Saturday, April 27, 2013

GAME DAY; or, Why It's Important For Writers to Do Something Besides Writing

So today I get to relive a part of the high school experience and play with fellow high school alumni in the 4th Annual Dolores Evans Alumni Basketball Tournament. None of the players on my team actually played with ME because they're all several years younger than I, but they were all junior high players when I was a senior, so it's cool to play with the guys who may (or may not have) looked up to me when they were younger. 

In any case, it promises a good time. I've gotten back into decent shape, we have a solid team, we're guaranteed at least three games, and not only will I play with guys from my high school, I'll be able to reconnect with lots of players I played against in high school. 

Because ironically enough, basketball in our area is like the horror writing community - it's a community, a fraternity in which pretty much everyone knows everyone else, and it's always a pleasure to run into and play with guys we knew "back in the day."

Also, I've found that after all these years, basketball is once again playing a very important part in my life. See, I thought about four years ago that my basketball days were over. Not because I was too old or out of shape or couldn't play anymore, but I was just too busy writing, had too many deadlines, too many projects I wanted to turn my attention to, and I just couldn't take the time to play basketball once or twice or week.

Other things played a factor, of course - parenthood, graduate studies, an increasing workload at school - but still, I believed that I'd reached a crucial juncture in my life. While growing up, writing was a hobby, a secret pastime, something I doodled in a notebook now and then, and basketball was the focus of all my free time. Now, writing was my focus and my time on the court had come to an end. After four years of high school and four years of college basketball and then almost thirteen years of recreational basketball, it was time to hang up the sneakers.

BUT, I discovered two things that pulled me back into the game. One, it's MUCH harder to keep in shape when I'm not playing basketball. I lifted weights and tried to run regularly to replace basketball, but found I couldn't sustain a regular commitment to running. For me, basketball once a week still proved to be the best way to stay in shape.

Maybe more importantly, however, I realized that I needed SOMETHING to distract me from writing occasionally. In other words, I needed a regular hobby to give me a break from my...hobby. Now, I'm still in the "toddler" stages of a "writing career" - if I can even call it a career. But even so, writing every single day for two hours, then writing during my lunch at school, then writing before bed, attending conventions whenever I can afford to, reading submissions as a slush reader....

I need a break. 

I need something NOT writing to help me continue  WRITING, to help me recharge and push forward.

Also, within any community there's always lots of a drama. And it's fair to say, the horror community is no exception. And we writers are quirky folks. Antisocial, withdrawn, introverted with limited conversational inclinations outside our skill set (or maybe that's just me), and because of that, we tend to gravitate towards folks like us - other writers. I'm no exception. And it's only natural - a writing career is something I've literally dreamed of my whole life. Attending Cons, enjoying fellowship with my peers, hanging on every word of the statesmen of the genre is not only a dream come true....

It's addicting. The temptation to dive right in and flee "normal life" entirely is overwhelming. These are writers - horror and spec fic writers - and, in a way, they understand you in ways that other folks DON'T, and never can. So there's an increasing urge to only hang out with writers, only talk with writers, to let yourself get swallowed whole by the beast...all too willingly. 

In fact, I've come to believe it's a good thing that we have no Cons close to me, and that some of my best writing friends are nearly three + hours away....because if they lived closer to me, the temptation to chuck everything and everyone else and just hang with them would be nearly irresistible.

I've seen a lot happen in the horror genre the past few years, a lot of drama that's caused a lot people I respect and admire a lot of pain. And none of that stuff comes attached to writing ITSELF. In fact, author Matthew Warner recently posted a great blog about the necessity of writing AND living a normal, healthy life, and I totally agree. 

It's that same concept, actually, that's led me back to basketball...because I need it, my life needs it, and, ironically, my WRITING needs it. I need something NORMAL to do, something that isn't writing, for my writing to be the best it can be.

I hope I'm not being melodramatic. I mean, let's face facts: I'm not a full-time writer facing mounds of stressful deadlines, I'm not making my living by writing, and most of my deadlines are still self-imposed. I don't exactly have publishers knocking down my door. I could "quit" writing tomorrow (yeah, right. Like that'll happen) and it wouldn't impact our finances one iota.

But I believe that, for writing to have any hope of becoming something BIGGER in my life, I need basketball to occasionally distract myself from it, to force myself to actually go out among OTHER PEOPLE, to socialize occasionally, and break free from the hermitage down in my basement office.  

And ironically, I think that makes me a healthier writer, which in turn I believe will help my productivity, and my "career" - if indeed I will have one - down the road.


I still have a pretty sweet "J" from the wing....