I’m in a unique position. I am a non-fiction writer by day, making a living writing and managing content projects. But I’m also a fiction writer by night. It’s my second job, if you will. Maybe one day it will be my only job, but that day has not arrived yet. So, I spend a lot of time writing.
Sometimes, that makes it hard to strike a balance between writing and having a life that doesn’t include writing. Don’t discount the value of that outside life, either.
It’s a requirement for writers to have experiences to draw upon for their writing. If you’re not doing something away from the computer, then all you have to write about is how blank the page looks, how the keyboard feels under your fingertips, and what your social media friends are posting.
I don’t have anything against social media. I probably participate in social media forums way more than I should. But life has to exist outside of that world. It has to exist outside the stories you put on the page. But finding that balance can be challenging. My schedule changes depending on my current workload, but for the last few weeks it’s been logging into work by 8:15 am. Working until 5:00-6:00 pm then taking a break until about 8:00 or 9:00 pm. After that, I often sit in front of the television and work until between midnight and 2:00 am.
Keep in mind, this is the current schedule and it includes both my fiction work – finalizing and producing A Biloxi Christmas and preparing Biloxi Sunrise for print – and my non-fiction work. I recently started a new project at work that includes a fairly heavy load of writing. So I’m putting in some long days, but I don’t do that all the time. When my schedule doesn’t include pressing deadlines that are not optional, I try to stop work in the afternoon around lunch time and take a couple of hours off. I also don’t work every if I’m not under the gun. But there are also a few things that I do to get away from the computer and away from the work. It’s like a sanity check.
- Take weekends off as often as possible. I know. Nearly every multi-million-dollar author out there says you have to write seven days a week if you want to be successful. I disagree. Maybe that’s the process that works for them, but if I write seven days a week, it only takes a few weeks to burn myself out. I need the weekend to recharge my batteries, stimulate my brain with other activities, and connect with friends and family. So, I take weekends off. Maybe weekends aren’t right for you, but I urge you to take a day or two each week off, no matter when that time falls. In my experience, if you give yourself a break, your writing will be better and will come easier.
- Have a hobby that’s not writing. The creativity that is required to be a writer can be draining so it would seem that finding some other creative endeavor to devote time to would only take away from the reserve that your writing draws from. I disagree. For me, I have a couple of other creative hobbies – I design and create jewelry and I shoot landscape and portrait photography. Both of these other hobbies give me a break from writing and allow me to exercise other creative muscles. It’s like exercising your whole body. You’re creative, and chances are you’re creative in more areas than one. Take some time to invest in those other passions. It will help balance your whole creative self.
- Treat your physical self well. I don’t mean go out and eat whatever you want or buy yourself all kinds of clothes and gadgets; I mean eat well, rest, exercise (even if it’s only a little), and generally take care of your physical well-being. It’s not healthy to reward your writing efforts with a whole bag of candy or to sit at your computer all the time without balancing that with some activity. I don’t mean you need to become a body builder or a vegetarian, but think about your health. It doesn’t do you, or anyone else, any good if you invest so much in your writing that you let your health deteriorate in the process.
- Attend to your spiritual well-being, too. It doesn’t matter what religion or spiritual bent you have. Practice it. Spirituality is about creating an internal balance. That internal balance is just as necessary as eating well, exercising, and resting enough. If your spiritual well-being – whether that’s a religion, spending time in nature, or something else – is neglected, your writing is going to suffer.
I could probably write pages and pages on finding the right balance, but I’ll stop here. Do you have any tips for finding the right level of balance in your writing life? Please share them below. I would really enjoy learning from you.