I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trade-offs. Part of this is the economy. It doesn’t take a CPA to understand that I can’t buy a new fall designer wardrobe and still pay my mortgage through the winter. Not that that’s a new situation. It isn’t. What’s floating around my head are lifestyle trade-offs that have little to do with money.
Two years ago my husband had an epiphany after spending time with some overweight male relatives. Unless he did something soon, he was destined for obesity and all the physical limitations and health issues that went with it. He quit eating starches, sweets and processed food. He also started cooking to assure he followed his new healthy eating style. He never called it a diet and still doesn’t. He lost sixty pounds and has kept it off because he thinks of food as fuel now. Once he got the mind-set, the trade-off of health versus margaritas and enchiladas was an easy choice. It took me a while to get with the program, but I finally saw the light and feel much better for the change in habits.
There are so many trade-offs that we make all the time, and those adjust as our priorities shift. All the hours per day spent on sports and exercise in my youth were worthwhile at the time, but now an hour at noon in the gym is all I want to spend. When I was young and single, wearing great clothes and traveling were important and I was happy to live in a rented townhouse or apartment—so unlike the wonderful home my designer husband has created for us. I have fewer acquaintances now but closer friends, and no longer tolerate relationships that wear me down. I'm more aware of the preciousness of time and deliberately choose how I want to spend it.
As writers we are constantly negotiating trade-offs. Pulled between family, friends, work and chores, setting writing as a priority means something else has to go. For authors lucky enough to be under contract, writing and work are the same thing. For those of us who have yet to publish, justifying the time and energy we put in can seem like a selfish trade-off to anyone who doesn’t share our passion. Staying inside on a lovely fall day to revise a manuscript that has already been rejected by 20 agents sounds crazy, and yet we do it because of our love of writing and determination to sell . A lot of people give up and who can blame them. Others of us keep working year after year, improving our craft while writing and rewriting--living half in the world and half in our heads. Perhaps that’s why writers need each other—to make our obsessions seem a little bit normal. Our writer friends understand the trade-offs—the price we pay and rich life we buy with it in return.