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?


The Compulsive Reader said...

Sometimes all the other stuff in life wins out before writing or working on the reviewing stuff, and I hate it because it's such an important part of my life. So I've learned to make every minute count...don't just sit staring off in space a few minutes here and there in between events, but read, or jot down a few paragraphs. I try to use my time wisely and plan ahead. This way I manage to do all the stuff I need to, and still have time for the reading and writing.

JKB said...

Okay, I agree with everything you said,,,except for the cylon comment. I do need to know who the last cylon is. LOL

But then again, I haven't even seen this season yet, as I'm in Germany. Evidently we can get it in October.

Kristen said...

I agree with your thoughts on finding balance. As much as you want to make writing the first priority, so many other demands from work and family and life can get in the way. I could certainly cut back on my weekly TV watching, but I found another plan that works for me. I decided to pick three things that I wanted to spend time on each week (other than family and day job) - such as writing, reading, and learning spanish. Then I set realistic time goals for each one - 6 hours of writing a week, 2 hours of reading, 1 hour of learning spanish. Then I track the time that I actually spend each week on these three things. I know that this quantitative approach isn't for everyone, but I like to see at the end of the week/month/year what I have accomplished over time. Some people measure in page numbers or word count, I just choose time increments. That is how I try to find balance.

Elizabeth Byler Younts said...

so many good tips and truths in here. writing might not ALWAYS be able to be the #1 priority but it should be a priority! :-) something i am still working on being a new mommy!

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I really like this post. It's a tough thing to find that balance, especially when you get on a roll. During the last year, I pretty much dropped everything to write two books (one was terrible, the other good) and ended up packing on thirty pounds because my day job is a desk job and writing is a desk job, so I was spending 90 percent of my day at a desk. Even eating moderately it's tough.

So this time, as I edit the aforementioned book and write another, I have to force myself to stop writing and go to the gym, go to the grocery store instead of ordering in, call my friends.

You're right about TV though. It was the first thing to go. I cancelled cable and haven't looked back. I think it's a must for every aspiring writing. Television is just a black hole for time.