I hate prioritizing. Or, rather, I hate having to prioritize. I frequently fantasize about a stress-free life with wide open spaces of time to gradually tackle everything on my life to-do list. The key word in that sentence: fantasize. The reality is that I have a very busy day job, meaning the only “free time” I have is on weekends (and isn’t exactly “free” thanks to errands and other things required of adults).
I’ve been stressed out trying to balance everything. I keep making dramatic declarations like, “Something’s gotta give.” I recently read Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (because reading and running are just a couple life passions that compete with writing when I do have free time). This book made me love Murakami even more than I already do. He’s a self-declared morning person with introverted tendencies who enjoys the peace of long runs. I GET YOU, man. I GET YOU. He dedicates some time in his book to discussing the need to prioritize when you’re a writer, and why it can lead to having no friends:
“I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance. I placed the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not associating with all the people around me. I felt that the indispensable relationship I should build in my life was not with a specific person, but with an unspecified number of readers. As long as I got my day-to-day life set so that each work was an improvement over the last, then many of my readers would welcome whatever life I chose for myself. Shouldn’t this be my duty as a novelist, and my top priority? My opinion hasn’t changed over the years. I can’t see my readers’ faces, so in a sense it’s a conceptual type of human relationship, but I’ve consistently considered this invisible, conceptual relationship to be the most important thing in my life. In other words, you can’t please everybody.”
Of course, Murakami and I differ because his “unspecified number of readers” is, like, millions of people. I think I have a couple thousand (I don’t know, really. This article explains why). Point is, people understand if Murakami has to shut away the world and write. He has a globally-recognized purpose. I don’t. I have my personal sense of purpose (which I expect to matter to exactly nobody) and I try to balance that with my equally-strong desire not to piss off my loved ones. But, Murakami is right: You need a system in place if you want to write books. Book-writing doesn’t just…happen.
In my radio interview with Laguna Talks, the host asked my husband what it’s like to live with a writer. My husband, caught off guard, said something like, “Great!” He’s so cute. The reality is that it’s probably not that great. Writing takes a lot of time. Being with a writer is like being with a marathon runner. There are days when you have to do your thing and say, “Ok, bye, see you in a few hours.” Writing also takes a lot of mental energy. I talk about it often. I wrestle with characters and plot points, and I tend to verbalize the struggle with the same drama as a sports commentator. I’m sure this progresses from entertaining to annoying very quickly.
My “system” involves being very particular about my weekends (weekdays are out of the picture. I’m lucky to get a lunch break at my job and I’m exhausted by the time I get home). On Saturdays and Sundays, I try to schedule things for later in the day, after I’ve written, or leave entire days completely open (if I’m on a deadline or completely obsessed with a certain project). This doesn’t always work out perfectly, of course, but it’s the only system that sort of works and results in me actually writing. I know it bugs my family and friends. They probably think I’m rigid, but, frankly, I won’t write another book if I’m not rigid. Is this an appropriate time for that obnoxious “sorry not sorry” hashtag? I don’t do hashtags.
As this 3-day weekend comes to an end, I lament the fact that I didn’t write a thing (besides this blog post, which is of questionable quality). It’s a holiday weekend and I’m supposed to be celebrating independence, so I guess I can use those as excuses. The truth is life got in the way, and sometimes that’s okay. It reminds me of this hilarious book dedication:
I don’t even have children to blame. Neither does Murakami. Murakami also doesn’t have a day job (a fact he states with immense gratitude). I guess we all have our things that “get in the way.” After all, writing wouldn’t be writing if it didn’t involve a little strife and a lot of procrastination.