Anne B. Walsh - Do you believe in magic?

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Anne's Randomness

Writer at work

So today's blog topic, working with my usual weekday assignments, ought to be the Chronicles of Glenscar. But I've been heads-down in my sci-fi debut for the last several weeks, and haven't touched a Glenscar story since September. How am I supposed to write a blog post on something that I'm not currently working on?
Well, why don't I take some pieces from that universe, and the one I'm currently writing, and use them to talk about a common theme of mine: work, leisure, and the balance thereof? It was, perhaps, a stronger thread in A Widow in Waiting than it will be in Playing with Fire, but it'll still be there, and it's definitely important to Killdeer.
The last time I brought up this topic, I was informed that balancing work and leisure is a "first world problem", that a lot of the world has more trouble balancing work and sleep. While I can't disagree, I do think that most people who have both the time and the ability to read my writing would tend to fall into the first category.
Also, I don't care for the implication that my problems are unimportant because someone else has bigger ones. To come to the conclusion that my problems are manageable for this reason, and to do so on my own, is an important step in growing up, but simply gaining perspective won't make my troubles magically vanish.
So, having got that out of my system, back to topic. Most Regency/Georgian historicals, like the Chronicles of Glenscar, focus on the upper class, who considered work vulgar. But then, as Tom Sawyer observed, the difference between work and play is that work is what a body is obliged to do, while play is an activity of choice.
As the lives of people in the twenty-first century in developed countries become more assured, with less uncertainty around basic needs like good food, clean water, and safe shelter, we begin to have time to look around us and discover other needs and desires. We want to have fun, to enjoy ourselves. We want to be entertained.
There's nothing wrong with entertainment (I'd be in trouble if there was, since reading my stories certainly ranks as a leisure-time activity!), but both among the bon ton of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and among some monetarily prosperous people today, "not being bored" seems to have become the chief object of their lives.
What happens as we move further into the future, as we expand prosperity to more of the world, as more people have their basic needs satisfied and are able to spend more time seeking out fulfillment on a new level? Will the human race be able to hold onto its drive to achieve, or will "not being bored" become our new highest goal?
I don't know for sure, but I can guess, and Killdeer is partly based on those guesses. As anyone who's read "Music Hath Charms" from Cat Tales will remember, the entire reason Elspeth discovered the race called the Aelur in the first place was because she was bored, and decided to search through the starship's computer for new music!
Circling back to Glenscar, Eleanor, the titular Widow in Waiting, and Anthea in "Qui Sola Ambulat", faced similar dilemmas, based on the expectations of upper-class women in their day. Anthea laid it out clearly: "Marry for a home, stay with my relations, become a governess, or set up my own establishment. Four choices..."
Of those four choices, the outer two would be the most likely to result in the trouble of boredom, especially for a woman who was both spirited and intelligent, unable to content herself with endless parties. A married woman might have a household to run or children to raise, but often even that was expected to fall on her servants instead.
The inner options would usually come down on the other side of the balance. "Extra" females could be an economic drag on a family, so they ended up with the most thankless household tasks, and a governess was often paid a mediocre wage and dismissed from her position as soon as the last child had grown out of her care.
Unlike Anthea, Eleanor could have remained comfortably in her birth family's home, but her desire, like Anthea's, was to see that her efforts mattered, to use her life to achieve important, tangible goals. She found it, in this instance, by marrying Anthea's son John, and joining him in the life his parents began in the village of Glenscar.
Finding the happy medium, the "place between", where both work and leisure have their place and neither overwhelms the other, is something which has always interested me, and so I choose to have it be part of my characters' worlds as well. As a browser at my table at a con remarked, "Real-life lessons in fantasy. Fascinating."
So, having blathered on for quite a while, I think I'll stop and turn it over to you, O readers. Having leisure time is certainly a blessing, but like all blessings, can't it also be a curse in disguise? Where do you find your "place between"? And what is your favorite thing to do in your spare time, if and when said spare time happens?

2 Comments to Writer at work:

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Geoffrey on Friday, November 22, 2013 4:06 AM
As anyone who knows much about me knows, my favorite book in all the world is Jane Eyre, which touches on many of the themes mentioned here. To wit, Jane’s reason for leaving Lowood was that she was, essentially, tired of the mundane. Her only condition for departing was a position somewhere she could be productive and satisfy her daily needs. For Jane, boredom could be overcome with occupation, but happiness required conversation. Without Miss Temple’s company, she was no longer satisfied with her situation as a teacher. I often feel like Jane: relieving boredom is easy as falling down. Even activities I don’t enjoy will do that much. What I need, what I require, is thoughtful stimulation, that is, conversation. Work and fun, after all, need not be disparate things. Some people don’t know how to work: they do what they do for a paycheck, ready to slack should they feel they can get away with it. Other people don’t know how to have fun: their every activity must forward some goal or agenda. I think the happy medium isn’t finding a way to split time between the two, but to make the two become one. The dichotomy is, after all, only a matter of perception. As evidence, I offer an employment most people engage in eventually: that of raising a family. It is work, it is always work, but it is (or at least ought to be) enjoyable. Eventually, what is right and what what you want become the same thing (though should they be so for too long, perhaps it’s time to learn the phrase “conflict of interest”!) When the feeling of being trapped in a situation is overwhelming, might I suggest stopping? Whatever it was that insists on being done, cease that task. At least for a bit. It might be an employer with ever-present and critical demands. It could be family always insistent with perpetual chores to be done. Regardless, just take a breather, let it go for a second, figure out which things are really important, and see if failure really is all it’s cracked up to be. For the sake of mental health, procrastination is sometimes a good thing. But, please, for mercies sake, don’t spend more time avoiding a task than it would take to do it! And then, of course, the greatest curse of all is not having anything at all to do. When nothing is expected of me and no task wants to be done, and there is no work at all I can do, I die. Oh sure, I might hide in a book or movie or game for a bit, but these things can only distract me for so long (depending on how thought-provoking the particular thing is). Eventually, I need either people or work. And that is why I hate weekends. But this all begs one important question: How can Anne satisfy her needs by doing what she enjoys? Moreover, what can I do to increase her output of prose (the reading of which is one of the uses to which most of us enjoy putting our free time)? I have spent many hours puzzling over this problem to no avail. Tell me Anne, what can be done? Ah, but tomorrow I shall spend some leisure time attending The Slave of Duty. My baby sister is in the orchestra for her high school’s production and requires her family to attend. Not so much a chore, I think. I suspect that Pirates may also touch a bit on some of the themes of balance you’ve discussed, that is, what one must do versus what he wants to do.
Reply to comment
Anne on Monday, November 25, 2013 2:41 PM
I do enjoy Pirates (not a secret to ANYBODY who's read my fanfic). And as to how I can satisfy my needs... well, my present life isn't terribly bad at that. I could wish that my writing brought in enough income that I didn't need the day job, but the day job has its uses. What you can do is what you are already doing, that is, read my work and give me helpful feedback (honest and polite). I hope the show was good!

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