Remember The Shining? Jack Nicholson’s character is a loving husband/father/writer who slowly goes mad while overseeing an isolated resort; overwhelmed by responsibilities he types “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” before going on a murderous rampage?
Well, I’m not a crazy or a killer, but suffice it to say, my solitary existence as a stay-at-home writer has caught up with me. Especially now, with dark coming at 4pm, it’s all too easy for me to stay home– and not leave the house for days at a time.
In a way, I don’t care.
Writing is my best friend and worst enemy. I am elated to approach my work every day, and I rarely feel lonely because I have the constant company of my writing, but it has a life of it’s own. Writing is demanding, like a child, it requires constant attention. It comes to me while I am at the grocery store, or walking downtown, or making plans with someone over the phone. Even during breakfast with Kyle, he can see when he has lost my attention and I am preoccupied with thoughts about writing.
Between writing, every day familial obligations, holiday shopping, and now planning a wedding, I noted in my journal, “There is such a thing as too many to-do lists.” Keeping up with everything is overwhelming, and this sentiment, too many to-do, stayed with me like a tic. Too many to-do’s, Too many to-do’s, Too many to-do’s.
That sounded too much like “all work, no play” for my liking. I pushed myself away from the writing desk with new resolve in my constant search for balance.
I applied to The Writers’ Room of Boston. They provide secure work space for local writers. I submitted my project for their annual fellowship, which awards four writers with free access to the space for a year. Keep your fingers crossed!
Joining in the holiday spirit, I volunteered my time within the writing community. I spent this afternoon at 826 Boston, where I helped elementary school students with their homework and revise stories they have been drafting.
I also got my sedentary self back to kung fu, which has probably been the most effective resource I have for reducing stress. Perhaps it’s too effective though– playwright David Mamet eventually had to quit taking lessons with my father because he would fall asleep at his typewriter. I also return home too spent to write, most days a nap or a bath sound better.
I can recall Chuck Palahniuk saying that most writers use writing as a way to avoid participating in the world, Palahniuk used writing as an opportunity to be more involved. He said yes to every opportunity, every event and outing and party, ducking into the bathroom to jot down dialogue or a note about a person he would later use as a character description.
So much of what I do is a subsidiary of my writing. All the other ways I am, all the other things I do inform my writing as my writing helps provide me with a context to understand the world.
Perhaps this is the balance I have been looking for all along.