When this year began, I was trying to do it all. I was editor of the Multimedia section at PopMatters, I was writing for the Raleigh News & Observer, I’d just appeared on a Brainy Gamer podcast (which, despite my awful performance, I remain proud of), and I was preparing my first (and, to date, only) piece for The Escapist. All of this, while I was trying to finish up a second master’s degree, this one in Computational Linguistics. Oh, and I have a day job, a wife, and three kids. Something had to give. Eventually, almost everything did.
The first thing to go was the PopMatters editorship. I loved being editor at PopMatters, but a 10-hour-per-week job where you’re paid in product is not conducive to good health or sanity when you’re juggling all those other things. I passed off the editorship to G. Christopher Williams, who has been incredible, particularly in his support and expansion of the Moving Pixels blog. One down.
The Escapist piece came due in a time of sickness in the midst of a difficult semester of studies, and the amount of time I was able to invest in it was far lower than I had hoped; thankfully, the editor at the magazine was patient, and worked me through some changes that made it publishable. Still, it’s certainly not the best thing I’ve ever written, and parts of it I’m downright ashamed of. By the time April began, however, it had been published, and it was in the past, too.
I graduated in September. That Master’s Thesis was painful, but at least it was interesting, and figuring out the line between pissing off Google and not pissing off Google with automated searches was kind of fun in a way.
Things coasted along until November, when everything exploded. My lovely wife, well on her way to a PhD, was in the midst of a very busy semester, I was unsatisfied with my job (not least due to my performance at that job, which was adequate, but hardly stellar), and I felt like my wonderful children were getting short shrift as I tried to juggle the obligations of writing at PopMatters, the paper, and this here new blog that I was just getting off the ground. I killed the blog. I deactivated my Twitter account. I told PopMatters not to send me anything. I left the grid.
And then my wife smacked some sense into me.
“Why would you give up on something you love, something that gives you that kind of a release?”
She was right, of course. So this blog post is for her.
We took the kids — actually, we took a lot of kids, eight kids — to see The Princess and the Frog last night. Much of our time was spent keeping the kids quiet and happy and not peeing in the seats, but in between the chaos, there was time to catch enough of the movie to take a message from it, a message that even grownups could stand to remember once in a while: Hard work is great, but never lose sight of what’s important. I can work, I can write, I can even study, but all of that is nothing without my family.
So this is my advice for the coming year, to any of the aspiring writers and journalists who might happen to be reading this: keep working. Keep doing what you’re doing. But don’t burn out. If playing video games, or listening to music, or reading, or writing about any of these things starts to feel like a drag, stop. Just stop. Spend a night with your kids, go out and see a show, lie on top of your car and look at the stars…find something to center yourself. Nobody can survive the constant crush of pressure that can come with trying to make a name for yourself — whether at your job, in the online world, or wherever — without balance. Create a schedule. Limit the time you work on certain things. Do whatever it takes for you to find that balance.
Here’s to a productive, worthwhile 2010.