Shawn Smucker and I met in college. He played soccer and was an English major, so he was, thus, ultimately cool – at least to me. Now, more than ten years later, we’ve gotten back in touch, and he’s even cooler now – a great dad, a great husband, and a great writer. I think this post will show you why.
Most mornings I walk to work. Thereâ€™s a stone driveway that goes up the hill from our small house to the three car garage/barn. The upstairs is unfinished, bare wood walls and unencased windows, but itâ€™s the perfect place for my writing workshop, where I spend about 35 hours a week (if Iâ€™m lucky). I spend a fair amount of time chasing wasps out through the windows, but even that doesnâ€™t feel so different from writing.
Maybe I should also start by telling you this â€“ for the last 8 years I was a business man. From â€™01 to â€™05 I ran a franchise in England and lived just outside London. From â€™06 to â€™09 I ran a painting business in the DC area. It took me the better part of 8 years to realize that, even though I had a head for numbers, I was not a business man.
I am a story-teller.
So when Andi and I exchanged blog post topics, and she asked me to write about the balance between paying the bills and living out my dream as a writer (which is what Iâ€™m doing now), my first thoughts revolved around trying to explain how I spend my time on projects that pay versus those that donâ€™t yet pay. And this is a tricky balance, because I do have rent, and groceries for six, and two very-high-mileage minivans that need attending to. And a new gardening habit.
But as I thought more and more about balance, and stared through the glass on which yet another wasp was meandering, I realized that I donâ€™t feel the weight of the balancing act the same way I once did. When I was running a business and writing, now that needed balancing. The chaos, the stress, the constant demands of a business leave little time for family, much less hobbies, even income-earning hobbies, like writing. This sort of attempt at balance usually leaves one side unattended, raised high in the air, empty, while the side taking everything from you is heavy and dense and resting on the ground.
There is no balance there, and no matter what anyone tells you there never will be.
Now that Iâ€™m writing full-time, doing what I love to do, I have no sense of trying to balance â€“ everything is one. Does that make sense? I think when we have a singular purpose, when we answer to one master, then there is no need for balance. Only focus. And determination. And perseverance. And lots of hope.
See, even when Iâ€™m writing for someone else, a paying gig that some might call work, I am reveling in the telling of someone elseâ€™s story. Is there a higher calling than giving voice to the story of someone who would not be able to tell it themselves? I donâ€™t know that there is.
When I think of balance the word â€œpracticalâ€ comes to mind. If I were a â€œbalancedâ€ person I would still be pursuing a full-time job, and writing on the side, at least until I had 5 or 6 books published and could just about live off the royalties. Well, I lived a â€œbalancedâ€ life for the last 8 years and the only thing it got me was stressed out and $50,000 in debt. I think life means to offer us much more than that.
For a while when people asked me what I was planning on doing, I would say, â€œWell, right now Iâ€™m writing, and Iâ€™ve got income for about 6 months, so weâ€™ll see what happens beyond that.â€ Thatâ€™s the answer of a balanced person.
My new, unbalanced, answer is. â€œIâ€™m a writer.â€
Iâ€™ve decided not to balance anymore. Donâ€™t get me wrong, if I come to a month where I cannot make enough on my writing to pay the bills, Iâ€™ll have to find something: maybe attendant at the local gas station, or grocery store clerk. But I will still be a writer.
No more balance for me, please.
– Andy Goldsworthy’s Work – A Study in True Balance