I used to think it was normal to turn down an invite from a friend “because I had to write.”
Did I think it made me sound cooler than I actually was? Who knows. But it happened often enough that a lot of high school friends lost interest in the probability of ever hanging out with me. Writing was pretty much all I ever did, because I thought that’s what would get me places in life, I guess.
I’ve gained plenty from writing large quantities of words over the past 12 years or so. But I’ve also missed out on a lot. Somewhere along the line, someone told me I wasn’t a real writer if I didn’t spend all my nights and weekends typing away at my computer. Desperate to be whatever a “real writer” was, I barely went to football games or dances or parties. I just wrote.
Not that 20-something Meg really cares how many parties she attended in high school (1). But the point is, whoever convinced me writers were only allowed to write — and doing anything else made you something less — lied. Only writing, and not doing anything else, hurts much more than it helps. It’s not just about missing out on life. It’s about not exploring other outlets, or testing any other interests, or connecting with people who “get” you.
Being a writer isn’t about how much time you spend writing every day or week or month. It’s about how you balance your writing time with other things. Family. Friends. Significant others. Hobbies that don’t involve jamming your fingers down on buttons and watching a screen to evaluate the end result.
I think writers who do nothing else are much worse off than writers who feed a number of passions and interests. Who explore the world and create memories and fall in love — and for reasons that don’t always have to involve going home and making a story out of everything that happens to you.
If writing is important to you, then of course you should bump it toward the top of your priority list. But don’t make it your first, your only priority. You’re never going to reach your full potential if all you do is write. You need to experience the world. If for no other reason than to fend off boredom, you need to do other things outside the writing life. The more you enrich your life with a variety of People and Places and Things, the more you’ll have to bring to the page when you do enter your designated writing time.
Writing is fun. It’s fulfilling and nice and great. But in your quest to write as much as you can about the world, don’t forget to also live in it, and experience it, and cherish it. Live because you love to write; don’t write because you want to live. Find balance, and make the most of every moment, for as long as you can.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.