Recently, I rewatched one of my favorite 80s movies—The Karate Kid. Say what will, groan, roll your eyes, I don’t blame you. But I still love it. Surprisingly, the movie mostly holds up. That is, if you can ignore the very silly idea that someone can learn Karate simply by waxing cars and sanding floors. Or that someone can learn how to fight that well in such a short period of time. As somebody who once boxed, I can attest that nobody gets that good without lots of practice in the sparring ring.
Silliness aside, I want to talk about one aspect of the movie that I never understood as a kid. Or more specifically, that I just didn’t think about too much. It has to do with balance. Several times Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel that Karate is about balance. “Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home.”
Before we go on, let’s give a collective groan about how terrible those sentences read. Okay, now that’s over, let’s consider this exchange between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel:
Miyagi: You remember lesson about balance?
Miyagi: Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better.
Again, let’s ignore the dialect. Because when you get down to it, Mr. Miyagi’s statement is actually a truth. Life is about finding balance. But it wasn’t something I fully understood until after I started writing books for publication. Before, writing was always something I did, but it never had the power to overtake my life. No, that didn’t happen until after I was on contract. It didn’t happen all at once either, but slowly the writing started to take over everything. Or to be more accurate—I let the writing take over everything else.
In my fervor and fear and excitement about becoming a published writer, I slowly became obsessed with THE BOOK and everything related to it. I would compulsively check my email for news, check twitter for updates. I even, for a short time, googled my book to see if there were any new buzzy articles about it out there. Of course, I stopped that once the book was available to read. I have a firm policy against reading reviews, and I’m one of those writers who finds it easy to resist the temptation to look.
Nevertheless, I was still obsessive. Everything I wanted to talk about centered on my writing and publishing. All my daydreams were about what might happen. It was easy at this point to start letting other things in my life slide. Publishing is a lot of work. Prior to the release a debut author is overwhelmed with requests for interviews and guest posts. There are a hundred different things vying for your attention at once—all of them book related.
It soon became very easy for me to ignore other things in my life while I focused on the books. In no time at all my life was completely out-of-balance. I stopped exercising regularly; I substituted food for sleep; I wasn’t engaged at home with family. I even stopped horseback riding, which is my number hobby after writing. Basically, I let the pressure of publishing—both those imposed by deadlines but also those imposed by own expectations—consume everything else.
As a result, bad things happened. I won’t go into details because—yanno, personal—but just rest assured that I went through a very dark, dark period. And for those of you who might read Polaris, the sequel to Avalon coming out in January, you will get a good taste of this darkness and how it affected my writing. There are parts of that book that are very bleak indeed. I couldn’t help it. Because as much as writing (read: publishing) was a causal factor in my blues, writing was also the cure. It always is.
I’m only just now climbing out of that dark period to be honest. But the very best remedy was to remember that my love of writing is only about the writing itself. I don’t love the business side of it. I mean, who does? I enjoy meeting readers and doing book events, but the reason I write is because I love writing and story. And as soon as I remembered that, I found my life going back into balance again. I’m happier, healthier, and my creative life is flourishing.
So my point here is the same as Mr. Miyagi. If you’re a writer, either pro or still aspiring, find the balance now. And keep it. If you do, I promise, every time the publishing biz comes at you with fists raised (which it will—a lot, rejections, bad reviews, poor sales, and so on) you’ll be ready to knock it on its butt with your perfect crane technique kick.