Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A day in the life of a pulp fiction writer: balance.

Photo by Louis. Sitting on a park bench.

Writing is a magnificent obsession. It challenges and consumes its acolytes. It humbles and exalts its practitioners. It disturbs the connoisseur and delights the critic.

What is the difference between an obsession and having focus? No one can say. It’s a pretty fine line in my opinion. We must balance the need to create lush new content with the patience of the reader. People can only read so much, so fast. I can only work so hard, and build an audience so quickly. Our skills only develop so fast. Research takes time. I can only learn so hard.

And yet we regret the time that is somehow ‘wasted’ when not working on our next newest epoch-shattering piece of writing. We suffer from a nameless editing injury. We talk about it in our sleep. Our family dreads our coming, and wish we would leave sooner…

To be focused is a wonderful thing. We aren’t going to get anything done otherwise. No one has a gun to our head. We do this because we want to, or because we must, I’ve never been sure which.

Writing is cerebral. It takes up much of our brains, and little else. We don’t even really need eyes and fingers to write. Modern technology means the blind or a multiple amputee can write.

Today I edited a few pages of my latest book, ‘Time-Storm,’ (or whatever I end up calling it, and I’d better make a decision before the weekend,) as well as visited my dad in the old age home. I rode to my brother’s, and I went to see my sister, and then I rode uptown and bought a six-pack. This is no reflection on them, I just had the opportunity to get some beer and I took it.

That’s balance, right? It’s not all about writing all of the time. So then I rode home. By this time I must have had fifteen kilometres on the bike. Then I had lunch, edited some more, checked e-mails, all that sort of thing.

This evening I went out again. I must have put another six k’s on the bike, and of course that little jaunt to the grocery store probably adds up to 750 metres of walking. Bearing in mind that I sit and talk to people once in a while, or just sit on a park bench and smoke, this actually takes up a lot of time and energy.

Should this time have been spent writing the Next Big Thing? I say no, and for good reason. If I hadn’t done all of those other things, I wouldn’t have any food in the house…no beer, no smokes, no milk.

There is a balance—I got a nice haircut, just the other day. I don’t want to look like the bearded hermit in Monty Python, right? That guy looks just a little unbalanced.

So as you can see, ladies and gentlemen, we try to strike a balance around here. Otherwise, things would get just a little too danged serious.

And we wouldn’t do that to ourselves…right? Oh, yes, I almost forgot, I talked to my mom on the phone today, and it was ever so nice, I saw a really strange bird, it was sitting on a wire, and one of these days I had better put some more air in those tires.

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