I started this blog without a set schedule for myself, since I knew that it was likely that I would fail to meet any self-imposed deadline. In the last week I have written several posts and come up with numerous ideas of what I’d like to write about. However, the posts written haven’t met my own standards, so I’ve set them aside to marinate. Writing has been tough and I’m struggling with it.
My life the last month has been hectic. I work full-time and have a second “job” remodeling a house. It takes up between 5 and 30 hours of my time in any given week, and lately it’s been on the higher side as my fiancé and I do our final push to put the house on the market. I hate flipping houses. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and never-ending. This is the last house. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
This time last year we were living with my parents, who are kind and busy, but it was hard nonetheless. We were working on this same flip, though back then we had been working in the heat to rip out walls and bathrooms and it was awful. I turned 30 that summer and we didn’t celebrate. I didn’t feel much like celebrating anyway.
There’s always something in life that feels stressful and absorbing enough that other things in life take a backseat. Think of all the things that you feel you should prioritize over your passion or your enjoyment. If you’re a writer, you probably feel this deeply. Reading and writing wait patiently in the wings while we hustle and bustle and complain about how busy we are. Rooms are cleaned, meals are made, jobs are worked, taxes are done, children are cared for, memories are made, and it all repeats over again day by day. In the quiet moments when we pull out our phones or sit in silence recuperating, reading and writing sit patiently in the wings, and we say to them, “just wait until [something] is over. Then I’ll have time again.”
[Something ] is never over. There will always be [something ] taking up our time, wrecking our schedules and routines, disrupting our focus and capturing our attention. Prioritize reading and writing, our fellow writers tell us, because otherwise you’ll never have time for them. They’re right. But it’s a painful kind of right. The truth is that life is complicated and messy and our priorities may shift hour to hour, minute to minute. It’s a constant balancing act to survive. Our ancestors developed the skills to do this well long ago, but it wasn’t easy then either, and our modern world has only gotten even more complex. There’s no universal answer to the question “How do I achieve balance?”
Balance is truly a balancing act, something that will need to be constantly tuned and adjusted in order to keep all the balls in the air at once, knowing that if you slip up, one or more of them could fall. I can imagine this for myself. I’m keeping the following balls in the air: my desk job, my relationship with my fiance, my bills, my physical health, my mental health, my relationships with friends and family, and the remodel. Neglecting my health will ultimately harm me. Going to work at my desk job and at the remodel will pay my bills, keep a roof over my head, and feed me. If I neglect these things, then both my health and relationships will suffer. This feels like the bare minimum for me – these are the balls that I need to keep in the air in order to ensure that my life comfortable.
I’m honestly doing pretty good, especially from the outside looking in. I know many people who drop one or more of these balls when striving for their goals. Oftentimes it is health and relationships that are the first to go, which is both sad and scary. I have struggled with both, but I’m aware of my shortcomings and have been doing what I can to maintain my health and relationships as best I can. I try to keep in mind that each of these items, these balls, represent a path in life. The importance of watching my health now can’t be understated and caring for my relationships will keep me social and happy. Focusing on my job will positively impact my career and working on the remodel now will build character (ugh) and allow me to contribute towards my retirement. I’ve got most of my bases covered.
What I am missing right now is regular writing and regular reading. I could argue that I’m far too busy this month to add either of these balls to my juggling act. Most people – writers and non-writers – have agreed with me that yes, sometimes we just get too busy and must put these things aside in order to focus on other aspects of life.
But here’s the thing:
Reading is quantity over quality, insofar as it is more important as an aspiring writer and citizen of the world to read widely rather than to read deeply. Spending my time reading very different books by very different authors will teach me much more than spending my time reading and analyzing one very long, complex book by one person.
Writing is both practice to improve my skills as well as the actual production of a story that I might be able to improve and publish. If I do not spend my time writing, then I have produced nothing that I can rewrite, edit, submit, or publish. There is no substitute for taking the time to write – it will not jump, fully formed, from my brain precisely when I need it.
If I determine that I do not have time to add reading and writing to my list of obligations that I juggle, then I have deprived myself of the wonderful results of reading and writing. The same would be true of any other skill that I decide I do not have time to exercise. How often have we looked back at our lives, maybe the last day, or the last week, or the last month, or the last year, and wondered why we did not put any time towards a skill that we would have liked to have learn. The old saying goes that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, while the second best time is now.
I’m still trying to find my balance, since I’m unhappy with the juggling act that I’ve been doing – there are too many balls sitting on the sidelines waiting patiently for me to pick them back up and add them back to my balancing act. I need to recognize how much importance I place on the value that these add to my life. I’m slowly adding reading back to my life, and now writing is trying to squeeze back in. Slowly. Slowly.