Balancing Writing and everything else

Plate Spinning smallOne (of the many) areas that can make a writer struggle is the intolerable attempts at trying to balance your writing life with…well everything else. Those of us destined to be writers often find ourselves swamped by ideas, scenes, snippets of dialogue and sometimes a full-on deluge of thought-strands that desperately need to be woven together into a story.

Normally this would be great, a fun time had by all (with the occasion crying and screaming moments as happens with us creative types). However that pesky thing called “Life” tends to jam its way into our writing time (since we consider ALL time writing time) and there we stumble.

If you are a writer stressing about finding time, about finding that perfect balance, that method of juggling both writing and life with all its favours, then you are not alone!

Let’s take me as an example: I work full time in the next town over, so not only do I lose a load of hours every day to work but also commuting there and back. In fact commuting is so bad that if I leave 2mins late from work it costs me 20mins in travel time.

I am also in the middle of studying part time for a degree in Natural Science which is quite intense at times and takes a lot of my focus.

Add to that I decided a few years ago to follow another dream and start my own business. So I started a little online shop selling handmade jewellery, accessories and pottery pieces. Now running a business takes a lot of work – more than most people (me included) realise. Not only was I having to make things, there was listing items, pricing, buying supplies, conversing with customers, trips to the post office not to mention the dreaded Self-Assessment I need to complete every year.

On top of all this I have a house to run, chores that seem never ending, 4 cats that need to visit the vet for boosters (as well as the ones that need medication and special tests).

While I don’t have kids (thank the Gods!) I do have a family that often contact me from IT support requests, financial and pet advice to graphic design requests.

With all this (and we haven’t covered the fact I have to eat, sleep and (attempt) to do some form of exercise) you start to realise how much other things take up and we only have 24 hours in a day and a chunk of that is for sleeping.

Does any of this sound familiar?

When life flings itself at you, it can become easy to see everything else as more pressing and we sacrifice our writing. When some family crisis occurred a few years ago and has reared up a number of times, I had to shift my focus to that. Did my writing suffer? Yes. But it was necessary.

However there are times when it’s not necessary, sometimes we still put everything before our writing despite the fact that writing is our biggest joy.

If only I had the time….

I too have been guilty of this. Sulking in my own forlorn sense of despair, moaning that I need “more time” all the while squandering a lot of the free time I do have.

In the end if you want to write and you NEED to write then you will write. There will be times when you might have to step away, especially if something critical comes up. Once you get back on your feet, you find a routine that works amidst the chaos and stress you will be able to write.

I think the “if I only had time” mentality comes from a rigidity. If you have found time in the past to write loads, when that suddenly changes you find yourself stating you have “no time”. When I was a teenager, I would come home from school, straight upstairs and write until tea time. Then after tea I would write until my parents yelled at me to get off the damn computer and go to bed.

While I had responsibilities I didn’t have the same level that I do now. So when I got older and found I didn’t have time to write over a 1000 words a day I would assume I had “no time”.

The Balancing Act

There is a need for Work/Writing balance. There is also a need to understand that scribbling into a notepad or onto a pack of post-Its for 10mins is still something. It is still helping you keep the writing alive.

That is why all writers need to keep pads and pens with them, or Dictaphones or get an app on your smart phone that records a message and emails it to you. Just need something, anything that can trap those ideas and thoughts and character profiles down when they appear.

Tips:

  • If possible write every day – it can be for 2 hours or 2mins (remember it doesn’t have to be full scenes it can be questions, notes, scraps of ideas) It all helps
  • Try, and wherever possible, write at the same time every day. But don’t get hung up if you can’t manage that
  • Try different times – we all have optimal writing times (early mornings, late nights, lunchtime) If you aren’t aware of yours try different times to find it
  • Acknowledge what on your life to do list can be delegated to others in the house
  • Use your time wisely – are you spending x amount of time dicking about on social media? You don’t have to give it up, but allocate yourself 30mins to doing that (use a timer) then get up and go write.
  • Use dead time – I found this brilliant for getting more done. This is were you do tasks within tasks. For example – making a cup of tea? While the kettle boils, empty the dishwasher. Then when the teabag is stewing refill the dishwasher or put on a wash, or wipe down surfaces. On the phone to the gas company? Get yourself a cordless or a wireless headset and complete the dusting or laundry while you talk.
  • Keep a diary – make a note in your diary of what you managed to do. Doesn’t have to be detailed just “wrote important questions” or “mini scene written”. It can help to motivate you when you see what you have already done
  • Make a list of what needs to be done. Say you only have 10 mins a day to write. If you have lots of ideas use one of those 10min slots to write them down. Then during all the other 10min slots in that week you will already know what you need to write about – this will save you from staring angrily at a blank page trying to will the words to come
  • Make life easier – set reminders in your phone a few days before things like birthdays, anniversaries, when the car needs to be booked into the garage. That way you don’t have to remember this crap in your head – get the reminder and get out and buy a car, call the garage to book in the car etc. Get your bills paid via direct debit automatically etc. There are many ways to streamline things

Make do!

Wishing for more time won’t make it happen and trying to balance your life and your writing will only work if you make the damn effort. By that I mean figure out all the shit you have to do in your life and make sure your writing is in there.

We are all busy people and life does not stop so we writers can get our shit together. Carve out pieces of time to write and do it.

If you want to be a writer you will do this. Don’t worry, we all fall into this trap, we all get grouchy and fatigues and loathe the fact that every other person seems to have oodles more time than we do – but that’s bullshit, they don’t. Maybe they are just using it better.

Enjoy the little things

Be happy with what you have done. If it’s 10mins of writing be proud. It doesn’t always have to be hours and hours. Don’t get bogged down stressing about how much you want to get written, just do what you can.

Happy writing

Ari

(PHOTO: Plate spinning, purchased through DepositPhotos.com)

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