Monday, December 9, 2013

Is this a healthy hobby?

     It’s not enough to say “it could be worse”… that I could have worse hobbies. I could also be a worse person, the fact that I’m not doesn’t improve my character. I am defined by who I am, not what I’m not. Sure writing might seem like a harmless hobby, but when I get into what I’m doing, put on my headphones and focus hard on my laptop screen, I am neglecting the rest of the world. That world is the real world. One of my biggest problems, even from far back in my childhood is my coping mechanism is to escape from the real world into creations of my own.  
     So while I might say that “at least my hobby keeps me at home”, it doesn’t really. I can’t say “at least I’m not out on the golf course or bowling every weekend”. If I was doing that, I might be interacting with real people. That could be preferable to sitting at home with Rhapsody Music Service turned way up in my head, banging away at my keyboard about imaginary things of my own creation. Call it escape, denial, idolatry, anything but a healthy way to spend time, and you could be right.
     Thanksgiving evening after sleeping off a big noonday meal I sat down at my laptop and stuck in my earbuds. I thought I could finish my November novel that evening. At one point, I was aware of my son, Jamie standing close to me. I resisted the urge to wave him away like a mosquito, even though I still shuddered in annoyance. Jamie asked if I wanted to go sit in the living room and watch a movie. Which movie? One I didn’t care for. That made it easy to say no. I probably wouldn’t have watched anything, but because I really don’t like that movie there was no conflict in saying no. Prajna questioned me, didn’t I want to come watch it with the family?
No, I hate that movie.  
You haven’t even seen it.
I’ve seen most of it. I don’t like that actor in anything.  
I went back to my writing. I was thrilled to finally be at a good part of the story. For weeks, I had trudged through the middle of what I had hoped would be a good novel. The beginning was good and I knew how it would end. The middle had been rather dull. Now I was finally at the end. I was writing out the culmination of the story, it was all coming together, the story I had been thinking about for almost a year. The ending that I had been thinking about for months was finally happening. The climax happened. I wrote the last few sentences and exhaled in a thrill of relief. The ending was as good as I had hoped. I would work the next day on a short scene of falling action, a sort of epilogue, but the story was done. I felt high.
Then the evening went downhill. The movie ended at about the same time that I was done writing. The younger boys were squabbling and I was having a hard time stepping back into the real world where my family lived. I ended up upsetting people. Finally Prajna let me know that I had hurt her feelings by not watching the movie. That had been family time. We were together as a family, it was Thanksgiving and everyone had been watching a movie together, minus me.
I was incredulous. That, watching a lame movie, was family time?
Yes, it was. And I had skipped out on it. Regardless of how much I wanted to write, I had hurt other people’s feelings choosing to not be with them. It wouldn’t have killed me to sit and watch the movie. And it would have been spending time with the family.
I felt ashamed and let down after learning that. I was ashamed of myself for neglecting my family and I felt let down for having something I had looked forward to for so long finally come, but at a price.
So this year I learned something unexpected about writing and National Novel Writing Month. I already knew that family should come first, but I learned that I need to actively look for how to prove I believe that.
 I wrote the epilogue to Sidewinder the next morning and validated the novel. It was a bittersweet victory. I had put more into the novel than I should have. Now that it’s done, I want to keep working on it. It is indeed a good story. For now, it has a good beginning, a dull middle and a great ending. If the novel was a sandwich, it would be on a fresh toasted ciabatta bun, or maybe even French toast, but the middle would be a broiled chicken breast that was rather dry. I need to go back to work on it. The middle needs seasoning, some gristle cut away and definitely some spicy sauce or something. But it can work. It can be a good story. What it can’t be is a hindrance to being a good husband and dad.
I was going to go back to work on my memoir after November. The thing is, Sidewinder was a lot more fun. Sometimes any writing in the winter is an achievement. But it’s not really the writing that’s tough, it’s keeping my head above the murk of despair and pressing on.
In truth, nothing is easy sometimes, not even the stuff I love to do. Am I going to go for it anyway? I can’t write my novel at the cost to anyone else. That means I need to get up early if I want to write and do it all before people are up. Most days in November I was up at 4:45. Can I still do that? We’ll see what happens. At least today I blogged. More blog posts call, so does Sidewinder, so does the memoir. I’ll keep you posted.

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