Monday, January 12, 2015

Balancing Act: Not At All Balanced

Right now I have two novels very near completion. I have five blog posts and three interviews I'm working on for – among other things – a blog tour to promote the release of Blood & Spirits by Booktrope. I'm also trying to put together three cooperative projects that require my management and attention. This is not an uncommon workload, and often there is much more to be done. All of these things, these projects, are things that I handle on my lap top, and – internet connection willing – I manage to stay on top of it all… most days. Today, however, I lost my computer for twelve hours and some change, to streaming video of Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and the ever popular Phineas and Ferb.

No. I'm not an ADHD Cartoon junkie. Well, I might be, but today's loss of my laptop – and thus my productivity – was my obligation (and joy) as a parent. I have a seven year old daughter and a nine year old son whose time is just as precious as mine. Between family plans, activities, and the desire to play outside with friends… I accept all the time they have to give me. If that means that I write a little less, so be it. If that means I'm pushed a little closer to a deadline that I might or might not make, so be it.

Why would I put myself under such unnecessary stress? Because, to me, it is necessary.

I am a writer, an author and screenwriter, an on again/off again indie film maker, a creator. I spend my time split between gritty urban tales of vampires, ghosts, and zombies and science fiction realities set in modern day and off in distant futures.  I am that person, that creator, that writer… but I'm also 'Daddy'. That last title is the one I'm the most proud of, and the one that trumps all the others.

There are days, of course, when I'm "in the zone" and the words are flowing out of me a mile a minute. I get distant, lost to the worlds that I'm exploring with my characters and the emotional and often physical pains and triumphs they experience. On those days, it's – I'm not going to lie – a little painful to drop a scene in the middle to go make pasta, or settle an argument. My characters scream in my head, demanding that I tell their story – that I get their tale down in words immediately. But all that just has to wait and, no matter what, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I've been asked how I can balance being a (single?) parent and being a writer, and I never know quite what to say. I know how I live my life, but I don't know that I can conceive of any other way of doing business. That's not true, not entirely I suppose, but I couldn't handle it any other way. Not me, personally, I mean. I'm not one of those people who feels they should sit in judgment over others, and how they parent or don't. I just know that when I consider doing things differently for myself, it seems like torture, or worse… being a villain from a children's book (…or, yes, a cartoon).

So what if my coffee gets spilled a bit more than it would otherwise? What's the big deal if there are peanut butter finger prints on my mouse pad? Who cares if I know the names of most of the characters currently appearing on the Disney channel? Does it really matter if I need an extra couple of days to really lock down a scene? I find the answers in the faces of my kids… who I know are growing up fast, and who will – all too soon – be out on their own… kids, I'll miss every second. It's simple. One day my kids will have kids, and it will have been my responsibility to show them how to ensure that their kids know that they are vital, important, and loved. I don't intend to fail in that job. That job is the only career that matters to me… everything else is secondary.

Pink eye, head lice, 'he hit me… ON PURPOSE', and bad dreams that need snuggling are all plot points of greater magnitude than any I could create in fiction.  So, when it comes to balancing being a writer and being a dad, there really is no balance. If one were to put my writing on one side of a set of scales – knowing full well that from before my earliest memory, it was the only thing I ever really, deeply, passionately wanted to do – and set my kids on the other side of those scales… my kids would win out every single time, no contest.

Maybe one day I'll even be able to share some of my books with my younger children. My eldest is twenty-one now… almost twenty-two… and he has a kindle, and paperbacks, and I really love hearing his thoughts on my work, especially when he really likes something. I think that, however, is fodder for another conversation, on another day, though… no?

Ultimately, my point here is this: Of all the characters that I've created, or had a hand in creating, my kids (all three  even my oldest, who's out on his own and just got engaged) are the ones I'm the most invested in, the ones I care most about, and the ones whose stories really matter to me.

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