Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Personal Limitations: Marital Status Part 2

A life of singleness can often be lonely.

Sure, work consumes many hours every week. Church, volunteer work, and other social activities blacken your calendar. A close-knit family can fill a lot of holes. Friends are plentiful.

Still, there comes those quiet moments, the dead air that no one and nothing disrupts. At those times fiction, whether in the form of a well-worn book or a brand-new DVD, can provide much companionship.

Not that this is bad, for quiet moments can also create an unusually receptive heart. But at the same time, story can become a crutch or even an addiction, serving in the stead of flesh-and-blood relationships—especially romantic ones.

So how do you guard yourself from these substitution relationships?

No straight-forward answer exists, at least that I have found. Being a single—and a writer one at that—I struggle daily with the balance between reality and imagination. It’s so easy to say, “I have to get this novel read for a review,” or “I need to produce more words every day on my story.” Sometimes those claims are legit; sometimes, though, they serve to escape the reality of my position.

But in attempt to balance my life, I have found three things that help:

1. Monitor and limit the intake. I keep a log of how much time I spend watching television/movies every week. Even though no one else sees that record, the numbers themselves help keep me accountable as they climb. I have done similar things in the past to track how much time I spend reading and writing as well.

2. Chose reality over imaginary. Sometimes after a long day of work or when I’m under a deadline, the last thing I want to do is to crawl out of my hole to interact with people. However, I often find that taking the time to attend a guild meeting or see a friend is well worth the effort, refreshing my mind and spirit, and I’m glad I went afterward.

3. Avoid the sexually explicit. This rule helps me especially in the area of romance. While this can be difficult to maintain with current trends in media, I see no reason to spark a craving for what I cannot have; I have plenty of those longings as it is. Rather, I prefer books and movies that rely on suggestion, which allows me to fill in the blanks according to personal taste and experience. For example, a paragraph that I read over in a book without a second thought caused my married sister to blush and call me about this very intense scene that I’d “forgotten” to tell her about.

Do these suggestions solve all the dangers for everyone? No. That’s why this is personal limitations; everyone will have different tolerances and experiences. Nonetheless, they provide a good place to start.

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