“I’m just knackered,” I say to MindReader. I am lolling on the sofa at ten o’clock on Friday night, my head resting on the cushion as I turn to look at him. “Not physically. Just – spent.”
“Yes,” MindReader says, with a sympathetic smile.
“There is no way – is there?” I pick at a bit of egg fried rice on my plate. “To do both easily. With work-life balance.”
“Maybe if you were a shit lawyer. Or only produced a novel every five years.” He reaches over for the remote and switches the television off. Benny comes bounding in from the garden, firm but fair: he would like his dinner now, please.
I stand and start squeezing a cat food pouch into his bowl. “Plenty of people have big careers and big hobbies,” I say over Benny’s shouts. “Marathon runners.”
“It’s like that success book you read, isn’t it,” MindReader says. “The sacrifice for you is time. Do you want to give up your limited time for these things?”
I look at him, envious, as I have been many times, of his clear thinking, his logic, his complete non-combative way of expressing himself. But, perhaps most of all, that he does not have this insatiable drive. He is happy as he is, with what he has.
“It’s not just that…” I say, trying to put it into words. “Not just a few evenings and most weekends spent writing. I can sacrifice that. It’s…”
I turn away from home and go and put the cat foot packet in the kitchen bin. He’s sitting in the same position when I return.
It is all the other things, I want to say. How easy that slippery slope really is. From not really turning my phone off to writing three evenings a week, not two, to routinely eating three meals a day at work. To getting the 11pm train three nights running
and taking a call on it. To writing a scene in which someone dies on a Saturday morning at 8am after a 60 hour week. To suddenly find myself unable to justify a bath, a bit of telly, a complete meal. It coincided with a bad work patch which I am still orientating myself after. I have resurfaced, but things feel changed. I can barely imagine – to be honest – being in my house at 8 o’clock at night let alone writing.
“You have no moderation,” MindReader says. I smile at that. We’ve had this discussion a lot. I do things 100% always or 100% never. I binge or abstain. My vices are (private, and) not interesting or dangerous. But nevertheless I am forced to put my phone downstairs on charge overnight because if I don’t I will stay up all night reading the internet because I don’t have a bit of my brain which says “enough!”.
“If I don’t do all I might do nothing, and stop…” I say. A work email comes on my phone in my pocket and I respond to it. “Same principle,” I say, catching MindReader’s eye.
“Is it worth it?” MindReader says. “To you?”
“I have to be a good lawyer and I have to write books. They are more important than the other things… Trivial things. Television.”
“Well then… Easy for me to say,” MindReader says, nodding towards the Candy Crush app that’s always open on his iPad. “But you have to accept that sacrifice.”
It’s easier after that. I get up early and write all day. I didn’t plan to have a Saturday, so I don’t miss it. I enjoy the writing. It is diametrically opposed to my week at work, just me and the quiet words, weaving emotions in my garden. And at the end of it – here, now – I’m another 2,000 words closer to home.