AWP’s annual conference and bookfair is in Boston this year. I know this may not mean much to a lot of you, but for me this is a big deal because it means I can find the money to go. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who regularly attend AWP and talk about how awesome it is, but I have never been able to experience it for myself. Despite my dislike of forced interactions with strangers who you secretly hope will give you something (hey, lit mag, publish me, please!), I’m pretty excited about this. But as the mental preparation for attending has begun, I’ve come up against a problem that I’ve had on and off for months and months, and probably more like years, if I’m honest: I am always trying to do too many things at once.
This problem is not limited to any one area of my life; I am able to make things complicated on multiple fronts. When I’m hanging out with my kids, I am also (stupidly) trying to answer an email or make a loaf of bread or read an article online or clean up a few papers on my desk. I try to keep up with my reading by having stacks of two or three books in various strategic locations throughout my house rather than just picking one and carrying it everywhere with me. I take on extra work projects that I know I will struggle to find the time to complete. (My two-week hiatus from writing here was the direct result of taking one such job, a 600-page proofread that had to be done in 7 days.) On top of these things, I also occasionally do the laundry when the tower of clothes and linens threatens to topple and crush us all. Clearly I should streamline something, stop taking on so much, but I am chronically unable to do this.
I’m not going to complain about how I’m struggling to “find a work-life balance” or “have it all” because frankly, those phrases are meaningless when I try to apply them to my life – and plus, as Hillary Clinton said, we should really just whine less and do more. I’m sure I’ve said I’d like to find balance before, but let’s be honest, I was just trying to be sociable in the course of conversation because sometimes, that’s what being a grown-up is about. The only balance I’m really searching for is my literal, physical sense of balance so I can get back to krav maga. And as for having it all, I don’t even know what that means if I really think about it. Saying it implies that the world is small enough that it is possible to have everything you want at once, wrapped up in one neat package and presented with a flourish that means you never have to search for anything ever again. It is a lazy, boring concept. It’s like thinking one day you’ll meet a soul mate who completes you to the point where you don’t ever need anyone else, or even need to try, and he or she never forces you to talk about finances or that one time you didn’t do the dishes for three days and the kitchen smelled like tuna. But there is no one perfect person who can be your everything, and if you think there is, well, frankly I think you are weird and probably close-minded. The world is bigger, and better, than that.
But I digress, which is indicative of what happens to me regularly. So to bring it back around, here’s my question, which is how anyone finds “enough” time for writing, or any artistic pursuit really. Now, please don’t answer if you’re bankrolled by Mom and Dad or some other rich patron, or if you’re the kind of person who is willing to be practically homeless, starving in a garret in Paris for your craft, to mention just a couple of cliches. I can’t do any of those things so hearing about them will only depress me; I need a real-life option, preferably one that can be instituted before March. That way, when I’m schmoozing with all those fancy lit mag people, I can say I have something ready to send them and mean it, instead of immediately rushing home from downtown and trying to whip something up like a last-minute term paper.