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.
~ from Straits (Knopf, 2000).
When I saw this poem in Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s memoir, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Three Rivers Press, 2005), it prompted me to reassess the choices I have made in my own life.
For me, love and friends are absolute necessities. Without them, how and where would I find the heart to write? But have I ever made writing a priority to the total exclusion of either love or friends?
*Squirms in chair*
In order to excel at what you do, no matter what line of work you’re in, sacrifices have to be made. I get that. Yet it seems writers, in particular, sacrifice something every minute of every day.
Writing is lonely; when you’re doing it, you miss your friends, and opportunities to make new friends.
When you’re with your loved ones, you feel guilty because you should be writing. If you don’t feel guilty, you sometimes wonder whether you should.
There really is no such thing as a non-writing activity. Everything you do (eating, breathing, reading, walking) affects your work in one way or another. And what about that little voice in your head who keeps whispering, “procrastination”?
As for me, I’ve written way more than I’ve partied. So, where are the promised dividends? What’s missing from the equation are factors I can’t control, which is pretty much everything but the actual writing.
Maybe I need to work on redefining “dividends.”
I’ll never understand why, in order to write true to life, you have to remove yourself from it.
In future, please remind me not to read any more poems by Mr. Koch.
The Roundup today is at Author Amok, (thank god I’m not alone in my amokness). Check out the fine poems being shared today — that is, if you can afford to socialize.