Balancing Life and Writing

Guest post by by Mark Spivak

I was amused when asked to do a blog post on balancing life and writing. In truth, they can’t be balanced.

Mark Spivak author PhotoI’m not sure if writing is an obsessional activity, but I’m pretty certain that only obsessed people do it successfully. It is the type of endeavor that almost inevitably tends to obliterate any idea of balance in your life. I sometimes compare it to a serious disease: you may have periods of remission, you may have spans of years or decades when you pursue another form of endeavor—either to make money or to fulfill family obligations—but sooner or later you’ll relapse and start writing again.

When you do, you’ll find it to be as consuming as a bonfire. Your work will be the first thing you think of when you wake in the morning, and the last thing you think about before you doze off to sleep. It will occupy most of your waking hours. You will appear distant to family and friends until you master the art of pretending to pay attention to what they’re saying, and until you become adept at participating in life events while actually thinking about the project you’re working on. The struggle to succeed will be so difficult and consuming that it will become hard to identify with those who are no similarly obsessed.

So why do people do it? If you’re successful you can leave a legacy, and that’s no small thing. You will experience the exhilaration of feeling (as Allen Ginsberg said) like “the self-contained master of the universe.” When my first novel, Friend of the Devil, was accepted for publication, I felt linked to a chain of storytellers that went all the way back to Beowulf. Actually, it goes back further than that: to the time when cavemen went out to hunt and gather during the day, and sat in their cave at night telling the stories of their day’ adventures. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s something worth striving for.

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About the Book Friend of the Devil

Cover Friend of the DevilIn 1990 some critics believe that America’s most celebrated chef, Joseph Soderini di Avenzano, cut a deal with the Devil to achieve fame and fortune. Whether he is actually Bocuse or Beelzebub, Avenzano is approaching the 25th anniversary of his glittering Palm Beach restaurant, Chateau de la Mer, patterned after the Michelin-starred palaces of Europe.

Journalist David Fox arrives in Palm Beach to interview the chef for a story on the restaurant’s silver jubilee. He quickly becomes involved with Chateau de la Mer’s hostess, unwittingly transforming himself into a romantic rival of Avenzano. The chef invites Fox to winter in Florida and write his authorized biography. David gradually becomes sucked into the restaurant’s vortex: shipments of cocaine coming up from the Caribbean; the Mafia connections and unexplained murder of the chef’s original partner; the chef’s ravenous ex-wives, swirling in the background like a hidden coven. As his lover plots the demise of the chef, Fox tries to sort out hallucination and reality while Avenzano treats him like a feline’s catnip-stuffed toy.

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About the Author

Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post from 1994-1999, and was honored by the Academy of Wine Communications for excellence in wine coverage “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 has been the Wine and Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group; his running commentary on the world of food, wine and spirits is available at the Global Gourmet blog on He is the holder of the Certificate and Advanced diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Mark’s work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Men’s Journal, Art & Antiques, the Continental and Ritz-Carlton magazines, Arizona Highways and Newsmax. He is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation: The Art of Creating Cornbread in a Bottle (Lyons Press, 2014). His first novel, Friend of the Devil, is published by Black Opal Books.

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12 Responses to Balancing Life and Writing

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog today. I look forward to meeting your readers and answering any questions they might have.

  2. Mai T.

    What inspired you to write this book?

  3. James Robert

    Thanks so much for the opportunity to win

  4. It’s loosely based on a chef I worked with many years ago in a different part of the country. I carried the story around in my head for decades (literally), convinced that I would someday spit it out. Somehow, I did.

  5. Peggy

    What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

  6. Marketing and promotion. Writing is the easy part. Unfortunately, given the current state of the publishing industry, writers have to do it all (unless you’re James Patterson), and most of us would probably rather be writing that promoting our brands. The flip side of that, though, is you get to appear on blogs like this and interact with some really nice people.

  7. Anne

    I enjoyed learning about the author. I was wondering where is his favorite place to travel and why?

  8. I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe, but the greatest place I ever visited was Australia. The people are amazingly friendly and welcoming, the food is wonderful, and the landscape is stunning. If I were younger, I’d give serious thought to puling up and moving.

  9. Victoria

    Really great post! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. I enjoyed reading the guest post. This book sounds like such an interesting read. Looking forward to checking it out!

  11. Trix

    It’s a great premise!