Roll for Initiative, Press A to Begin

The autumnal equinox is coming up on Friday, so we’ve decided to make this week’s theme about balance: specifically the balance in our lives between work, play, and writing.

This has definitely not always been an easy balance for me to find. While I was drafting From Unseen Fire, I was working full-time at my day job — a day job that often involved evening, early morning, and weekend hours in addition to the nine-to-five portion. For a few of those years, I was also working as an actress, which took up another night or two a week. I used to describe myself as having three careers and no social life, which was a glib way of covering for the fact that I was exhausted pretty much all of the time. Making the time for writing wasn’t always easy, and finding the energy for it was often even harder. After all, when I’d been sitting at a computer for eight hours at the day job, the last thing I wanted to do some days was stare at another screen. Or, if I’d been up on my feet teaching, all I wanted to do when I got home was lay down and take a nap.

I also found it challenging to switch gears from academic writing to creative writing. They call upon many of the same skills, but they’re very different beasts. I would catch myself writing dialogue with the sort of precise grammar that I had to use for my work publications, and then I had to tell myself, “No, Morris. That is not how human beings talk.” I started using video games as a buffer zone between the day job and writing. When I got home, I’d play Mario Kart for half an hour to an hour, or I’d spend a little time building a world in Civilization, and that helped shunt me from one mode into the other.

Games are a lot of how I relax, really. When I have friends in the same city, I love getting together to play board games on a regular basis, and I can pretty much never turn down a game of Cards Against Humanity. I’m often the one busting it out at conventions and parties, and my gentleman and I have even invented a two-person variant.

My tabletop gaming hobby is super important to me, too; for three years now, I’ve met with a group of friends to take on the Galactic Empire in Star Wars: Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion. This started out as a real-life game on an actual table, but one by one, we’ve all moved away from the town we started in (as, tragically, tends to happen with grown humans these days). So now we play via Google Hangouts. It’s not quite the same as being able to hug each other, pound the table, share pizza, and generally make a public nuisance of ourselves in the game shop, but it’s still incredibly valuable time for me. And we do still get back together when the new movies come out!

I’d be a prime candidate for MMORPGs, which is precisely why I’m not allowed to play them. Ever seen The Guild? That would be my life. Role-playing games of that sort are tremendously absorbing for me. Back in the days of AOL chat rooms and then LiveJournal, I was deep into text-based RPGs. It was a wonderful venue for improving my writing skills, actually — but I fear now, if I got that deep in, the imbalance would go off-kilter in the other direction and I’d never get any proper writing done!

How do you keep balance in your life? Any other gamers out there among our readers?

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Cass Morris lives and works in central Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

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