“It sometimes takes a state of solitude to bring to mind the real power of companionship.”
“Focusing is about saying No.”
“One of Job's great strengths was knowing how to focus. " Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do, " he said. " That's true for companies, and it's true for products.”
Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs
“Inspiration is the windfall from hard work and focus. Muses are too unreliable to keep on the payroll.”
“Ah yes, the head is full of books. The hard part is to force them down through the bloodstream and out through the fingers.”
Edward Abbey, Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast
It’s tough being honest with oneself. There tends to be a natural human desire to justify one’s behavior to others—or rationalize it to oneself. But, of course it’s possible to overdo anything. I should know. I do.
I have never been particularly good at balancing my life. I tend to be passionate about what I do—and to commit to projects which are too hard for me to do, but which I am determined to do anyway. I don’t really know why I do that, but it has been the pattern through my life. A consequence is that I have always had to struggle—so rarely have had the time to just chill out. This doesn’t mean I can’t—more that, after endless failures and prevarication, I have always felt I should make one more effort to resolving the issue at hand.
I won’t pretend for a second that that I regard that as wise. I will say that such an approach has worked for me many times.
It does not, however, make for a balanced existence.
Right now I’m about as committed to writing as I have ever been in my entire life—so my inner voice is telling me to cool it a bit. I’m finding that very difficult to do. I love writing so much I find it almost physically painful to tear myself away. I don’t feel insecure about the writing process—quite the opposite in fact—but when I am away from the keyboard, I do wonder how long the magic will last, and whether I will lose my hard-won ability to snap right into focus and write almost immediately.
It is every writer’s dream to be able to do that—so right now I feel like someone who has found the Holy Grail—and is then expected to put it back in its place of concealment, and hope it is still there when he returns. And this in a land of knaves, varlots, cut-purses, and cut-throats.
I don’t know why I’m bringing traditional publishers (and their agents)into all this.
But I’m also professional and experienced enough to know that I’ll write better if I get more balance into my life. Sometimes, you need a little distance from what you—and who—you love—to fully appreciate it—or them. We’re back to that invaluable aid to sound judgment—perspective.
Man doesn’t live for writing alone. Actually, he does. But he lives even better if…
On the other hand, knowing you should do something—and actually doing it are two different things.
I don’t intend to give up writing every day—hopefully ever (though death may slow me down) but I am giving thought to limiting writing to an hour, or two (or three), for three days a week—and filling the balance with more sociable activities.
I miss interviewing, for example. A good interview is quite a high—a wonderful human interaction. It’s very special when someone truly open ups. Such experiences can be intense, emotional, cathartic, to the point of disturbing. When people let their guard down—something they rarely d0—a remarkable intimacy can develop.
You, the interviewer, have to proceed with care—people are vulnerable under such circumstances—but you must proceed. As one-eyed Israel general, Moshe Dayan, liked to say, “You must exhaust the mission.”
I tend to remember interviews with particular clarity—much as one recalls a particularly good movie or play. Such experiences resonate, and stay with you.
As I have tried to explain—I’m not anti-social. I just need solitude to write. Long hours of solitude. Solitary solitude—and no—this is not personal.
What can I say! Writing is an activity which breaks your heart—and uplifts your soul.
But, do we have a soul? Prove to me we have souls.
Well, here’s the thing. Despite my protestations of rationality—on that issue, I don’t demand proof. I believe we have something—and soul is as good a word as any.