"Wendy, I'm home..."
A gifted writer who attended my panel discussion on "balancing life with work" at this weekend's ITW-sponsored Thrillerfest in NYC made a startling admission. As a collaborator/writer for one of the most popular authors in the world, she's been finding herself working seven days a week, taking time out only to eat and, in her words, "catch some MSNBC." An attractive 60-something woman with lush graying hair, her knees trembled as she spoke. I took her admission of obsession as a serious cry for help.
Let's face it, the writing game can become an obsession if you allow it to be. We all suffer from it at one time or another. Some authors have even turned their obsession into some memorable fiction.
Stephen King comes immediately to mind. Remember Jack Nicholson's portrayal of Jack Torrence in The Shining?
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
Ernest Hemingway admitted his obsession also in one of his many letters to his then editor, Charlie Scribner, Jr.
I've also found myself becoming so obsessed with writing novels and stories that I will write myself into an exhausted state. I neglect my friends, family, and my reading. In a word, I neglect life.
My advice to this woman and others like her: If you write full-time, it's best to treat it like a job.
--work only Monday through Friday if possible.
--take plenty of time out for breaks and exercise.
--take days off to go hiking; to hit a movie; to do nothing
--don't work on holidays
--don't work on the weekends unless striving to make a deadline
...The point is to have a life. And while we're gifted and lucky for being able to write full-time, it doesn't mean we must beat ourselves up by spending every waking hour with fingers glued to the keyboard. There's no reason to feel guilty about your place in life, no matter how fortunate.
How are you balancing your work with your life?