Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On the Work/Life Balance

Recently, my fiance JP also blogged about the work/life balance.  Since I've been struggling with the whole balance issue myself recently, I thought I'd blog about it.
I think JP brings up a lot of good points, one of them being:
My other thought is that you need to take the time you need to get things done right. And that means that sometimes writing needs to win out, and that means sometimes the Day Job or other things need to win out. The trick is to keep one from pushing other off the face of the map, particularly writing. Too many people let the stress of life be an excuse not to write, myself included. Conversely, though, you shouldn't let the drive to write add more stress to an already stressful period.
 As JP points out in his post, there are a lot of people who will say that if you truly love writing, if you truly are a writer, then you'll find the time to write.  No matter what.  You'll sacrifice everything else before you'll sacrifice writing.  But I think that is unreasonable when you've also got other things going on in life: day job, raising kids, moving, a budding relationship, etc.  It's just a fact of life that sometimes, other things will have to come first.
Conversely, I hear from a ton of writers who never put writing first.  Family, job, cleaning the house, volunteer work, exercise, cooking, etc. always comes first.  This is also unreasonable if you want to be a professional writer.
We all know that a writer writes -- it's the bottom line of the profession.  How that happens?  That's the difficulty.  And yeah, it's going to take sacrifice.  If you want to sell a book, I don't think you can just throw writing on at the end of your priorities and have that be enough.  Just the opposite, I think that it has to come first (and has to come first a lot).  That's why I'll be eating a frozen dinner tonight.  And tomorrow night.  And every night this week -- because it takes a lot of time to cook and that's time I could be writing.  That's why our house is often messy -- because we write rather than clean.  That's why our garden isn't winning us any awards in our neighborhood.
We had to prioritize.  One of the first things to go -- most TV shows.  Did I *really* need to know who the last Cylon was right when the rest of the world found out (or has it even been revealed yet)?  Nope, that's what Netflix is for.  Do I *really* have to see the million different shows about planning a wedding?  Nope, that's what eloping is for (just kidding mom!).  Even when I go online and find myself following comment trails on blogs and message boards I ask myself: do I really need to spend time doing this?
And sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes other things must take priority.  Yes, JP and I take the time to walk the dog and spend time together.  We take the time for our day jobs because we happen to like our house.  But we looked at what could go, and we cut it.  I do think often that's the investment writing to go pro requires.
But you know, the thing is, sometimes life just gets in the way.  You meet someone new.  You get buried at work.  Sometimes, even though it's a big priority, writing just has to get bumped down for your own sanity.  For me, the key is then to ENJOY that time not writing.  I think of it like dieting, if you're going to eat that tres leches cake, enjoy it!  Don't sneak it in, pretend you're not eating it -- no! sit there and savor it!  Same thing with time off -- admit that you're taking time off.  Live with the decision, and don't beat yourself up.  But also acknowledge that taking that time might mean extending personal deadlines -- again, you have to make that decision knowingly and honestly and then live with it!
In the end, remember that you're going to mess up.  We're human, it happens.  Sometimes the alarm will go off at 5:30 and you'll jump out of bed ready to write.  Sometimes you'll keep hitting snooze until your fiance rips the clock cord out of the wall.  I think it's a constant struggle and it constantly needs tweaking.  Bottom line, I think you just have to be honest with yourself.  It's way too easy to fritter away time rather than being conscious about the choices you're making.
All that being said... I have some pages to write :)  What are y'all's thoughts on the work/life balance?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Clean house, clean mind

Since this blog is all about procrastination, I thought I'd talk about it some more.  In college, my favorite form of procrastination was cleaning.  And I'm generally not a huge fan of cleaning.  And I'm also really really messy.  I try not to be messy, but inertia tends to lead me in that direction.  I think part of my problem is that I like stuff and form stupid superstitious attachments to things easily.  For example, from cleaning out my apartment FIVE years after college:  "Oh, that's the shirt I wore for my ninth grade school picture, I can't get rid of THAT!"

So, as you can imagine, there's clutter.  Thinking back to this room yesterday afternoon:  I still had Christmas cards on display.  I had a calendar on the wall from 2007 (but it has pics of my niece and nephews which I love).  Old phonebooks - check!  Magazines (bridal, Publishers Weekly, Romance Writers Report).  In this room alone were four computers!  And for some reason, a burned out lightbulb in a basket.  With dog toys.  And pens, half of which don't work.  And PILES of mail.

As you can see, clutter.  Even when I get into a mood to throw away, I always have some stupid reason to hang onto things (what if the power goes out and we need the energy company number and can't find the most recent phone book?  Maybe if I scribble enough I can make some of these pens work...etc).

I realized that for the last few weeks, it's been more difficult to write.  Then yesterday, JP and I spent all afternoon cleaning and THROWING AWAY CLUTTER.  Our hurby curby is full!  And suddenly... I'm writing more.

My mom used to say, clean house, clean mind (I think she said that, at least).  I thought it was just a trick to make me clean my room.  But now I think she's right.  Not only was cleaning a great way to procrastinate writing papers in college, it put everything else around me in order so I wasn't distracted.  Sitting here now, with the mountain of mail gone, dog toys put away, a broken piece of furniture moved out, I feel lighter.  We still have a way to go, but the bookcase is in order, the floors are clear, and I can see the top of our huntboard.  JP and I were even able to eat dinner and play Scrabble on the dining room table!

Plus, it feels good to have accomplished a goal that's been hanging on my back for a while.  It's like, if I can clear things away in life, I can clear them away in my head.  

So that's one of my procrastination techniques.  Oddly, it's a circular game because when I don't want to clean I procrastinate by.... writing.  Go figure!  What are some of your favorite procrastination techniques?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Manuscript Maven Jamboree!

A little note to say that the Manuscript Mavens are having our first Anniversary Jamboree! There are prizes, books, and answers to those questions everyone has always wondered! So pop on over and check it out!
Today's question asks what's the best Halloween costume you've worn? Ironically, I was just home this weekend scanning in pictures and I happened to scan in one from Halloween my first year of law school. I was a Bond girl... wish I could remember my Bond name.... and for some reason Blogger is being mean and won't let me post the picture so you'll have to go HERE to my LJ to see it. 
Suggested Bond names welcome in the comments :)  So head over to the Maven site and let me know -- what's your favorite Halloween costume?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Author Photo - the results

Hello world!  Insert obligatory apology for not posting more.  You know it's been a while when your mother reminds you to post on your blog so she knows what's going on in your life.  Mayhap I should call home a little more often....

Recently I posted about getting author photos taken... well, here are two of the ones I really liked.  I have to admit, the photographer did a fantastic job -- everyone did.  It was fun to feel like a superstar for a few hours with people slowing their cars down to wonder who the chick was and why people would be taking her picture.  I had tons of pics to choose from, but I think I like these two the best.  What do you think?

We just got back from our annual treck to the beach for the Fourth of July.  Growing up, my family used to go spend the summer at my grandparent's house on Cape Cod.  I have amazing memories of these summers.  Even though they all tumble together into one happy blur of sailing, sitting on rocks watching the sunset, the generic car, Crystal Lake (yes, that was the name of the lake) and more memories than I could ever list here, they're all how I think of "summer."  

Going to JP's family's house at the beach reminds me of those times.  It's something about how laid back it all feels, about the layers of history you feel in every aspect of life there, and about the smell of a house near the ocean that doesn't always run the air conditioner.  There's just that same sense of pace to it all - nothing exists outside of that house and its world.

This time, it was interesting to stand on the dock and look down at the tide filling the marsh and take a snapshot of life how it is now.  This time last year I was revising The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  I was looking for a new day job.  I wasn't yet engaged (though to us that was just a technicality).  This year I've signed with an agent, sold a book, started to get feedback on that book from readers, gotten engaged.  Next year... who knows?  JP and I should hopefully be married (if we get around to planning the wedding), my book will be out, the book I'm writing now should be finished and hopefully I'll be writing a third.

I think it's nice to take stock of things every now and again.  It's so easy to head-down and plow through life -- looking towards the weekend or waiting for ARCs or wondering about things off in the future -- that we fail to think about where we are now.  Where we've come from and where we're going.  It's crazy how much things can change in a year!