Saturday, August 12, 2017

On Writing Deadlines, Commitments, and Balance

         When I revamped this blog back in May, I set an unofficial goal for myself to write a new post every two weeks. I chose this goal for two reasons: 1) It’s a well-established tenet of blogging wisdom that keeping a regular schedule and posting a new post at the same time every week or so builds an audience, and 2) a bi-weekly schedule is less demanding than the weekly schedule I kept during the first two years of this blog, from 2011-2013. (In 2013, when my professional priorities changed, I cut back on the frequency of posts.)
            I am proud to say I kept to this bi-weekly schedule from the end of May to the end of July.
            However, I missed last week for a good cause.
            When ye humble writer is not writing, he serves as a humble faculty member at an online university. Once a year, the university holds a graduation ceremony—a true physical affair with all the pomp and regalia. For most faculty members, it’s the only chance we get to meet our students face to face, as they live in widely different parts of the country and even abroad. For students, the ceremony of walking across the stage and receiving a diploma is so important that they will travel great distances to do it. (This year, we had one graduate from the Virgin Islands.) It is a privilege and an honor to attend this event, but it is also long and exhausting.
            That’s where I was last Saturday, and that’s why there was no blog post.
            As a rule, I don’t like it when writers make excuses: “I can’t write today because my dog died, I have to do the laundry, my computer crashed,” ad nauseum. Excuses are just that: excuses. The harsh truth is that writing is a business (unless you intend it to be a hobby): clients must be attended to, readers must be fed, and obligations must be met. Extenuating circumstances arise—the car wreck, the illness, the military service—but, barring these or other catastrophic events, writers should get their work done and submit it on time.
            I failed to do that last week. For that, I take full responsibility. Whatever consequences may arise—disappointed readers, disruption in building the audience—are mine to bear. For any who were looking forward to last week’s post, I apologize.
            And yet, they are consequences I chose to face.
            Another harsh truth is that writing is a demanding, arduous task. Yes, it can be fun, but it is always work. One of the most crucial choices a writer must face consists of how to balance writing with other obligations, such as work and family. There is no value in being the writer who spends every free moment chained to a keyboard and cranking out a word count if doing so leads to loss of health and vital relationships. Writers must make choices in how they spend their time. Some things must be sacrificed, including, at times, the writing itself.
            When I wrote my previous post of July 22, I mentioned my long-ago professor’s words of warning that studying writing only can be debilitating to writers. I would expand this warning further: Living only the so-called “writing life” can be debilitating to writers. It is not good for us to immerse ourselves so totally in the words of our imagination that we lose touch with other human beings and leisure activities, that we forget what it means to be in this world. If we can’t fully live in this world, we can’t create meaningful worlds for our readers.
            So, go outside. Enjoy the sun. Go for a swim. Call a friend. See a movie outside your genre. Live.

            Your muse will thank you.
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