Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This morning I arrived at my first appointment, only to realize that I'd forgotten my:

  • watch
  • cell phone
  • wallet
  • water bottle
  • lunch

Also, before all of you start jumping up and down, telling me that it is not, in fact, Monday - I know.  It's Tuesday.  But, this week, Tuesday is my Monday because I cancelled work yesterday to write.  This, not all the things I forgot today, is actually what I want to talk about: 

balancing serious writing with a Real Job (not to mention a family, social life, and hobbies)

It's a lot like riding a unicycle on a tightrope while eating extra-tough beef jerky and twirling a baton.  Okay okay.  I know it's not THAT bad, but sometimes it really can get difficult for us non-(or pre-)career writers to keep it all straight.  You know what I'm talking about.

scenario 1: you wake up Monday morning with a head full of inspiration and ABSOLUTELY NO TIME to write because it's time to go to work.  ...that was me yesterday.  I caved. :)

scenario 2: all of your friends want to go out to dinner or have a party but all you want to do is see what happened to your MC in the scene where they meet the villain for the first time.

scenario 3: you finally make it to the weekend - no extra Real Job work hanging around, no plans with friends, no mom on the phone...but you have absolutely no writing motivation whatsoever.  

All of these have happened to me one time or another.  If they've happened to you too (or other similar ones...like three kids jumping on your bed while you're finishing up the final chapter and what have you) please read on for some words of wisdom from a totally unwise amateur!  What could be more useful!?  :)

Here are some things to remember:
  • Creativity, like chilli, takes time.  Sometimes you think you have a burning idea that has to be Put On Paper This Instant, but really if you let the idea simmer throughout your workday (or friends' party or phonecall with mom), it comes out with an even more delicious flavor.
  • You can't force it.  But you can try.  When you DO have time to write, but aren't feeling the Muse right then, don't give up.  Write.  Write about something else.  Write a book report.  Write down your grocery list and then describe each of the items on it if you have to.  Challenge yourself to write the worst short story ever.  Write whatever you can, just write.  You'll feel more accomplished that way, even if you didn't do any work on your WIP that day.
  • Real Life is what writing is all about.  If you spend all your time writing, thinking about writing, or wishing you were writing, what on earth will you write about?  Writing?  I should win an award for saying "write" the most times in one sentence.  haha.
  • Whatever is trying to distract you from writing is probably also awesome! :)  Make a list about why you love your Real Job (or whatever distracts YOU from writing).  You'll appreciate it more.  See my list here.
  • Sometimes it's alright to give in.  If you really need to write, call in sick, hire a babysitter, turn your phone off, and just do it.  I'm not sure this last one is the best advice...but since I ditched work yesterday to write, I'm going to pretend it's legit.  Otherwise I'll suffer from a brain wrenching case of cognitive dissonance and I'm not up for that. :)
How do you guys balance your writing with real life?

1 comment:

  1. Haha I'm trying to decide which scenario applies to me the most, but I think you've captured all three in equal parts.

    I don't know if you've ever done NaNoWriMo (I've tried, and failed miserably), but the guy who invented it also wrote a really handy book called 'No Plot? No Problem!' which I frequently turn to when I need a little pep talk for myself. One of his greatest tips is, 'busy people get things done.' I guess a lot of people cancel everything during NaNoWriMo to WRITE!!! and then fail miserably. I think that corresponds really well with your point on Real Life! Not only do I manage my time better when I have real life stuff going on, but it sparks a lot of ideas, and when I actually do budget the time to sit down and write, I'm pretty sure I will be productive. That being said, I've definitely called in sick to work on more than one occasion this summer :-)

    I think the biggest way I keep balance is by telling myself that it's not a race. I don't need to find an agent next week or publish by next month. Giving myself permission to just enjoy writing and be patient while untangling my story takes a lot of pressure/stress out of the process!


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