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Finding Balance in Our Writing Lives

Categories: MFA Confidential Blog.

Sometimes it feels
good to hibernate. To hibernate, lock the doors, and do nothing but write. I
spent the last few days writing until my fingers fell off. My husband would
come home from work and I would stand, almost zombie-like, in front of him. Are you alright? He’d say. Yes! I was
alright. I was great! I wrote for eight hours straight! I didn’t stop all day!
I didn’t even eat lunch! What was I talking about? I was completely strung out.
I was doing too much. I was foggy, dazed. Does that happen to you? You are just
so mentally exhausted at the end of a writing marathon? Sometimes, after long
writing days, friends try to talk to me and I just stare at them. I hear
sounds. But no words. Can you say that
again, please?
That’s my line. Most times it’s because I just can’t stop
thinking about my story. I can’t shut it off. Strung out me obsessing about my
character. About that scene. Someone needs to shake me. Or, push me out into
the fresh air. That might help. And so hibernating, I guess, is good and bad. You
get a lot done, but you lose touch. I imagine this is how some actors must
feel, those actors who stay in character the duration of the film shoot. I imagine
it must drive them crazy— trying to find their way out of their character’s world
back into their own.

And so what do you
do to enter back into the world? I hear some writers rely on exercise. Walking,
running. It becomes a part of their daily routine. The physical balancing the
mental. Others break off their writing day at lunch. Once the ham sandwich hits
the table they slam the laptop shut and that’s it. The rest of the day they
spend doing errands, spending time with their kids, you know—other important
life stuff.

Balance. That’s what
we all strive for. I tend to get obsessed over anything. Throw a task at me and
I’m all in. That or I procrastinate until the day turns dark. Cleaning out my
closet. I put it off for months and then one day a bubble of motivation rises
inside of me and POP! I am a crazy woman—I am tossing clothes left and right, spending
a fortune on organizational bins from Target, obsessing for hours over my
Maybe, Yes, and No piles. My bedroom becomes a war zone; you have to wade
through clothes to get to the bed. The word moderation? Nope, not in my
vocabulary.

And so today, I’m
going to step out of my comfort zone. I shall strive for balance, end this
hibernation once and for all. It’s time to take a break. I am going to push
open those windows, let the sun in. I am going to take a walk, meet a friend
for a turkey burger, pop into a clothing store and buy myself something new. I
will write, too. Of course I will write. But I will click the lap top closed
when my allotted time is up. Because sometimes when we keep going and going the
work begins to lack direction. It begins to lack richness. The well can run dry.
We need to give ourselves time to refuel, time to fill the reserves. And
getting out there in the world, it helps feed our writing. There always seems
to be material waiting for us when we venture out, ideas lingering at every street
corner.  

And so here’s to balance,
to restoring the harmony in our lives.

Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced
life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

-Robert Fulghum



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2 Responses to Finding Balance in Our Writing Lives

  1. Kate says:

    Dana– Yes, getting out to live life in order to write! It’s so true. We need life, experiences, to feed our writing and make it rich. Thanks for your comment and for visiting the blog!

  2. DanaB says:

    Such a good post! Love the ending quote.

    I’ve seen so many writers say that you must get out and live life in order to write–you must leave it in order to find it–and so on…

    I’m reading Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’ and just last night, I read a passage where he talks about writing awhile then physically leaving the writing space behind to ‘walk down the stairs’ and out into the world…it was interesting to read that from such an iconic author. From Hemingway to Stephen King, so many have said the same in different words…

    ~~

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