The Balancing Act by Donna

When I was a child, my family spent one week a summer at a lake house in the hill country outside of Austin. My aunt, uncle and cousins would go, too, and the two families would crowd into the house for a week of boating, water skiing, swimming and hiking.

Much to my older sister's frustration, my week was also full of reading. I couldn't wait to explore the uncensored bookcases full of paperback novels left by previous vacationers. There were so many books (and authors) I had never seen on the children's shelves of the library. It was a whole new world and was in direct conflict with the "real" world outside.

My sister tried every guilt trick she could think of to get me to put the books down. The conversation usually ended with her storming off to "have fun without me." Within minutes, I was already back in the worlds created by authors like Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, Victoria Holt, and John Le Carre.

Don't worry. I didn't stay inside and read for my WHOLE vacation (although I'm sure my sister would claim otherwise). I swam and boated and water skied, but the struggle between the "head" world vs. the "real" world has continued throughout my life.

Balancing the time to write a novel and be in the real world is challenging. Sometimes beyond challenging. But, more than the time management needed to get the actual story onto the page, there is the other reality of living stories out in your head. The "head" world is a tempting one--full of mystery and adventure and passion and imagination. Sometimes it's a book I'm reading and other times it's a book I'm creating. The other world--the "real" one--is often full of car repairs and mortgage payments and business meetings and stuffy noses. Finding some sort of equilibrium between the two worlds is difficult and sometimes hard for significant others to understand.

Even though the balance isn't easy, I don't have a magic wand to fix it and, the truth is, I probably don't want to. One world needs the other. There's nothing better than solving murders in England with Agatha Christie, then closing the book, and going outside to jump off a boat dock into a shimmering lake. Or driving downtown to stop at a traffic light and suddenly realizing I've solved the plot problem in chapter three. Or nodding at inappropriate times at a dinner party because I'm listening to the dialogue in my head instead of the conversation at the table.

I sincerely apologize to those people in my life (including my sister) who have experienced that blinking, unfocused stare upon re-entry into your world. Sometimes I lose my balance. I spend too much time in one world and not enough time in the other. But, even though I am sorry, I won't stop looking through both sides of the mirror.


Great post. I feel exactly the same. It's such a struggle and I feel there is no balance. Often one gets put first before the other and then I switch it around.

Sigh. If only I could split myself into two. "The gaze" is all to often followed by me trying to note something down too. Not good for convos.

Thanks Donna.

It is such a delicate balance! I had a childhood friend who always complained I wanted to read instead of play with her - same as your sister. Now I feel badly about that, although I was too young to know, at the time, that I could always come back to the book later.

And the writing/life balance, too. I could definitely use some help with that. Maybe Bret will have an advertisement for Insta-Balance on Friday. Sign me up to be a trial tester.

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