I remember watching the original “Karate Kid” back in the 1980’s. Good movie, even if it did have an entire generation standing on one leg with their arms in the air for no real reason. In it a wise old karate master teaches a troubled, struggling youth karate to help him fit in and find “balance” in his life. Balance was a key theme to the entire film.
As writers we all have to find out own balance. Most of us probably work–and not as writers–as well as take care of a family, a house, pets, etc. We have a lot of demands on our time. There are definitely days when I question, “is this the best use of my time? Should I be using my lunch hour to write when I could be out networking, job interviewing, or even planning how to be more effective with my day?”
The thing is, it’s really hard to know for sure. If I could see the future and find that I will never make it as a writer the answer would be clear: No, this is not the best use of my time. But what if I gave up now, not knowing that withing a year I could get my break? That would be a tragedy, right? But most of us can’t see the future–at least not our own. Sci-fi writers make it their job to see the future, of course. But we really have no idea what the future holds for ourselves.
So, we have to continually work on “balance.” I don’t want to give up writing, but just how much time can I realistically devote to it right now? I’ve got three kids going through some of the most critical years of their lives right now. No amount of literary success is going to make up for it if years from now they’re saying “My dad wasn’t there for me when I needed him most.”
That’s where priorities come in. Recently Dave Butler wrote about this on his blog, indicating that he and some of his associates have taken the time to write up a mission statement for themselves. Now really, a mission statement is just a formal way of spelling out your priorities. The idea is to have this to refer back to whenever you find yourself conflicted and need reminding what you’ve said is most important to you.
A mission statement might not be a bad idea if you find yourself regularly failing to keep that balance. I’m not about to tell you what your priorities should be, but it’s probably a good idea to at least make sure you know what they are. There are always going to be days when you’re faced with, “you can do V, W, X, Y, or Z today. Pick any two.”
Perhaps writing remains the top choice for you. Perhaps it goes by the wayside for today. Either is fine, so long as you know whether that was a good choice within your stated priorities. And how will you know if you haven’t identified your priorities?