The Re-Balancing Act
I have always written.
I have an autograph book from childhood. Fifty years ago, my second-grade teacher wrote that she looked forward to seeing my plays on Broadway some day.
I did not become a playwright, but longtime friends know that in a previous life, I was an aspiring sitcom writer.
Back then, I worked as a production assistant. TV production, in the words of my old boss at The Tonight Show, is a “hurry up and wait” kind of endeavor. You can spend hours just sitting around while other people are preparing scripts, props, costumes, etc… but once that’s done, you have to do whatever it is you’re supposed to do QUICKLY. The upshot is that I might work a 12-hour day, but only about three of those hours were actually working. That left me a lot of time to work on my own stuff (while getting paid to do it!)
I managed to write several spec scripts solo and with different partners during this period. I even managed to SELL a couple of pitches to actual network television shows. I had a Beverly Hills-based agent who was considered one of the best for sitcom writers. And I was so committed to this course that even when I had the opportunity to work on shows at a higher level, I turned them down — because I did not want to be distracted from my goal of becoming a staff writer.
Even so, I did not treat my writing like a job. I had this weird idea that I wanted to have a life, so I spent evenings and weekends with friends and in pursuit of relationships. I guess it’s not a one or the other type of proposition for most people — but I’m not a good multi-tasker, and so my writing was not my first priority.
And my then-partner felt the same way. He eventually took a job doing production accounting (or some other function I found boring – I honestly can’t remember). I could not fault him, because he needed the money and we were getting hit by disappointment after disappointment (just because we had the agent did not mean he was working hard to get us seen).
At my final TV production job, the producer (a man you may have heard of) said he would be happy to read our spec Murphy Brown script. He never mentioned it to me again, but one night, I found it in the slush pile in his office and read the coverage. It said: “This is good. Can’t believe where it came from. Should request another to make sure it’s not a fluke.”
They never did request another writing sample. After that show was cancelled, I did some computer setup at the home of one of the staff writers, who told me my script was one of the best they had read. But the producer “didn’t want to lose a good secretary.”
And that was when I decided to get out of TV production, because you get no respect as long as you’re the one answering the phone.
So at the age of 35, I took my first job in the real (non-entertainment industry) world. And that’s when I had a sobering discovery: Most people spend their work days WORKING. Every. Single. Minute. Of Every. Single. Day.
And that’s when I stopped writing spec scripts. There was no time to work on them at work, and I was too knackered to work on them when I got home at night or on the weekends.
I did not attempt to write anything again until I quit my real world job to stay home with my child. Soon after that, I launched a website for work-at-home parents and began writing articles on home-based business. A couple of years later, I started this blog — and got into the habit of posting several times a week. That’s when I had an epiphany:
If only I had devoted myself to my script writing with the same energy I gave my blog — maybe I would have achieved that goal of becoming a staff writer and ultimately, a producer.
I’ve been thinking of that a lot these past several weeks. You see, I’m working again. It’s not quite the “real world” of a 9 to 5 job in an office, as I am freelancing from home and do have a certain amount of autonomy. But I am being paid by the hour, and time is money and I really do need the money so this little blog has become the least of my priorities…
… and I miss it.
I miss writing about what I’m doing. I can’t really divulge much about work, and I stopped writing very many things about my daughter years ago, and my husband doesn’t like it when I write about him, so that has not left me with very much to write about — even though I still go about my day and compose little paragraphs in my head about what I’m doing, which are miraculously forgotten when I finally sit down at a blank WordPress screen.
I miss the social media interactions with my friends. I try to keep up on Facebook in the morning and evening and sometimes during lunch or when I’m in the car waiting to pick my daughter up from school, but I miss so much. And out of necessity, I don’t interact.
Most of all, I miss having a young person to take care of. Next year, she will likely be attending college in another city and I am already aching that she won’t be here with me.
I don’t know what I will miss more: my daughter – or living a life that was so focused on raising her.
I remember everyone telling me how my life would change once I had a child, and me thinking, “well DUH.” Of course, your life changes. But I had no idea HOW MUCH my life would change. Or how much it would change ME.
With the empty nest so imminent, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get back to my old, pre-motherhood self. My husband and I have spend the last several weekends just getting out and about together, just the two of us — the way we did before baby made three. And we’re having fun.
But it’s not the same, because we’re not the same. I will never be that young, ambitious person again. I am poised to be — something else. I’m just not sure what.
I do know one thing: This blog is important to me. It may seem that I am neglecting it — but my life right now is in a state of flux and I am trying to get it re-balanced. My blogging activities are a piece of that and will remain so for years to come.
I just need to figure out how to keep it so. I should probably ask my friends who have managed to juggle working outside the home with blogging and mothering — how do you manage to do it?
Because I’m not there yet.