There has been a tension for me, the last few months, between my work for my career and my writing. While it is nice to have climbed out of debt and to make a good wage — not just decent, but good — the increased pay and status from relatively recent promotions translates directly to decreased time and mental capacity for creativity.
Writing is precious and compulsive to me, so I’ve had to look at my life and try to decide what to sacrifice or at least wrap-up in order to have the resources, physical and mental, to continue writing. I sat down and basically mapped out my life on paper and it left me wondering how people have things like spouses and children.
The balancing game is hard. I could read less, but reading is an essential part of writing, an important tool. I could watch fewer television shows, but given I watch them in the evenings, when I’m already tired, would that help? Should I socialize less and be more lonely — more unhappy — just in order to write? That seems unwise. Do I drop side projects even though they sometimes lead to inspiration?
Do I sleep less? Could I sleep less?
The ultimate result of my examination of my life is that I haven’t removed anything yet. Instead I’ve developed a question based on survey questions that want you to make a subjective value judgement. When I’m doing something, I ask myself: Is what I am doing right now more-helpful or more-harmful to my overall existence? And if it is more-harmful, how do I stop, alter, or enhance it? Can I do something helpful during this harmful activity?
To answer these questions, I had to work out what I wanted from my overall existence, which was actually easier than it probably should have been. It’s very much in the vein of the hierarchy of needs:
1. Security: home, food, money to supply both, which means keeping and doing my job.
2. Creativity: being able to engage in my art, which is both pleasurable to me and contributory to my community.
3. Joy: being able to do pleasurable things, regardless of their productivity or lack thereof.
Let’s not talk about how Joy comes in number three. Being fair to me, Maslow thinks it’s low priority too, compared to food and shelter.
I wrote this initially in a notebook during a training session last week, which illustrates the occasional difficulty of identifying an action as helpful or harmful. Attending the training demonstrates to my work community that I am engaged and enthusiastic. Which I am! I genuinely like my job. But the actual training is not really informative, and is taking an entire day to convey what information it does have to offer, which is harmful. Or at least, inefficient. I counteracted the harmful by writing this essay, at least for now.
The system is new, so I don’t know how well it will work — but I suppose it makes me happier to have it, which is ultimately helpful.