Have you ever tried to balance an egg on a spoon while walking? No, not recently? It's quite difficult, actually, because the faster you move, the more that egg wants to wobble and fall off the spoon and go kersplat. Lately, I feel kinda like that egg. Cracked and scrambled.
You see, a writing life is all about the art of keeping in balance. When I am fully immersed in writing, whether it be that I'm facing a deadline or I just have chunks of story that I must download from my brain, other stuff suffers. Dishes build up in the sink. Laundry forms small mountain ranges and I start to hear calls from upstairs like, "Mom, how come I have no clean jeans?" and "Where are all my socks?" To-do lists are formed but nothing gets checked off. Groceries dwindle and meal options become the stuff in the back of the freezer or take-out. And when I shift the focus to straightening up the house so the Board of Health doesn't come a-knockin', the writing suffers. I resent spending the day in my car running errands and scrubbing counters and having whole days, sometimes weeks, away from my writing attending to the minutiae of life. Yes, it all has to get done too, but I always feel like I've wasted my precious writing time when everyone is out of the house on the mundane instead of using it to work. And then, of course, there's family and friends. There's nothing more important than that, and I never want to shortchange anyone there from getting what they need either.
And even when I am writing, there's a fine balance in time management between doing the research I need to do, reading books and watching movies that are similar to what I'm writing, both to see what people are doing well with the idea and to make sure not to duplicate content, and actually writing. On top of that is attending workshops and seminars, which, of course take time away from all of that, and sometimes leave me feeling selfish for stealing 48 hours for myself to hone my craft.
So how do you balance it all? Some days, I can't. But for the most part, I try and create a schedule I can live with. I commit to a writing week of Monday thru Thursday from 8:30-2. I allow myself Friday as my designated day to do errands or meet up with friends or family, or make doctor's appointments, etc. Then I won't feel guilty as I have already written for four days. If I have nothing that needs doing, I will give myself the treat of writing on Friday as well. I commit to stop writing once my kids walk in the door so that I can be fully present for my family from that point on. While my daughter does her evening reading for school, I often curl up on the couch and read along with her and treat that as my reading time. I try and keep weekends as family time whenever possible, but if it plays out that everyone is caught up in their own projects, this is when I will critique other friends' work, do some research, or maybe a little more reading. And if there's ever a day where the words just won't flow, I try and channel it into a research day so at least I feel like I did something in service of my writing.
And some days, that all falls apart. I'm human.
Like anything, unless we keep things in equal measure and moderation, an excess of anything is unhealthy. Tipping the scale in favor of any one of those things means something else will inevitably suffer. Obviously, family is the priority first and foremost, but my family is also incredibly supportive of what I do and knows that sometimes I need to take time away from "our time" to do my work.
Don't beat yourself up if you're having a rough time keeping all the balls in the air. Start by making a list of what you want to achieve, then create a reasonable schedule for yourself to allow time to get a little done each day. A little is better than none, right? And eventually this schedule will become your "routine" and you will find yourself maximizing your productivity. If you feel like your egg is tipping off the spoon, try and see where you are giving more energy. Unless it's family, or unless it's deadline driven, allow yourself to take it down a notch. So turn yourself from a fried egg into a sunny-side up one! Yuk yuk! (Or should I say yolk yolk!) Oh my GOD that was such a bad joke, but I kinda left myself wide open, didn't I?
Okay, go change that load of laundry before you type that next chapter!!