Music today is from Will Varley. I oddly discovered his music on an ‘Easy Listening’ inflight radio station while travelling 40,000 feet up on the way to England last year. Which is appropriate seeing as he’s English. But mostly, who knew plane radio would actually have a great undiscovered gem? This one, entitled ‘This House’ is one of my favourites.
It’s been almost two weeks since I last posted, possibly my longest absence since I started writing this blog. This is due to life being pretty crazy. I mean, life’s always crazy, but lately it’s been dialed up a few notches and not necessarily in a good way. It’s been busy, that’s the main issue, and busy with the things I’m not passionate about. My non-writing-pay-the-bills work is where most of this has taken place. A number of factors have aligned to make it so my eight hours each day in the confines of the laboratory/office are packed full of things to do to the point that I’m rushing through lunch and skipping my usual coffee break, and as I write this I’m thinking these are first world problems. Which they are, but problems are still problems and these are mine.
The main issue here is time. It used to be that I could slip in the occasional writing break at work with no one the wiser but now that’s been taken away which makes me increasingly more tired at the end of each day, giving me less energy to write even when I’m not at work. The thing is I also don’t want to burn myself out. I like to think I’m pretty disciplined. I get up at 5:30 most mornings, go for a six kilometer run, write for half an hour, and ride to work. I then work, ride an hour home, get whatever little tasks I can get done before making dinner, then it’s usually an episode of tv with dinner, read for a bit, and bed. Other nights can also involve socialising, usually with my writing mates, or with others I haven’t seen in forever because life gets in the way; which is great but ultimately all bills come due and so the extra hours I use those nights get subtracted from the following day. Weekends at the moment are likewise full. If I try to plan a catch up with someone at the moment I’m currently looking four to five weeks in advance. Not a lot of time left over to get thick slabs of writing done. And like I said, I don’t want to burn out either.
I was telling some friends of mine, Nice Guy Sean and his lovely girlfriend the Angel Belinda, about this schedule of mine last Friday night. I was at their housewarming and it was around twelve thirty at night (or in the morning depending on how you look at it) and I had gone over there after picnicking/watching a musician perform in the Melbourne zoo grounds with the Lady Holly and her friends as part of their zoo twilights line up. After telling Sean and Belinda about my routine Belinda asked ‘But, how are you here?’ It was a good question. As I was driving home later thinking about the conversation I realised that if I simply stayed awake for four more hours I would have been up for a full twenty four. She went on to ask how I kept going doing all of that every day? And didn’t I get tired? I told her I did, but that I really want to do all those things (the writing and exercise, not so much the work), so that’s what it takes.
It may come off like I’m bragging here but to be honest I’m not sure it’s really something to be proud of. If anything it’s a bit of a family flaw. I’ve seen my Dad go weeks with only five hours sleep a night and then wonder why he gets sick. I’ve seen my sister manage a schedule far fuller than the one I’ve just described until she inevitably crashes, hard. And I saw it in myself when I was driving home and realised I’d almost been up for twenty four hours but hadn’t noticed until someone pointed it out.
Work/life balance is an ongoing challenge for all of us to manage and I think doubly so for people pursuing creative careers. There’s always more that can be done and the ability to do the work is with you all the time. I once read a description of choosing to be a writer as assigning yourself homework, forever. I think the important thing here to note is that since the writer is their own disciplinarian and task master they must also be their own manager of time; which means they have to take care to set aside large periods of time for recreation. I’m learning that even if you like to write, it’s still work, and shouldn’t be included in your recreation time.
For myself, I’m now actively looking for a part time position. Preferably one where I can do the money earning for half my work week and writing for the other half. I’m blessed enough to be in a situation where this is possible, and hopefully it should leave me with my evenings and weekends set aside to do nothing. Or everything. Even more writing if I really want to. It doesn’t really matter as long as I’m listening to my body and ensuring I give it what it needs, whatever that may be.
For now that’s to eat some dinner, give my rabbit a pat on the head, and watch some tv with the woman I love.
I suggest you do the same (although perhaps not with my rabbit and woman)