I think, sometimes, about what John Fowles said when he was writing about his trajectory as a novelist: “I had been deliberately living in the wilderness; that is, doing work I could never really love, precisely because I was afraid I might fall in love with my work and then forever afterwards be one of those sad, faded myriads among the intelligentsia who have always had vague literary ambitions but have never quite made it.” Compared to most of my peers, I have had considerable time and space to do my real work. I've written a number of books and composed thousands of poems and essays. Since the age of six, I have been reading and reading and reading. At the same time, I like teaching, and I like editing, and I think I'm good at both of these jobs. To a certain extent, I disagree with Fowles: I think that my day jobs do feed my private work. For a writer, editing other people's work is like playing scales and etudes: technical practice, a way of staying sharp, but also an education in coming to terms with the necessities and confusions of another writer's individual style.
Still, it is service work, tending to another person's manuscript. Like teaching, the task is give, give, give; and as Fowles pointed out, it is easy to borrow that absorption as an excuse for giving up on one's own ambitions as an artist. Creation requires a deep selfishness--not at every moment of the day, not even at most moments. Nonetheless, the selfishness is imperative. Finding balance is a thin phrase for this ruthless juggling of time and attention, obligation and desperation, mine and yours, come here and go away.