Balancing Devotion

After watching Indie Game: The Movie I couldn't help but think of the Robert Louis Stevenson quote that Shawn Blanc used a few weeks ago:

Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things.

In the movie, the game designers and developers pour their lives into creating these games. At one point in the movie, the creator of Fez said he would literally kill himself if he were unable to finish and release it. Thankfully, he released Fez in 2012 to wide acclaim. Despite his success, his quote still bothers me. Suicide over a game?! I don't get it.

Matthew Smith of Zaarly, recently wrote for the Pastry Box Project:

Turn off your phone when you get home. Off. Don't just put it on the counter. Turn it off for a few hours at least each day. Why? So that you’re not always available to others. Be available to yourself. Be available to your family. Then at 8am when you turn your phone back on, you can be fully available and totally present.

Matthew is talking about disconnecting from the interewbs in order to recharge, and be a better son/father/daughter/wife/mother/roommate/friend/neighbor/whatever. I struggle with disconnecting, while I don't have the same intensity as suicide over a game, it's the same kind of devotion, and I know how easily it creeps in.

This all makes me wonder if it is possible to create something truly extraordinary without causing everything else to wither? In one of the most recent entries on The Pastry Box, Molly Holzschlag tries to answer this question.

Here’s some advice from the heart: There is nothing wrong with giving your life to an ideal. I have done it, and the rewards are rich— friends from all over the world, respect from my peers, to have traveled much of the earth and been made welcome upon it—that is the miraculous part of giving your work your all, it comes back. Just don’t let what happened to me happen to you—the work, the ideal takes over too young and for too long, and you could easily end up childless or without family, with little or no life structure or real measure of how to reconcile this elusive balance.

She acknowledges that to achieve something extraordinary you have to devote yourself to it. Her solution is to not devote yourself for so long that you are left with nothing. That's the trick.

I think there has to be a better way than planning to "wake up" before your 30s are gone. As I was writing this post yesterday, Jack McDade posted a short note that was exactly what I was trying to say. He wrote:

So how do you "switch off"? It's not hard when you have perspective. You just switch off. Boy does it feel great.

Hes got it. There isn't a secret way to achieve both a great product and a healthy life outside of it. I believe it's possible to do both, not keeping them in balance is just much easier. Keeping that balance is a constant struggle, it's a fight, it's learning how to say "no" at the right times, it's turning your phone off when you get home. Hell, merely going home at 5 or 6 helps the balance.

To keep it all in balance, you just have to do it.