This is by far one of my biggest challenges, and from reading the blogs of many writer friends, it’s a widespread dilemma. My list of “other responsibilities” is too long to share, and really, I don’t think they would be much different than anyone else’s out there. Here are few things I’m learning about balancing my writing with the rest of life.
1) A set writing schedule doesn’t work for me. I’m always curious about the writing schedules of other writers. It’s fun stuff. But as author Louise Hawes recently told the novel writers retreat group at Vermont College, it doesn’t matter. Each person designs their own process, and for me, with two little kids demanding much of my attention, I need to steal time at the computer. I used to carp about it, but now I’m used to the challenge of quickly slipping inside my characters’ heads and pounding out a sentence or two at a time before rushing off to make chocolate milk or tediously push the girlies on the swing set outside. (I actually use that brain-numbing time to think about what I’m going to write next. Come on Moms, you know what I’m talking about!)
2) Switch off the Guilt-o-Meter. Are there other things I could be doing instead of writing? Of course. I’m lucky to be working from home freelancing now, but there was a time when I worked a full-time job, had an itty bitty baby to tend to in the evenings, a house to clean, dinners to make, clothes to wash, etc. But I loved writing, and knew that after the babe was asleep, the most important thing to tend to was my dream of being published someday. Which leads me to my next point.
3) Dirty floors are okay. Don’t feel guilty. You’re not alone. You know all those perfect houses you see in magazines? Yeah, they don’t exist. Clean your floors next time you have writer’s block.
4) Come up for air once a week. Sunday is my day of rest, though oddly not for religious reasons. Just like any job, I need a break from my work and Sunday is laziest day of the week for my family. Laurie Halse Anderson recently advised in a keynote speech to dip into other art forms for a while to refresh your creativity. Very sage advice, and I would tweak that to say that anytime you rest from work you love, the idea of going back to it is exciting.
5) I’m more than just a writer. This is a huge part of who I am, but I’m so many other things, too. A wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. I need to nurture all those roles to make my other role, as “writer,” stronger.