Thursday, August 19, 2010

Writing, Martial Arts, and Priorities

I mentioned earlier that I don't get a lot of writing time right now. (And what I do get is often done while I'm taking a break at work.) Oh, I could get more writing time if I wanted it - just as I could find more time to practice martial arts if I really wanted to - but I'm not willing to do the things I'd have to do in order to get that extra time. I like having a stable job that offers actual retirement; I like not worrying about whether we'll have enough money to make the car payment on time this month, or whether that will cut into our grocery money. Similarly, I like being married and I enjoy spending time with my wife. I like being part of our children's childhood, getting to know our boys and watching them grow up.

So it's fair to say that I'm not a published author because writing isn't important enough to me. The same goes for martial arts; I'm not as proficient as I could be because I haven't made it enough of a priority. The thing is, I'm okay with that. More: I'm proud of that. These things are important to me - important enough, at least, that I don't drop them entirely - but being involved in my family and providing a reliable source of income are more important. It is a matter of priorities - and those are mine.

I mention this because I occasionally run into the attitude that if you're not Sacrificing Everything For Your Art - be it writing, painting, Kung Fu, Golf, or whatever - then it somehow reflects badly on your value as a person. Not spending all my off-work hours on my chosen activity - or having a full time job that interferes with pursuing that activity - is a mark of laziness, of someone who prefers comfort over achievement. Is that really the sort of person you want to be? Lack of obsession is tantamount to lack of interest; if you aren't willing to pursue your goals with your whole heart, why even bother?

This is sort of understandable if you're the sort of person who has one single hobby which occupies the majority of your attention. That's not me, though - and it isn't most people I know, either. Most of us have a variety of interests, which are more or less important to us, and we spend a fair amount of time balancing our schedules to fit our priorities.

Here's the thing: I have a good marriage, and we're raising a good pair of boys. That's the goal that I'm pursuing with my whole heart. Having a stable job that pays decently isn't absolutely necessary to that, but it makes Being Married And Raising Children so much easier that it might as well be. Writing is still a priority - I don't think I could give it up if I wanted to - but it's a much lower priority. I can live with myself if I never get published, but if I screwed up my family...

Martial Arts are even lower priority. I still intend to go back to them, but right now that hobby is completely on hold. Maybe someday the boys will join me. (It's pretty easy to pictures us beating each other with sticks in the back yard...)

So: I'm not sacrificing my goals for comfort, or out of laziness; I'm not sabotaging myself out of fear or insecurity. I'm doing exactly what I think is important. It may not be what you think is important, or even what you think is cool, but that is not my problem.

I've been a lot more comfortable about being myself since I figured that out.


  1. In the age of gunpowder, you should give up the martial arts. The pen is mightier than the sword, anyway.

  2. Yes and no. I don't actually train for self-defense purposes; anything I learn that can be used that way is just a bonus. I'm actually a bladed-weapons enthusiast. I'm not in it for much of anything in the way of practical application; it's something I do because I enjoy it.

    There are situations where unarmed fighting is surprisingly useful, given the prevalence of guns, but let's face it: I essentially never get into those situations.

  3. You don't get in fights? You live in the most boring action movie, ever.

  4. Well, I used to get into swordfights... but that doesn't make for a very good movie when both opponents are wearing mesh masks that hide their features. I think that's why the networks never picked up the pilot.

    That, and somewhere I think I learned my martial arts wrong. I don't make the right sound effects. It's amazing how much that affects my audience-appeal.


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