Two things in life bring me the most joy. No surprise that the first of these is my children. But writing also provides a different but no less fulfilling sense of satisfaction.
As a parent, one way of measuring the sacrifices you make is to look at how you spend your weekends compared to your pre-children days. Weekends for us at the moment are a blur of parties, sports and other child/family-based activities. Gone are the days when nights out and morning lie-ins were de rigueur. These days it’s more early mornings and falling asleep on the sofa.
Take last weekend, for instance. My Saturday started with Isaac’s 8am swimming lesson, while Sunday morning was football with both boys. Saturday night was a late one spent writing TV reviews for publication – I finally crawled into bed after 2am – while last night I was recording a cycling podcast.
Sleep? Who needs sleep?
Why do I willingly burn the candle at both ends like this? Obviously, weekends are my best opportunity to spend extended time with the kids – that doesn’t need any explanation. But no matter how tired I am in the evening – and falling asleep in front of the TV is a far from uncommon occurrence – I love sitting down at my keyboard and writing about the things I like: the kids, TV, cycling, nostalgic stuff, whatever takes my fancy.
For me, firing up WordPress is like downing a double espresso laced with Red Bull while simultaneously injecting a shot of adrenaline. With everyone else in the house asleep, these solitary candlelit (okay, LED-lit) vigils can last four hours or more when I’m on a roll, to the extent that I frequently lose track of time.
I’m reminded of the words of mid-1990s one-hit wonders Gigolo Aunts, from their song Where I Find My Heaven (as used in the film Dumb & Dumber and as the theme tune for the BBC sitcom Game On):
And the lonesome hum that comes from my desk lamp is
Where I find my heaven
Why spend so much time – 12-15 hours a week is not atypical – and sacrifice so much sleep? It’s more than a hobby: it’s a labour of love. And despite the fact that I’m semi-permanently in need of a cup of strong coffee, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
When I was doing my part-time MBA several years ago, I remember being told how important it was to think of our lives as squares and to keep all four sides – work, study, family and self – in balance, and to ignore any one aspect is ultimately detrimental to the whole. Okay, I’m not studying any more but I have a busy job – and am in the process of switching to a new one – and my family takes up a lot of my spare time, but writing ensures there’s a little part of every week which is exclusively my own.
I try not to let my writing impinge too much on the other aspects of my life, but I do try to ensure I devote enough time to it to keep me energised and motivated. I genuinely believe everyone, no matter how busy, needs something like that to fall back on, whether it’s seeing friends or sport or writing or even train-spotting. Having a little ‘me-time’ isn’t being selfish – it’s necessary. Writing may not quite be a little personal slice of heaven, but it is certainly where I find a creative outlet into which I can pour my energy.
Also, it’s cheaper than spending every evening in the pub. That’s a good thing, right?