You Want a Social Life, with Friends
By Kenneth Koch
You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What’s true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three. There isn’t time enough, my friends–
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends–
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and the Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day’s end?
Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.
I first read this poem a few years back, during my first visit to my alma mater in thirteen years. It was hanging outside an English professor’s office door, probably as a warning to all of the students who were trying to do all three.
It has preyed on my mind ever since. I kept asking myself if I was truly dedicated enough to my craft. Would I be accomplishing more with my writing if I was willing to make the real sacrifices? Is this how I should be living? The one writer I know personally who has an actual book deal certainly devotes more time to it than I do.
Last week finally gave me an answer:
I had been telling myself since I read the poem that “friends” and “social life” doesn’t refer to bi-weekly D&D games, or the occasional brunch. And that’s probably true. Still, the point of the poem remains: you have to choose your priorities.
This blog should not have sat idle for nearly a week while I struggled with one post. And my other blogs shouldn’t be lying fallow.
I’ve been treating this like a hobby. A much-loved hobby, but a hobby nonetheless. I work an hour or two in the morning and/or evening, when I get a bit of downtime at my day job, but for the most part, weekends are my days off.
This can’t be a hobby. Not if I ever want to make a life of it. It has to be a job. The weekends are not my days off; they’re when I get the real work done.
It’s not going to be easy. The primary compensation for living in New York – i.e., working your ass off just to pay rent – is living in New York. Going out and doing all of those wonderful things we have to do here. I don’t think I can give that up entirely; this place will kill you if you don’t remind yourself why you love it occasionally.
Still. Time to shake up my priorities and see what dividends that pays me.