Creating the Write/Life Balance
Whether you’re a full-time student, a stay-at-home parent, or work a “regular” nine to five job, it’s very difficult being a writer on top of all the things human beings are expected to do. Many writers—myself included—struggle to find the time to write when they have so many other tasks that require their attention. Here are a few tips to help you balance writing with your other daily tasks and ultimately get your book published sooner.
Treat Writing Like a Job
Almost every day I need to remind myself that I have two jobs. I’m a full-time SEO Analyst and I’m a writer. If I were to consider writing just a hobby, then I wouldn’t be in the right mindset to make it a priority. Personally, I’m a workaholic. If I know there is a task that needs to be done, I keep working until everything is done. This goes double for my “real world” job. I’m never satisfied enough to take a break until I’ve done a certain number of tasks.
We know that our “real” jobs are important—they give us a source of income so we can buy the things we need to survive. We also know the consequences of not working adequately. Screw off at work and see how long your boss keeps you around. Unless you’re traditionally published have deadlines to meet, you are your own boss and you must treat your writing as important. Set deadlines for yourself and stick to them.
Create a Schedule
There’s a great quote from Henry Rollins that sums up the importance of utilizing time: “No such thing as spare time, no such thing as free time, no such thing as down time. All you got is life time. Go.” Many people complain about not having enough time to write or do [insert task here]. I’m just as guilty as those people. You don’t just miraculously find more time in the day. We all have the same number of hours; it’s just a matter of utilizing them to our advantage. That’s why I recommend creating a schedule that includes uninterrupted writing time and actually sit down and write. Don’t scroll through Facebook, don’t answer every inconsequential text message you get, don’t get up a million times to get a snack. If you wouldn’t waste time on an activity at work, then don’t do it while you’re writing. This is a job, remember?
I make sure to write at least ever other day (I alternate with working out, which is another important aspect of my life). My old schedule allowed me to write for about one hour after work, usually between 6:30pm-7:30pm. Now that my fiance and I wake up at 4:15am and I work from home, my writing time is 7:00am-8:30am. Experiment and decide which hours work best for you. If you work in the afternoon, write in the morning. If you wake up early, try writing at night. If all you can squeeze in is a twenty-minute writing session on your lunch break, then do it! It’s about progress, not perfection.
Enlist Some Help and Guard Your Writing Time
The phone is ringing, the kids are screaming, your significant other can’t find their wallet, and all you want is your scheduled thirty-minute writing session. Have you even mentioned to anyone that you’re working and can’t be disturbed? So maybe this won’t work in every situation (if the oven is on fire, you should probably do something about it), but by telling others, “Hey, this is my writing time. Please don’t interrupt me,” you’d be surprised how many people respect it. I’m very fortunate to have a supportive partner who understands how important my writing is to me. Sure, he sometimes comes over and talks my ear off while I’m writing, but it doesn’t take long for him to realize I’m busy and to leave me alone. Having a few understanding allies in your corner can do wonders for getting more words on the page.
Leave Out Unnecessary Tasks
This goes along with the last tip. Life is hectic and we’re all busy, but really think about how you’re spending your time. Are you doing things that are useful and productive? How many times do you really need to look at Instagram in a day? Is a Netflix marathon going to get you any closer to publication? No.
I have a lot of chores I try to get done during the week. When we lived in San Diego, I had hardly any time for anything besides work, hurriedly eating meals, and short workouts and writing sessions on alternating days. I had to push all my other chores and errands to the weekend. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have a lot of “me time.” Luckily, I can now spread tasks out over the course of the week so I don’t overbook myself. There are things I do every day (like walking the dog and marketing work), but each day has one or two “larger tasks” that I used to ignore until the weekend came. For instance, on Mondays I vacuum and workout. On Tuesdays I write and make a home-cooked meal or schedule errands like going to the DMV. Wednesdays are for washing bedding and working out. You get the picture. By rearranging my schedule in a way that’s less hectic and leaving out mindless social media browsing, I assure that I have consistent writing time and I’m more productive overall.
Sometimes we have to admit it—there are other tasks more important than writing. Gasp! Did she just say that? Yes, I did. Because I’m a realist. This article isn’t about forgoing all your other responsibilities in favor of writing; it’s about finding balance. Unless you live alone and writing is your main source of income, odds are you have another job that must to come first. Or you could starve, if you don’t mind. If your kids are fighting and no one else is around to play referee, you need to address that. Wait…where are the kids? Oh crap, you didn’t pick them up from school, did you?
See what I mean? My dream is to one day make a comfortable income as a full-time writer, but that’s not my reality right now. Many other writers are in the same boat, and that’s okay. Really, it’s FINE. I recently watched a YouTube video in which a young lady was giving advice on how to make money working for yourself. One of her tips was to never have a Plan B, but instead focus all your time and energy on your dream. Okay, that sounds nice, but for many of us that's not only unrealistic, it’s potentially catastrophic. Yes, work every day to make your dream come true, but don’t forget the reality in which you live. Do what’s best for YOU, not what sounds dreamy and romantic.
Take Care of Yourself
Writing is hard work, and anyone who disagrees has probably never fought tooth and nail to publish a novel. If you have a hectic life and are juggling a million tasks, then give yourself permission to take time off from writing at least one day per week. Hell, take a few hours off from doing anything you “need” to do, if you can muster it.
More than once, I’ve been in the situation where the mere thought of opening my manuscript made my stomach clench with irritation. It was my body’s way of telling me I was being too hard on myself. I felt a sense of resentment towards my writing, as if its existence were an affront to my very being. Don’t ever work yourself so hard that you get to that point. We write because we love to do it. We write because we have a story that deserves to be told. I don’t ever want to overwork myself so much that I start to hate the very thing I spent most of my life enjoying.
This is advice that can transfer to any aspect of your life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you just can’t do it today, then don’t force it. Take a day off to read your favorite book and remember why you started writing in the first place. Go outside and sit in nature, ignoring the glare of screens. Visit a new museum or coffee shop or take a kickboxing class. Visit with a friend or family member. Honor your writer’s spirit by making sure you never feel as though it’s a burden. Once the feeling passes and you feel renewed, open your manuscript and get writing.