But even though singing with the CMF this year requires a lot of practice time (we've got about a zillion rehearsals this week alone), which is hard for two busy parents like us to fit in - it's worth it, to spend time together doing something that's wholly unrelated to our day jobs, parenthood, or even our usual outdoor hobbies. Or in my case, writing. I've talked before about how it can be so, so tempting for an author with limited free time to try and spend every spare second working on their novel-in-progress - and why that's a truly terrible idea.
But it's hard not to feel guilty, you know? You hear so much so-called wisdom about publishing. You've got to put out a book a year, preferably more. And don't forget the marketing - your books are sure to sink without a trace unless you get off your ass and plaster yourself all over the internet. You see other authors seemingly following those guidelines to great success - putting out multiple books a year, guest-posting & schmoozing up a storm, their readership steadily climbing.
But if you're like me, struggling to balance writing with other responsibilities (day job, family, etc), you'll have to step back and ask yourself: how much of my life am I willing to let the publishing industry consume?
I read a great article yesterday by Harvard computer scientist Radhika Nagpal on how she avoided misery and burnout during her tenure-track years - an article that applies equally well to writers struggling to navigate the craziness of publishing (thanks to fellow author Kameron Hurley for tweeting about it). I want to quote one part of the article that particularly struck me:
This is so true. The hardest part of setting boundaries in your life is that there ARE costs. You can't have it all. If you choose not to dedicate your every spare second to your career, then yes, you may fall behind those who do. But when it comes to the game of chasing material success, my own private conviction is that the only way to win is not to play. For me, I want to focus on the things that bring me joy. One of those things is certainly writing: not only the heady excitement of creating characters and worlds, but the quiet satisfaction of completing a book you've worked your ass off to make awesome. But if I focus solely on that joy, I'll miss out on a whole lot of others, and both my life and my writing will be the poorer for it. Like Dr. Nagpal, I would rather strive to be a better whole person. Not just a better author.We (myself included) admire the obsessively dedicated. At work we hail the person for whom science and teaching is above all else, who forgets to eat and drink while working feverously on getting the right answer, who is always there to have dinner and discussion with eager undergrads. At home we admire the parent who sacrificed everything for the sake of a better life for their children, even at great personal expense. The best scientists. The best parents. Anything less is not giving it your best.And then I had an even more depressing epiphany. That in such a world I was destined to suck at both.Needless to say it took a lot of time, and a lot of tears, for me to dig myself out of that hole. And when I finally did, it came in the form of another epiphany. That what I can do, is try to be the best whole person that I can be. And that is *not* a compromise. That *is* me giving it my very best. I’m pretty sure that the best scientists by the above definition are not in the running for most dedicated parent or most supportive spouse, and vice versa. And I’m not interested in either of those one-sided lives. I am obsessively dedicated to being the best whole person I can be. It is possible that my best whole is not good enough for Harvard, or for my marriage; I have to accept that both may choose to find someone else who is a better fit. But even if I don’t rank amongst the best junior faculty list, or the best spouses list, I am sure there is a place in the world where I can bring value.