Wednesday, May 6, 2015

ISWG: Balance

I find it hard to socialize and get writing done. Does anyone else have this experience? April was a month when I did a lot of socializing, a lot of nonwriting things, but I hardly worked on my book at all.

So, I should feel bad, but actually it's made me question the way I’ve always looked at writing.

See, I’ve somehow felt that the more time I put into my writing—-and if I’m a serious writer that should be every day or nearly every day—the better I’ll be. After all, it seems like a lot of writers are always talking about their daily word counts or how much sleep they’ve missed to write or how early or late they stay up.

I know it takes sacrifice. Believe me, I’ve sacrificed quite a bit already to learn and grow as a writer.

But my question is, what about life? A few years ago, I came across a blogpost where a writer was urging other writers to cut out all extraneous things out of your life in order to write more. Don’t volunteer at your kid’s school. Don’t bring a meal to your sick neighbor. Don’t go on that vacation.

I didn’t like that post and I still don’t. If I do nothing but write (and believe me, this has been my de facto many times), I find I have nothing to say. My dialogue is stilted. My characters are lifeless.

I didn’t actually work much on my book this month, but I heard stories from friends that might make their way into a book. I had moments with my niece that I’ll never forget. I got to see several wonderful films and laughed much. I even (gasp) read books outside my genre.

So, April has been a month of living life. I'd forgotten how much I've missed that. It’s also been a month where I’ve given myself a bit of grace. I was greatly inspired this month when I did research for a post on Jeanne Birdsall (author of the National Book Award book, THE PENDERWICKS). She writes for a couple hours a day late at night. This is after she’s spent the whole day puttering, walking her dogs and working in her garden.

I have to think that her dogs and her garden have something to do with how she writes later.

So, in honor of giving myself grace and trying to achieve a better balance with my life, I am revising my January goals.

1.      Instead of trying to work on three novels (revise 2, start a third), I am aiming to finish revisions on one (my MG set in Scotland).

2.      Instead of aiming to write almost every day, I’m going to aim for once or twice a week until the summer comes and I’m no longer working as many hours or teaching my kids.

How about you? How do you balance writing and life?


  1. Yes, yes, and yes! Actually, I almost write a post about this same subject. And I wouldn't have just mentioned social media socializing. Life has plenty of those opportunities/distractions, too, from dealing with life's responsibilities to just chatting with a friend. I've been struggling over the past three months with my blogging and social media (Twitter chats) schedule. I've missed a ton. This is the first time it's happened to me in my four years of blogging. Kind of bummed about it. I'm hoping to finish up my current project, start subbing, and then revamp my focus. BTW - I think you're goals are spot on!

  2. I think balance is the key. And if you have kids or a job, those are important and you may not be able to write as much. I don't think you should quit volunteering at school or anything so extreme. I write at home for my new job and I do limit my lunches out with friends, so I get my writing done, but I otherwise balance things. Sounds like you've got a good plan too.

  3. That is excellent advice! A good writer has experienced life. They say to be a good writer you must read and write, but you have to have something from which to draw upon. And that mean s living your life.

  4. Jenni, Amen! I confess that I guard my writing time a bit too much, but I've discovered that when I give of myself that the Lord is generous with me too. Grace is everything.

  5. I so agree with you, and I don't like that person's post, either! We might have to write, but we also have to LIVE. Like everything else, as you said, it's a balancing act. Sometimes social things become the priority; sometimes it's family; sometimes it's the annoying administration of daily details; and sometimes it's writing. I think we have to be adaptable, to constantly shift and re-balance. Haven't written in a while? Time to make time to write. Miss our friends? Time to make time to see them. It's difficult, but possible :)

  6. I'm afraid to let go of writing daily . . .almost superstitiously so. But what I have done to "give myself grace" as you said, is to accept a lower minimum. I still have to write, but it doesn't have to be 800 words on school days and 2000 on non school days (which is the pace I've been keeping all school year). I'm accepting 250-300 on school days, and 800 on nonschool days and enjoying more outdoor time with my kids and dog. It's good for my heart, mind, and soul. (Which makes for better writing).

  7. Don't go on vacation or take care of a needy neighbour - that's terrible advice. They might as well have said, don't be a nice person and you'll write so much more.

    In my mind, my writing comes first. If someone invites me out for a coffee in the middle of the day, I do have a pang of regret, but I usually go. My problem is I tend not to invite other people out as much as I could, but then I feel bad that I'm neglecting them.

    I don't think I'll ever get the balance completely right.

  8. Jennie,fortunately I have time alone and everyone else is out at work or school. So I have that quiet Me Time to get things done. If you have that solo time, that;s the time to write.

    Stephen Tremp
    IWSG Co-host

  9. Like Stephen, I have lots of solo time during the week. Unfortunately, I'm self-employed, which means a lot of my time has to go to that. But to cut out everything in your life just to write, or just to do anything, seems really out of balance.

  10. "I have to think that her dogs and her garden have something to do with how she writes later." YES!!! So true!

    When life keeps from writing, I try to be extra observant and collect all the details for writing later!

  11. Yes! This is an awesome post! And no, no, no, that blogger was completely wrong!!! We can't shut ourselves in or we miss out on what the world around us has to offer.
    I've struggled with finding this balance myself. And I find that my desire to be social or help out at my kids' schools or to be neighborly kind of ebbs and flows. Some weeks I'm like an old shut-in where I rarely leave my house and my laptop is my best friend, and other weeks I spend the days at the park with my three-year-old or with a group of friends planning a Cub Scout banquet. It just depends. But one thing is certain, you were right about living life helping to make you a better writer. I couldn't agree more!!!!

  12. I believe a balance is important...we have to get out around others to inspire us and give us great story ideas. But then we have to set time aside each day to write. I know writers who do the "100 words/100 days" challenge. They challenge themselves to write at least 100 words every day, without fail, without excuses for 100 days. If they break the chain, they have to start over again. 100 words isn't much at all and you often end up writing more, but you also find that you can do 100 words even if you're on vacation or life is crazy!

  13. My day job is very social, and I'm glad for that. If I had a quiet job and wrote in the evenings, then I wouldn't have good insight into real people and character building. I do watch movies and visit friends and family, although I say no to certain things so I can write.

  14. It's SO hard to balance life and writing sometimes. I have to admit, I'm still trying to figure out a good balance of both myself. I hope you can strike the right one!

  15. Lovely post--thanks for the inspiration! I happen to agree with you, but sometimes need a reminder. :)