I’m certainly not the first one to say this, but the older I get the more true it becomes: the key to everything is balance.
Happiness is the one everyone likes to refer to when talking about the importance of balance, right? I mean, that goes for everything in our own little worlds. “You need to find a work/life balance.” “You need to stop working so hard and do things you enjoy.” “You need to get off your lazy butt and go find a job.” If it was as easy as balancing work and life, then I think we’d have a lot less depression in our society. But no, it goes way, way deeper than that.
You’ve been told by sugar-laden breakfast cereal advertising since you were a kid to eat a well balance breakfast. What, exactly is supposed to balance out a giant bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, anyway? Maybe that’s why so many of my generation have turned to skipping breakfast, I mean, intermittent fasting, and seen fantastic results. We bought into the lie that something not good for us could be balanced out by other things that are good for us, and I think, ay, there’s the rub, because so many bad things seem like a good idea at the time. Probably why fashion changes so often, too.
The truth I’ve found is that you need to find balance in everything you do. In particular, you need to find balance between all the things in your life that are good for you, but are in competition with one another. It’s the age-old crisis, but instead of choosing between two irreconcilable goods, you must choose between a whole hell of a lot of them, and keep them all in check. Too much of a good thing can quickly become a very bad thing.
Let’s use a real world example. I like binge-watching television shows just as much as the next person. But in doing so, it severely limits the amount of other good things I can also do. I like having a clean house. I like cooking a good meal. I like exercising and feeling good about myself. These are all good things, but if I want to enjoy all of them, that means that I’m going to have to let Scott’s Tots play in the background while I go do other things, far in another room across the house so I can’t relive that cringe.
The same goes, I think, with successful writing. In the fantasy genre, there are some fantastically received books, and then there are some that fantastically flop. In particular, I have a theory that it happens most frequently when story and world building are too far out of balance. If you spend a thousand words every chapter telling me all about the ornateness of a character’s belt-buckles and the embroidery on their cloak, but it doesn’t add anything to the plot whatsoever, then we’re going to question how much longer the damn book is going to take, and if the payoff is really worth it.
The same is true if the book is just a series of events that really could have happened anywhere. So why is it a fantasy book at all, if the author isn’t going to capture our imagination and throw us into a living, breathing world? The same can be said about almost any genre, really.
So, in recent times I’ve become more and more cognizant about how everything needs to be just the right kind of balance between good things. I love my wife. I enjoy my job, and making money. I love writing my thoughts in this blog. I love writing my book, and creating the world it’s set in. I love watching my son grow and spending time with him. I love catching up with friends on games online when possible, and in person even more. And that’s just some of the stuff I like. But if something starts getting neglected or something starts taking up too much of my time, then I know that’s probably one of the reasons I have an uneasy feeling in my gut.
Or maybe it’s just because I did choose to rewatch Scott’s Tots when I should have been vacuuming the floors. Seriously, though. Ugh.