The Path of the Determined


The Wheel turns and somehow it is already nearly April. Why is it that the older you get the faster time seems to slip by? I remember as a child when summer break was the most exciting thing, because the months between school years seemed to go on forever. Somehow my sisters and I managed to ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, watch several movies, play video games, and play with toys, all in the same day. Now, I can barely find time to read and play video games. And exercise? Forget about it. Not unless I'm extremely strict on myself and plan out my day down to the minute, but I can do this only so many days in a row. After a while it becomes stressful and wears me down even more.

Despite this lack of time, I believe it's important to make time for yourself. To spend thirty minutes, or an hour, or two hours reading a book, or playing a video game, or whatever it is you like to do to relax. Perhaps you don't do this every day, but at least a few times a week is good for you, I think. I believe it helps to rejuvenate us. It keeps us going when otherwise we may feel like throwing up our hands and giving up on everything.

I'm the sort of writer who has multiple projects brewing in my head. Even as I'm writing one, my mind comes up with new ideas that I have to write down, and sometimes I get an itch to look things up for another book I plan to write: facts and hypotheses, which can lead to further ideas.

This can make it difficult when I plan to write so many books a year, because I have to fit editing in there somewhere. Editing is a slightly different beast. In first drafts you have some freedom to just put words on the page and not worry about everything making sense right away. That's what second and third drafts are for. But once you actually begin those second and third drafts, suddenly every word is of the utmost importance, because if it doesn't further your story, it's meaningless fluff. This results in more time and attention being put into those drafts, struggling toward perfection that may never come. Often, it doesn't. The project we begin that is laid out so beautifully in our heads isn't the project we end up with, because as the words are written the story morphs and changes, maybe the slightest bit, or maybe so much that it's unrecognizable from the idea we began with.

And that's okay. That's part of the beauty of writing, or of creating anything, whether that's in a musical capacity or some other art form.

But I digress. We were talking about time.

My current dilemma is I have five (I think) novels where a first draft has been completed, but I haven't yet begun the revision process. I don't even want to think of how many short stories I have sitting around, waiting for edits. I'm writing another book at the moment, and have a long list of both novels and short stories I'd like to write, and that list grows continuously. So what is a writer with a full time job and a boyfriend to do? Do I spend my whole evening doing nothing but writing? Schedule in thirty minutes of editing? And what about exercise, and reading, and video games? What about learning to speak other languages and learning musical instruments? What about game nights and seeing family and friends? And if I want a healthy relationship, I have to make time for the boyfriend as well. I got lucky in that regard because he's a writer too, so he understands the constant juggling. And I don't even want to think about those writers who also have kids. How do you have time for anything?

These thoughts can create a sense of urgency, or panic. I feel I need to finish everything as quickly as possible so I can move on to the next thing and get it all done. But we all know that a rushed job just isn't anywhere near the quality of a job that has had plenty of time and care poured into it. And as I mentioned before, I think it's important to spend some time on yourself as well.

Here, then, is a conundrum. To be a great writer, you should read a lot. But you also need to write a lot. And you should experience as much as you can so you can write as accurately as possible. But often the time just isn't there, and there is no easy solution. In a world where the majority seems to believe that working an 8 to 5 job and making as much money as possible is all there is to life, no one has much sympathy for the artists.

So my question is: if you're an artist of some sort (writer, painter, musician, crafter, whatever), how do you do it? How do you juggle your life so that you're creating at a rate you're comfortable with, but also spending time on yourself, your family, your friends? What have you given up? Do you feel your day job is a necessary evil, or are you one of the lucky few who managed to snag a job you actually enjoy? And if you don't have a day job, are you making a living on your art? Is the financial struggle worth the freedom you have to spend your days as you please?

I'd love to hear back from all of you, because no two people manage the artist's life in exactly the same way. And your answer may help someone who's struggling to figure out their own path.

In the meantime, it's back to writing and revision for me.

All pictures and artwork belong to their respective owners.

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Not everyone gets a happy ending