A little while ago I wrote a post for the great people over at WriteByNight.net about maintaining “balance” in a writer’s life. So much of what we do as writers is grey area: “drinks with friends” could just as easily be work-drinks, since you’re probably going to spend some time moaning about your writing anyway; seeing a movie, you might suddenly find yourself thinking about just how that plot twist happened…even something as mundane as going for a walk might turn into a short story. It’s easy to work all the time.
So I advocated exactly the opposite of balance. Let yourself fall off the wagon, I said, for an hour a day, or a whole day every week. Just slack off, do nothing, watch reruns of old TV shows (I’m working my way through “Quantum Leap” right now, in fact). I said it would refresh your head, and thus, provide the balance we so desperately seek.
I have a lot of thoughts about the way we work today. We’re in this age where so many people say to just-graduated college students, “Find something you’re passionate about, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Part of that is true: You really will never work a day in your life if you love what you do. You’ll feel like the hours zip by if you’re working on something you’re really passionate about. I’m lucky: I feel like this a lot. But I have a big beef with that sentiment: A lot of people never discover what it is they’re passionate about. Then they spend a lot of time casting for what it is they love to do, rather than practicing it.
I have advice for them, and it might seem backwards: Find something you’re willing to work at, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. That’s what you’re passionate about. That’s what you get up in the middle of the night for.
Me? I’m passionate, it turns out, about slacking off. Let’s have a look. Here is a list of the things I like to do and have regularly indulged in over the past month:
- Eating nuclear colored, complex foods with unpronounceable ingredients. (Why, this morning I had a Cadbury Egg for breakfast.)
- Chatting with my friends, ad nauseum, either via letters, Gchat, facebook chat, or anything else.
- Reading the Internet. Blog posts, news digests, web comics, anything. (This morning I read an article about diversity in publishing and one about the disappearance of Richard Simmons before 6 AM.)
- Messing around outside, mooning at the trees and the sky.
Let’s be realistic: Obviously I never graduated from high school. I’m still eating Cheetos, passing notes, reading like a magpie collects shiny bits, and playing in the dirt.
But I’ve had to work at it. It’d be disingenuous to say I have this terrible urge to Be Responsible, or whatever, all the time, but it is true that took me a long time to figure out just what kind of slacking off works for me. You gotta be intentional about this kind of thing, you know.
(I should note that I wasn’t deprived, or anything, as a child.)
(N.B. At a certain point in time I had this overwhelming urge to figure out how to become a professional loafer. But even that was inspired by something I read.)
I think this mastery of loafing makes me a better person. It makes me a better writer, a better worker, a better friend. Is that weird?
I can’t be bothered to think too hard about it. Quantum Leap awaits.