Life’s a carnival. Life as a writer…doubly so.
Long ago, I made myself learn to juggle. I was nine, and my uncle dropped a musty old book titled Learn How to Juggle in One Day into my lap. I remember it well. During a hot summer day, when I should’ve been out playing baseball, creeping through the cornfields, or tormenting the cute girls down the street, I sat in my grandma’s room from dawn ’til dusk, three tennis balls in hand, bumbling and stumbling my way through learning a new skill.
And sure enough, I learned in one day. Juggling was a useless skill, to be certain, but hell, I’d put my mind to the millstone and figured it out. I was proud of myself. I’d managed to shut out a thousand distractions and learn something neat-o. “Wow!” I remember thinking. “I’ll do this every day, and before I know it I’ll be a master of everything!”
Here’s a little game for you: I want you to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and daydream. It shouldn’t take long. I’m merely asking you to imagine what your life would be like if every single day you could do whatever you wanted. No shackles. No job. No kids. No debt. Your time is yours. You spend it however you want. Think about it. Climb down to the bottom of your desire. What would you do? What would you teach yourself? If you’re up to it, add your daydream to the comments section. I’m interested, as ever.
I’m nothing if not a daydreamer. A hundred times a day, I float through the scenario above. One the hardest parts about this whole writing epic novels thing is the lack of utter freedom. There’s a juggling act to be done, every day, every hour, every waking moment. You know what I’m talking about. We all juggle our lives, and we’re dealing with waaaaaay more than three little tennis balls. We’ve jobs, kids, families, and friends. We’ve lives to live. We’ve unexpected hurdles to jump, and of course we’re all waging war with the inevitability of time and the fact that it’s not in unlimited supply. I suppose if we were vampires, immortal and invincible, we might eventually accomplish every last one of our dreams. But we’re not. We’ve a small window in which to kick life’s ass.
I try to fight the good fight. Before I dare sit down in the darkness to write, I raise my kid, crush my day job, sweat and bleed in the gym, sleep my six, and (big shocker) waste hours every weekend watching football. Hell, it’s not like I can shove everything aside and live in a bubble. Life’s routines consume me, and before I know it, months…even years slip through my fingers. It’s a giant m F’er of a carnival act. Looking back at every day I’ve lived, it’s a miracle I’ve managed to write as much as I have. A million and a half words, dozens of outlines, short stories, blogs, social media posts…how in the hell? Forget what I’ve done. What about writers who churn out dozens of novels? It doesn’t feel possible. Maybe I’m daydreaming even now. If life’s a circus, I’m the clown.
And so my challenge to you (and to myself) in 2014: find more time for ourselves. Turn off the tv, order Chinese delivery, put the kids to bed early, and tell our significant others, “Don’t wait up.” If we can get after our dreams 5% harder than we did last year, we’ll love ourselves more for it. I’m not telling us to shove life aside. Far from it. I’m asking us to carve off the fat, slap distraction in the face, and make sweet love to whatever project is sacred to us.
So don’t be the clown; be the ringmaster. Work. Sacrifice. Get after it. One day, reap the rewards.