Making Your Life

I’m so sick.

I woke up this morning coughing, with an aching throat. I know, you don’t need to tell me. You’re not the first person to point out that I’m pushing myself too hard. But tomorrow is June 1st, and I have a project this summer. No, it’s not finishing the dissertation. It’s not even writing the YA novel, about which more later. It’s changing my life. And that’s a hard thing to do, so I’m pushing myself with the sort of relentlessness I often have, the willingness to drive myself hard, even make myself sick in pursuit of a goal. And this is the most important goal I’ve ever had, which is to make a life for myself that focuses on what I want to do, on my writing.

At the Fairyland party, I had a long talk with Kevin Wiley, who is S.J. Tucker’s partner, a singer and fire-spinner. He told me about a talk he gives called something like “Making Your Life” (although I’m not sure I have that exactly right). But it’s about the fact that we are told the sort of life we should live. We are told what we should want, what should matter to us. But we don’t have to accept that. We can step outside of it, choose our lives for ourselves. He said, you have to choose what actually matters to you. Does owning a nice house matter to you? Then work to own that nice house. But make sure it actually matters to you, that it’s not something you’ve simply been told you should want. I think his advice was both simple and powerful: choose what you want and then work to make it happen.

So I’ve been thinking about what I want in my life. The center of my life will always be my creative work. That’s what I and only I have control over. That’s what I will always do, what I will sacrifice for. But what surrounds that is the desire to be among people also doing creative work. Those are the people I love and admire, and I want to be with them. I want to work with them. And what surrounds that, imagine concentric circles here, is finding a place where all that can happen. A community, a home. Kevin said that when he and Sooj first met, she was working at a job that was making her sick: denying health insurance claims. And he asked her, what do you really want to do? And she said, I want to travel around the country playing music to my friends. I hope he doesn’t mind my paraphrasing him here. But this was an important conversation for me, because it made me think about what I really want to do. And watching people like Cat and Seanan and Mary create their lives made me think about that as well.

Of course, I have to do it in a way that doesn’t make me sick all the time. I can’t push myself quite so hard. But tomorrow is June 1st, and I think it’s going to get easier. Today, I started going through the books. I’m making piles of the books I’m keeping, piles of the books I’m giving away. I want a life in which I’m surrounded by the things I love, not burdened by the things I don’t. And going through stuff is the first step. What stuff do I really need and want, what have I simply accumulated over time? It can be hard to give up the barnacles that have encrusted your hull. But they slow you down in the water.

That’s all I want to write in this particular blog post. I need to lie down and rest so I have energy for this evening. And I want to post some thoughts later today on writing. But I also want to leave you with two videos.

The first is a video I found on YouTube of Kevin spinning fire to Sooj’s “In the Name of the Dance.”

The second is Sooj’s first music video, the very funny parody “Playing D&D,” which you, my nerdy readers, will hopefully appreciate as much as I do. (You don’t mind me calling you nerdy, do you? In my personal dictionary, it’s a term of high honor.)

And yes, I heard her play this at Wiscon. My tribe . . .

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5 Responses to Making Your Life

  1. Ms says:

    “Life is what happens while your busy making plans” J, lennon—Not only, but mostly the young are forever pushing forward into making dreams come true, like the seasons, it comes with the territory. The most significant thing you can do to preserve yourself while life happens, is to establish some regular centering practice (outside of your writing and day to day living. Something like meditation, yoga or tai chi would suffice. The key is to make it a daily practice (even for ten minutes, and do it no matter what else is going on. Morning first thing is optimal. Be well, recuperate, take it easy. All that is meant for you will come to you.

  2. You’re so right. And I’m trying to meditate every day, although I haven’t been very good this week, with the traveling. But I do need that in my life . . .

  3. This is something I’ve been realising over the past few years, on and off, most recently with postgrad. Every time a friend talked about their MA or PhD, I pined and wanted to be doing those things myself. So now I’m planning to go back to uni in 2012 (enough time to save a bit more money), and I feel so much better about the direction of my life.

  4. Alexa Duncan says:

    Hey, I think I spotted Phil Brucato in Sooj’s music video. How cool! My husband and I used to game with him when he lived in Asheville. Yay for nerdiness.

  5. Emily Gilman says:

    That’s some excellent spinning. (Reminder to self: find people to spin with, and/or move nearer to people who spin. And spin enough to make it worth getting fire poi, for heaven’s sake.)

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