When Life Interrupts

We’ve posted a few times on this blog about work/life balance–and will, I imagine, post on that topic several more times, as negotiating that balance is part of life.

But sometimes the demands of life become so insistent that writing stops (temporarily). That’s certainly been the case for me. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that pregnancy complications led to the unexpectedly early delivery of my son about a week and a half ago.

Suddenly, my summer plans–balancing an online class, playing with my children, and writing in the evenings when I wasn’t working on class–came apart completely. In the days since then, the only writing I’ve done has been email updates to family and friends and essay critiques for students.

There’s a passage in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that I always find thought-provoking. In it, Lord Henry (the resident hedonist and Dorian’s early mentor) is talking with Dorian about Basil, their artist friend. Lord Henry says the following:

Basil, my dear boy, puts everything that is charming in him into his work. The consequence is that he has nothing left for life but his prejudices, his principles, and his common sense. The only artists I have ever known who are personally delightful are bad artists. Good artists exist simply in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are. A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realize.

In other words, Lord Henry argues that mediocre artists live fascinating lives, but that real artists live quite boring lives. Dorian, of course, agrees with Lord Henry, but I’m not sure that I do.

Here’s the thing: obviously, it’s possible to get so caught up in living life that you don’t make time for writing. But if you don’t live at least a little–if you don’t love people deeply, if you don’t find time to reach outside yourself, if you don’t experience the highs and lows that life has to offer–then you don’t have anything to give your writing.

So, instead of looking at this time as an interruption, I’m trying to see it instead as a gift. A chance to feel a little more, a chance to look at my life a little differently, and a chance to infuse my later writing with more depth and perspective.

What do you do when life interrupts your writing schedule?