Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Balance in the Writing Life

In the middle of my years in graduate school I found myself drowning in research. I loved what I was doing, studying several aspects of India, but I was definitely doing too much of it. I sat up at my desk in the library one afternoon thinking, I need to do something different.

I have often attended concerts when I needed to relax, after giving up playing a musical instrument for many years. But wanting to do something different isn't exactly the same as needing a vacation, though I probably needed one of those too. What I was sensing was the need for variety. Like many other writers, I can write twelve to eighteen hours a day for a few days in order to meet a deadline, but then I need to do something different. I need balance. I need a counterweight to writing, something to balance the activities of my life.

A good writer friend manages to write at least one book a year along with short stories and run a professional design business. But she also knits--a lot. She produces beautiful work for adults and children, and gives the creations away to members of her large extended family. Another writer friend gardens as well as any professional. Other writer friends are master chefs, painters, finished carpenters, and singers. It seems that the professional writers I know are also fully competent in other creative areas. For me it's photography.

My interest in photography is one of the reasons I made my series character Anita Ray a photographer. But writing about photography in a mystery novel is still writing. I need to step outside of the writing part of my life, and I do this by focusing on my work with a camera or someone else's. 

This month, my colleagues and I on the Matz Gallery Committee for our local library hung a juried exhibit of 23 three photographs by 21 artists. Arranging the photos on the gallery walls had a similar feel to arranging the narrative in a novel or short story. Some things worked together in a scene and others did not. We arranged, and rearranged, the photographs, until we had three walls of artwork we were happy with.

Finding this kind of balance between areas of creativity helps me replenish what I need for writing. I have just sent in the final, edited copy of the fourth Anita Ray novel. When Krishna Calls will be out in 2016, and I already have ideas for the fifth in the series. But between finishing one book and starting another, I need a break that is both creative and restful. I find that in working with photography, either as the artist or, in this case, as  a member of a team of curators.

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