Trying to find Balance

One of the hardest things for me as a writer is finding a balance. I’m not talking about balancing plot points and character development, although that is difficult as well as important. No, what I am speaking of is finding a balance between my writing and the rest of my life.

Part of being a writer is opening yourself up to the rest of the world. You have to share a vital part of yourself in order to engage the reader. The tricky part is figuring out which part, and how much you can show. Show too much, too soon, and people will think you are overeager. Show the wrong parts, and people will get bored, or angry.

Kind of like being an exotic dancer.

Think about it. If you went to a strip club and the dancer showed you the goods right off the bat, you would be a little disappointed, wouldn’t you? After all, part of the show is the “reveal”, and you can’t have a reveal if you never cover it up in the first place. And if the dancer never showed you anything, you would be just as upset. After all, you paid good money for this show, and there are certain expectations about what is going to happen when you get inside.

Okay, now this analogy is starting to get me off-balance. See what I mean?

What I am trying to say here is that I am having trouble reconciling my personal life with my writing. I have certain, deep-seated beliefs that frequently conflict with the things that I write. There are many times when the words that come out of my head make me uncomfortable, because they aren’t the kinds of things that I believe I should be writing. And yet, there they are.

I’ll come right out and say it. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Otherwise known as the Mormons. Yes, the same church that Mitt Romney belongs to (even though I think he’s a bad example of our faith).

One of the tenets of being a member of my church is living the law of chastity. That means so much more than just not having sex. It also means avoiding pornography and keeping your lustful passions confined to the marriage bed. And it means that when I start writing about sex and use four letter words in my stories I am either walking a fine line or stepping over the edge. And that’s what makes me uncomfortable.

This is tough for me. On the one hand, I’m not being unfaithful to my lovely wife. I’m not even looking at dirty pictures on the Internet. But when I write about other people having sex, it’s like letting a fantasy out of my head. And it’s probably not a fantasy I should be having in the first place, much less share with the rest of the world.

What makes it even more difficult is that I know for a fact that there is a huge market for erotica out there, and writing about sex would be an excellent way for me to make enough money to keep the hounds at bay. An important consideration in this economy.

Last week I announced my “Dirty Little Freaks” project, and I said that it would possibly contain some erotica. To be honest, I’m rethinking that decision, for the reasons I have just stated. I started the series with an introduction to the narrator, Boomer. I wrote it as a one-legged midget who uses his “other leg” to make up for the missing one. He used words that I would never use in public (or in private, for that matter).

I don’t think I like this guy. I think he needs to go away.

But that means that I need to come up with something to replace him. I kind of liked the idea of a dirty little freak introducing the stories as tales of the strange and unusual that he came across in his travels around the world. But that also means I would be limited to stories set in the modern age, and on this planet, and it may be better to open the floodgates a little wider and give myself some more room to play.

I was thinking that doing this series would be a good way to have some stories on file for possible submission to assorted magazines and anthologies. And the more different types of stories I have, the more options I have to present to editors.

Pardon my rambling. I find that I have a tendency to start on one topic and end on another. I hope you guys don’t mind. And this post is getting a bit long-winded, so I had better wrap it up anyway.

But first, a few other things that I need to say about my struggles with balance.

A few years ago I made a commitment to lose weight. I started at 320 pounds and by the time I was done (about a year and a half later), I was down to 175 pounds. I was proud of myself, and I swore I wouldn’t let myself get that fat again.

I broke that promise. I am back up to 290 pounds, and I have to say that part of the reason for the weight gain is the hedonistic lifestyle of being a writer. I have splurged on unhealthy food and gone out to eat at restaurants when I should have been dining at home. I have enjoyed cake and candy when I should have been sticking to carrots and celery. I have stopped exercising, and my bike (which I used to rely on as my main mode of transportation) is rusting in my basement.

I’m sick of it. I hate what I have let myself become and I have made a resolution this year to get back on my diet and start dropping the pounds again. I have started logging my food intake again and I am trying to keep my calories under control. I plan on getting my bike to the shop for an overhaul this spring so I can start riding to work again.

The diet and exercise will also be taking time away from my writing, which will make it more difficult for me to meet my writing goals, but it is more important to me right now for me to get back to a healthy lifestyle.

This is the balance that I am trying to find. Balance between my faith and my words. Between my diet and my urges. Between my health and my writing.

Life is all about finding balance. I am working on finding some in my life. How are you doing in yours?

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2 Comments

Filed under About Me, The Writing Experience

2 responses to “Trying to find Balance

  1. Finding balance can be so hard! I know just what you mean. My problem is finding balance between taking care of my family and taking care of myself; and between working on everybody else’s words and working on my own words. I struggle with my weight too — used to weight over 265. The up-side to gaining weight after losing it is that you know it’s not impossible to lose because you’ve already lost it once. (I’ve been there too!) If you want a few extra people for support and accountability, let me know. I run a private weight loss support group on Facebook. Many of us are on WW, but you don’t have to be a WW member to be part of the group.

  2. I know that my perspective is not yours, nor is my faith (more pagan and agnostic than anything else…just so we know where we are both coming from), but…

    I firmly believe that our characters, while we may be “thinking” their thoughts, do have lives and personalities, and even purposes and intentions different than our own. A professional might disagree with me on this, but I think you will find it rare that an author believes or even respects all the values and actions of their characters… or that most would ever consider doing “those terrible things” they write about.

    But we write about them to write about humanity, not about ourselves, even if we do put ourselves into our stories by slanting the direction or the ending of the story… The characters may have lives of their own, but we can certainly provide obstacles and gates to those that we find offensive or violate our values.

    We can help the good guys win.

    If you choose stop a story before you’ve made that point to yourself and your characters, you will be at the mercy of “what-if”s. And if you don’t you may also be at the mercy of the “Why did I”s… I can’t tell you which is better (though I’ve often found there are more “what if”s to drag my spirit down than the other). I can only advise that you keep yourself and your characters separate. THEY are not you.

    As for the rest… perhaps if you consider writing a hedonistic lifestyle (ask Orson Scott Card his opinions on that), writing is not the lifestyle that suits you best. Writing, as with any life career, gives you what you bring into it, including effort.

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