Here is the truth: sometimes, you cannot have work/life balance. In the current world, that’s almost heresy, and as you know, I’m a deep believer in keeping the well full and taking care of yourself and loving the work. I like artists dates and measured hours for the writer and plenty of exercise. All that stuff.
But sometimes, the book is going to take all you’ve got. You will not be balanced and measured and sane. You’ll be unshowered and wild-haired and babbling about things that have no meaning to anyone in this world. Nor will you be able to have actual conversations with the living world because you have used up all your words on the book and there are none left over for live humans.
Sometimes this state comes about because of deadline, and that’s always the case for me. I am a working writer, and I’ve pretty much had a deadline for the next book for thirty years. Sometimes that deadline is a comfortable distance away, but most of the time, it’s coming up faster than I expected and then I have to go in my office, and shut everything else out.
But whether or not there is a deadline, there comes a point in every book when this has to happen. At some point, I have to open the window to the other world, the book world, and step into it.
And live there.
It takes a lot of effort to build the world of a novel. It’s a vast, complicated, layered thing, with about ten billion details you have to place. The landscape alone is complex, located in a particular place and time, with particular flora and fauna, and furniture and customs. Then we add the people of the book, the stars and the secondaries and the peas-and-carrots bit players. We conjure up weather and cars or horses or carts, and skies and sounds and meals and clothing appropriate for each one. Gestures. Habits. Longings and goals and frustrations and backstories. [Read more…]