I’ve worked hard all my life, because I had to support myself and my child in the early days, and more recently for reasons other than earning enough to live on. As a self-employed education consultant I worked because it was fun, and creative and occasionally provided magic when everything came together and was indescribably satisfying. And I got to travel too, all over the place, and not as a tourist. There’s nothing like working in a community for a while to give you a sense of what it’s really about, not just the superficial view you get as a ‘visitor’. There were downsides too: working alone meant that the quality was down to me and no one else. I needed to think and plan well ahead to make sure things went well, and there seemed no end to it. As soon as one job was over I was into the next, and rarely felt free of the responsibility that is integral to self-employment.
Up to a point that’s fine. But somewhere down the line I’ve lost the art of doing nothing, if I ever had it. If there’s nothing on my mind I assume it’s something I’ve forgotten that will trip me up later. Having one major thing on my mind, to the temporary exclusion of everything else – like when I’m writing – is easier than spinning several plates at once, but not when that one thing invades my sleep as well as my waking hours. And trying to focus on one major thing while keeping other plates spinning at the same time – well, that’s too hard.
Maybe it’s something to do with age. Or maybe after decades of plate spinning I would like it to stop. The problem is, I want my writing to be successful, and that means keeping on writing. A book a year, that’s what it takes to keep up the momentum as a self-published author, and just recently I’ve detected signs that this could turn my pleasure in writing into an obligation, or – worse – a chore. If it is an obligation, it is to no one except myself: how self-indulgent and ego-centric is that? I have what countless other people crave – a high degree of control over my own life, and here I am finding that difficult.
Sometimes I would love to go to bed knowing that there was absolutely nothing to do the following day, except walk, or read, or swim, or eat and drink or sit in the sun. When I took six months off a few years ago, that was the plan. But then I decided there had to be a project, which was to write my first fiction, and with that decision the treadmill began to turn again. And now it’s turning like crazy and I’m still on it. It may be a different treadmill than the education work I was doing before, but I have to reassure myself that I can get off it if and when I want to. I drive my writing, the writing should not drive me, and the treadmill needs to be dismantled before it becomes truly addictive. Or maybe I just need some warm sunny weather to justify a day on the beach, or swimming in the Duddon. What happened to summer?
The upcoming trip overseas could be just the ticket. I have work to do in Edmonton, and a little more in Wellington, but that’s only a few days in all out of the five weeks of my trip. For the rest of the time I shall indulge myself, seeing friends who are important to me on the other side of the planet, eating and drinking and walking and talking. It’ll be early spring in New Zealand and probably not swimming weather, but I’m looking forward to everything else.