I'll do.

FWIW, a multi-pubbed author in my local RWA group went through something similar a while back. Said she couldn't have squeeze a word out of her if she'd tried. And it passed. I hate to think it's something we all eventually have to go through, but maybe it makes us better writers for having survived the trials and tribulations?

10:11 PM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Hey, Mary! :-)

E, not sure if it's all making me a better writer . . . but I think it's making me a stronger person.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Amie Stuart said...

It's hard to keep going when it's not fun but I think like Joan, there's something complusive about me that I've just gone and gone until i burned myself out.

3:12 PM  

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