Balancing Act

Every year (sometimes several times a year) I take stock of what is going on in my life (or, at least, selected portions of it) and try to figure out what, if anything, I should do to ensure I keep writing.

Even when I consider stopping or switching languages1 for some reason, I try to reason it out in writing - often leading to a pernicious condition I refer to “recursive writer’s block”, in which I find myself unable to write about the reasons why I find myself unable to write.

This time, however, an ungainly mixture of stress and self-criticism brought to the fore enough material for me to use, and drafts are starting to pile up.

But completing drafts remains difficult of late, not just due to parenting and work and lack of stamina but also due to the tremendous difficulty I’m having re-focusing in general - and by that, I mean in several aspects in life.

Having finished reading The Shallows recently (which I heartily recommend, by the way), I’m loathe to ascribe any of my troubles maintaining an even halfway decent writing pace to the “twitterization” of the Internet - but am now more cognizant of the subtle traps that have curbed my progress.

My new job, despite being a vast improvement in terms of prospects and self-motivation when compared to my previous one, has turned out to be a sizable challenge in terms of personal involvement, at odds with family life (which is stressful enough on its own) and my general well-being. I will eventually adjust (and love the people I’m working with), but, as always, there are trade-offs.

I can’t go on about the positive bits (which might make this piece seem overly negative), so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they are there, but I can summarize their counterpoints in just two paragraphs:

I no longer enjoy the wide (if, admittedly, somewhat fanciful) vistas of the mobile industry from the inside, and despite the relief of not having to deal with the kind of slow-motion train wrecks that are going on at Nokia and RIM, I miss the hands-on involvement with equipment testing, but, most importantly of all, I miss daily contact with people from all over the world2.

Also, there is much to be said regarding cultural differences. Surprisingly enough, I find myself somewhat at odds with the Portuguese way of doing things - it’s certainly fluid, but falls somewhere in the middle between American directness and focus and Anglo-Saxon politeness and forethought. Middle grounds are always tricky to deal with and adjust to, and it’s taking an unforeseen toll, for I find myself being baited (and lowering myself to other folks’ level) rather often - as someone once wrote, dealing with either gentlemen or tramps inevitably rubs off on you.

Still, this is just a data point (and a sample taken during a particularly stressful period). Better days will surely come.

  1. People ask me, now and again, why I don’t write in Portuguese. There are currently two equally valid (and idempotent) answers: I see no point in catering to a niche (if steadily improving) readership and there is an immediacy to the various flavors of the English language that makes it easier for me to express myself with it. ↩︎

  2. Interestingly enough, my inbox has never been fuller, and I’m not talking about mailing-lists. Reflecting upon this fact, there seems to be a sizable hiatus between decision-making and concrete actions, which I’m also ascribing not just to cultural differences but to odd disconnections. I used to walk across the building when I got e-mail and deal with things personally, but I seem to have stopped doing that due to lack of stamina, which worries me somewhat. ↩︎