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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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