Thursday, October 10, 2019

Get a Life

Besides writing, what else do you do? What’s on your writer’s bucket list?

From Jim

This week’s topic challenged me to think about my life outside of my writing. I really need to find more things to do.

I suppose it’s fairly common for people in the prime of their careers to wish they had more time for other activities. When I was working at NYU, and later in Hollywood, sixty- and seventy-hour weeks were the norm, not the exception. When you’re building your career you tap into youthful stores of energy and ambition and somehow get it done. You’d think that kind of schedule doesn’t leave a lot of time for fun. Yet it was fun. At least in retrospect. In my youth I crammed more into less. Sports, travel, friends, learning. Now, as I get older, I’ve lost a step or two while time seems to have found its second wind. I can’t keep up the way I used to.

Except in one important area: writing.

I’m approaching the age when people normally begin to think about their retirement. But I now find myself in full career-developing mode again, this time for my writing. I write longer, better, and more knowledgeably than in my younger days. I treat my writing like a job and have more energy and patience for it than I ever had for my previous career. And infinitely more pleasure. But it’s hard work that never stops. These days I think about my writing all the time. When I’m working and when I’m relaxing. Whereas my previous jobs were interesting and (somewhat) enjoyable (sometimes), my writing is a passion, both professionally and personally. In my mind it has come to define me. When it goes well, I feel like a success. When it doesn’t, I feel like a failure. Writing, I’ve realized, bleeds into my spare time and elbows aside other interesting pastimes I might otherwise engage in.

So what do I do in my spare time? Sure, I travel quite a bit (off to India next week), go to concerts and museums, read, and even cook. That’s something I never did when I was younger. But it all feels meager when compared to what Terry Shames manages to accomplish. If only society prized the leisure activities I excel most at, like drinking and watching sports. 

By the way, I don’t like the idea of a bucket list. What’s at the end of the list, after all? Death. Kind of dampens any enthusiasm I would feel about checking off the last few items.


Dietrich Kalteis said...

That's an inspiring post, James. And I'm with you on the bucket list.

James W. Ziskin said...

Thanks, Dietrich. Just keep truckin’. That’s my mantra.