The following tip can be found in Living The Write Life, now available in digital and paperback format.
This tip focuses on balancing your writing life with your personal life. We are all people. Therefore, we ALL have personal lives aside from our writing—whether this involves spending time with our four children or our forty cats. Or it could even mean a quiet night at home alone, sitting by the fireplace.
As writers, we can be “tortured” (in a good way at times) by our writing. It can keep us from sleeping, eating, or even showering when we’d prefer to. It can also (though many times unintentionally) alienate our loved ones. Authors can go from one extreme to the other in their writing careers—putting it off for months at a time to handle personal matters, and then diving back into it for months at a time, neglecting those around them. It becomes a vicious cycle of guilt and shame that can affect both our personal relationships as well as our professional reputations … and not always in a good way.
I am as guilty as any other author in this matter. It takes time and practice to learn how to balance everything, and it’s an ever-changing process as life throws us curve balls. But I do what I can when I can, and that is all I can ask of myself. However, I have gotten better with each published book, learning from my past poor decisions. I’ve realized what my limitations are and how to capitalize on my strengths.
Here are 10 tips for balancing your writing life and personal obligations:
1. Learn to say “no” to some things. Don’t take on extra beta reading, editing, or blurb-writing tasks IF you don’t truly have time to devote to them. It doesn’t do you or the friend you are trying to help any good. Distractions can keep you from giving the project your best effort, and your relationship with those who want and need your attention may suffer.
2. Making an outline for your story and dividing it into sections is a great way to ensure you stay on track. This also allows you to skip around to work on whatever portion of the story you see fit at any given time, which eliminates the “writers block” or “getting stuck on one part” aspect of writing.
3. Get your household chores AND your writing done. This is not the same thing as multi-tasking because you will not be focusing on more than one task at a time. Since writing is actually my leisure activity, I “reward” myself with writing sessions. My house has to be cleaned up (eventually) because I have several people living here who need clean clothes and food once in a while (smile). Therefore, I will allow myself a set writing session time for each major task I complete. For instance, I won’t sit down to write until I get the bathroom cleaned or at least two loads of laundry done (my two least-favorite chores). Not only does this break my cleaning up into segments, it allows me to go back to my writing each time with new ideas and fresh eyes.
4. Give your full attention to whatever task you are working on at any given time. If you have set aside some time to write, close the door and ask not to be disturbed. Set a timer so your loved ones know when they will be able to interact with you again, instead of giving the constant response, “Just one more minute, honey. I’m almost done.”
5. On the same note, put your phone/computer/note pad away when you are with your loved ones. Let them know they have your undivided attention. Those emails and Twitter and Facebook notifications will still be there later.
6. Skip watching television or anything else unnecessary that can take the place of your writing time. If you are serious about writing, you don’t have time to waste. With that said, don’t give up things that relax you or give you a welcomed break. It’s not healthy to plant yourself in front of the computer for hours on end with no food, sleep, or at the very least, a good stretch on occasion. Your eyes will grow tired and your muscles will become sore. This is based on your own standards. If you know you really want (and need) to be writing, turn the unnecessary distractions away. This includes connections on social media. Don’t engage in them while writing unless you must.
7. Don’t be afraid to delegate some things. Not as far as your writing but obligations around the house. If you have older children who are capable of doing chores, assign tasks for them each week to help maintain the home. You can still oversee the major tasks (i.e. cleaning out the fridge, filing the bills, etc.) if you’re a control freak like me, but they are perfectly capable of helping out. Don’t feel guilty to the point that you make yourself responsible for everything in the home to “make up” for lost time because of your writing.
8. If you have people in your home (writing environment) who deserve your attention, you aren’t only ignoring them when you are writing. They also feel alienated when you are reading, engaging on social media, or even researching something online. Keep in mind, all these things still divert your attention away from them. Just because you aren’t technically “writing” doesn’t mean you aren’t ignoring or neglecting those who matter. Creating memories is just as important as creating the next great story.
9. Make the most of your time. If you have a little one taking a nap each day between 1P.M. and 3 P.M., don’t spend an hour of that time engaging on social media when you should be writing. Or, you can do that if your writing is caught up and you need to network or focus on marketing your books for a while. This is also a great time to work on scheduling blog posts. Try to get a week’s worth done at a time so you won’t be stressing out at the last minute, scrounging for a blog topic.
10. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat healthy, and do things that rejuvenate your body and spirit. You are no good to anyone if you are sick, exhausted, or cranky. Meditate, pray, take a long bath, or simply sit in your rocking chair on your back porch listening to the sounds of nature. As authors, our minds seem to always be “on.” Sometimes we need to quiet the voices inside our heads (and around us) and simply be. You might be surprised how many plot twists, solutions to problems, or story endings can arise from these quiet, non-trying moments.
I’ve offered ten ways to keep your writing life and personal life in check. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. But with practice and a bit of awareness, you too can live a fulfilled, balanced life as an author.
You can find these tips and more in my new video-blog segment on YouTube by clicking this link. Be sure to subscribe to my channel so you won’t miss one!
About Traci: Traci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of ten published titles, with contributions to three anthologies.
An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children's, romance, and nonfiction guides.
Her ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.
Traci is giving away two prizes at the end of her blog tour! They are: