Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Balance

Alas, I'm not talking about disturbances in The Force. I went to my GP last week and the pathology tests had come back with a disappointingly low midi-chlorian count. He's referred me to a naturopath who tells me to cut out dairy and start taking extract of Bantha tusk and maybe, just maybe, I can grow up to be a Jedi one day...

No, I'm talking about the balance between full-time work and a creative life.

Last Thursday was my ten month anniversary at my full-time office job.


Ten months of 7.30am starts (okay, maybe closer to 8am now) and 8 hour days that are pretty full on. Ten months of being bone-tired weary by the end of the week (Saturdays I pretty much sleep). Ten months of trying to find the energy to write after 26 months where I could write whenever I wanted.

It's fucking hard! I know that if I go home after work it's game over. I'll flake out and that's that. I have to force myself to go somewhere to write and switch from left brain to right brain and sometimes just gut it out. Writing when you're tired is agonising. Except that's not strictly true...

Beginning to write when you're tired  is excruciating. IF you can get into your script often times magic things happen and you get lost in the world and characters you have created. Then you are revitalised. Then you churn out pages. Getting there is the problem. It feels like you're at the base of an insurmountable mountain pass. The first step is the hardest.

I've never considered myself a particularly disciplined writer but somehow I generate a reasonable amount of content. There was a day about a fortnight ago I was writing after work simply to get the fingers tapping and the brain somewhat thinking. It was mostly garbage but I NEEDED to write even if it was horrible. I NEEDED to punch through the tiredness because I didn't want my life to become work-sleep-repeat.

But the weariness isn't the only problem, perhaps not even the main one.

There is this: the corporate world has its own seductive charms.

SIII Galaxy sitting atop the Galaxy Tab 2
The day after my ten month anniversary I was informed by my boss that I was getting a pay rise and a hefty bonus after the annual performance review. He later even took me out to lunch. Throw in all the gadgets - an SIII Galaxy with a 20GB/month data pack, the Samsung Tablet, the laptop, the work conference on the Gold Coast, the occasional free luncheons and dinners, and it's an easy world to get lost in. I am also very good in it and can function quite happily at a high level.

THAT is the real danger. I could easily get used to the money and the perks while tolerating the hours even though my writer's soul despises the early starts. But that's not what I want.

I NEVER thought I would be a full-time corporate zombie again. But circumstances dictated that I had no choice. At the beginning of November 2012 I was in dire straits financially. Now I am at the point where I can put away a couple of grand a month in savings. Another enticement.

The other thing I miss is the meetings. When I wasn't working I could meet anyone, anywhere at a drop of a hat to talk scripts, and projects, and ideas. Working full-time puts a horrible crimp in that. Sure, there are plenty of interesting people at work but predominantly they come from a technical background. Simply put they are analytical, left brain people who think entirely differently to creative people. There are times I feel isolated from the creative Zeitgeist.

It's a balancing act. Remembering what my priorities are while maintaining financial security to attain those goals. I need to spend more time writing which means better sleep patterns, healthier eating, and not getting stressed at work. The latter hasn't happened in a long time and I am largely immune to it but lately the workload has seemed overwhelming. I'm pretty good at compartmentalising after my managerial experiences in Sydney so time to shore up those boundaries.

Also remembering perhaps the most important thing like this morning when I was working on my feature script - that feeling when you're writing well. That feeling is priceless. Battling the weariness, the distractions and all the inducements to get to that feeling is what makes the struggle all worthwhile.

How do you cope if you are juggling a full-time job and writing? What tips do you have? How do you cope?


  1. Very good article Richard and I agree. It's easy to get sucked in. But all those perks will only give you short term happiness. To be truly happy you need long term happiness and that comes with hard work you find rewarding such as writing. Onwards.

  2. Clearly I'm not talking about Hawthorn with that user name either!

  3. So that means you're not my Words With Friends foe... Atlanta? Ahhhhhhh, it all becomes clear now.