A writing life is a very solitary venture. We spend our time in front of a computer screen or yellow pad, squeezing the words from the clutter in our brains. Time flies by without our noticing. Then, the muse comes and gives it all to us. Relief. But the dishes did not get washed today. . .
How do we keep our writing life in balance while in such a crazy writer’s world? Our solitary existence is also sedentary, so we are dealing with issues on all levels. I can tell you a few of the tricks I use to keep my real life in tune with my virtual life.
My Personal Life
Although it doesn’t work every day, I try to live by a flexible schedule so that things other than writing also get done.
First thing after breakfast, I exercise. My home is in a remote area, so I turn on my DVD player and follow an exercise routine. This can be Yoga or Walking with Leslie Sansone for me.
Not the most exciting part of my day, I admit, but the point is that I am moving, not sitting, and I do believe that a healthy mind is dependent upon a healthy body. My recommendation: MOVE in some way every day to improve your personal life as well as your writing life!
I also complete one home/farm chore each day that I would not ordinarily do on a daily basis. This chore can and should be minimal, for as you know, work will fill the time allotted for it.
Any chore takes away from my writing time, so I must plan to do the big chores on weekends. If I do just one little thing per day, my work load is greatly lightened over the course of a week. Plus, I don’t go nuts doing a four hour ugly chore!
My daily chores, such as dishes, dusting, etc., get grouped into one time slot, usually around dinner, and I just ignore everything until that time.
Almost without exception, I plan the weekend for my family, home, and fun. I edit and write 4.5 days per week, and that can be pretty intense, so I need that break to revitalize.
Probably one of the best parts of my personal life (other than my family) are the Border Collies that we have rescued.
Right now, we have 2 large males (60 pounds each) that keep me anchored. As anyone with dogs knows, the dog’s motto is “let the dog in. . .let the dog out. . .let the dog in. . . etc.” That alone keeps me moving.
Border Collies are an exceptional breed, and I admit, all of them are somewhat neurotic which makes our lives together interesting. These dogs usually sleep under my desk or by my side while I am working.
When I pace, they walk by my side, looking up worriedly, trying to help me through the word block. They are part of my writing life as well as personal life.
My Editing and Writing Life
I have regular clients for whom I produce writing and research materials. There are a number of good things about writing and researching for other people.
That type of work draws me out of my little world and makes me learn about new areas that I may have never heard of. In this part of my writing life, I welcome these challenges and really enjoy the work.
However, I must force myself every single day to write something for my projects, and this is probably the hardest thing that I do. It is so easy to accept an assignment from someone else and follow their ideas; it is much harder to walk down my own creative path in life.
The trick here is to have a plan. What am I trying to accomplish? And then, how do I get to that goal? Set realistic goals, then create simple steps to achieve those goals.
If projects are broken down into “do-able” portions, those projects are completed. The problem is when you look at an overall project without the step progression breakdown, you can be overwhelmed and never get started. Your writing life will stall.
Although initially trained as a writer, I have evolved over the past 40 years into a book editor as well. To be honest, I love “tidying up” the text, bringing the book through the process, and helping the author to communicate well with his readers.
Book editing is as intense as writing, but in another way. The important thing about book editing is consistency, so often I go through manuscripts multiple times to make sure everything is in agreement. Time and brain consuming. That’s another story, however.
Bring Your Writing Life into Balance
Here is a short list of this critical balancing act of your writing life and personal life for you to consider:
1. Stay in good health. Exercise, eat properly, add some type of meditation (religion, yoga, spirituality, etc.) to your daily routine. Remember, health is both physical and mental. Stay sharp.
2. Set some time aside each day for your home life. Do chores, interact with your family and friends, add entertainment or enjoyment to your day. Don’t ignore this vital part of your life—savor it.
3. Discipline yourself to write. Create projects and how you will complete them. Find freelance work. Write something every single day.
Your Future Writing Life
Writing can suck the soul out of you, if you let it, so you need to keep your entire life in balance. Writing is just a part of that life. I can promise you that if you do create balance in your entire life, your writing will also improve.