Writing is hard. At the same time time, as a writer, writing is inevitable. While I love writing, I frequently wrestle with my muse and battle with self-discipline. Maybe I try too hard. Maybe I don’t try hard enough. I’m not always sure which is closer to the truth. Lately, there has been a lot of frustration, and an apparent lack of progress, an ongoing struggle to balance multiple projects along with the day to day business of life.
My intention in writing this post is to explore ideas of how I might do things differently, better. I’ve recently decided to try taking a step back to gain a bit of perspective on what it is exactly I’m trying to do. I’ve started making lists – I’m very good at making lists! The idea here is to reestablish a good foundation on which to move forward with my writing.
The first step in this process is to review where I am at this moment. There are four main areas in which I battle for balance. If I’m going to pursue my writing, I need to find a way to make it work alongside these other things.
1. Family and Friends
This one might be the hardest. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a daughter-in-law, an aunt, a neighbor, a friend. Each role comes complete with its own set of expectations and obligations. Some are more demanding than others.
As a mother – I suppose I should say, parent – balancing the needs of my children and the needs of self are sometimes more challenging than I can handle. I am not the perfect mother, I am no superwoman. And I’ll be the first to admit, I often fail at what should be some of the most basic tasks. Usually, it is my own needs and wants that go unaddressed.
When I made the decision a few years ago to relaunch my attempts at a writing career, I was a new mother. I now have three very busy little boys on the edge of all being school age. With each year as they grow, I gain a small measure of freedom. Still, they do need me, and I cannot escape their demands. Nor do I truly want to. They will be grown all too soon, and they will no longer be around.
So, while it may make pursuing my dream of being a published author a difficult journey in the short term, in the long run, spending time with my children will never be a waste.
I work full time outside the home. So besides my parenting and housekeeping responsibilities, I am obliged to be away from my home and away from my own pursuits for the majority of my day, five days every week. My time is not my own.
In today’s world, a steady, well-paying position is not something to be taken lightly. Especially one that provides generous benefits. Furthermore, my current position provides a sort of mental stimulation I don’t have in other parts of my life. It presents a challenge, an on-going puzzle of sorts, that I find satisfying.
The up-side to working away from home is the mandatory rest periods proscribed by the laws of my state. I have a fifteen minute break each morning and each afternoon I can use for my own purpose. I have an hour at lunch time, and I typically use this time for writing when I can. These rest periods are not something that motherhood allows.
3. Hobbies, Recreation and Other Activities (a.k.a. Television and other time wasters)
I enjoy a variety of creative endeavors. Besides writing, I like hand crafts such as counted cross-stitch and crochet. I spent a good deal of time (and no small fortune) in past years creating miniature teddy bears, stitched by hand. I love these activities, and once found great satisfaction in them. However, over the past year, I’ve come to the conclusion that I just can’t do it all. I’ve set aside the hand-crafts in favor of writing. For now.
Then there is television. Netflix is great, isn’t it? All the shows and movies you could ever want to watch without the annoying time-wasting commercials. The only problem is how easy it makes it to just keep watching. One episode leads right into the next, and the next, and so on. Besides, one of my characters is a serious Trekkie. Watching all those old episodes and movies, it’s research. Really.
Twitter and Facebook fall neatly into this category as well. As would Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads, and so many others I’ve not personally used. Even when it begins as legitimate “writing business” pursuits, it can quickly become a time trap, sucking in even the most diligent of users.
4. Legitimate writing-related pursuits
Even the business of writing itself can prove problematic. How is the business of writing a distraction? I have been writing stories for several years. I’ve gone through the motions of learning the art and business that is writing, spending a great deal of time reading books and anything else I could get my hands on that had anything to do with how to write. How to write novels, how to write short stories, how to sell a novel, how to edit, all about plot and characters and settings and so on.
More recently, I joined Twitter, started a blog and launched an author page on Facebook, all in an effort to build a platform for my writing. The writing community is vast and amazing, and I’ve barely tapped the potential resources of this online community.
Then there is the reading. Everyone says, to be a writer, you must read. There are books to be read, articles and stories, poems and biographies. All of this, legitimate writing-related pursuits. But they nonetheless take time away from the writing itself. It is proving difficult for me to find a balance for all these things.
There are distractions on all sides, and I am currently working on making a better plan for myself so that I can pursue my writing goals and still maintain some level of sanity. I know my struggles are not unique. I’m certainly not the only writer who has a family and a full-time job. My methods to date leave much to be desired. I am often exhausted, frazzled, and on the edge of burn-out.
It is my hope, however, that in sharing my struggles, and my efforts to overcome them, perhaps another writer will be encouraged to continue their own battle for balance. Or maybe someone has already found ways that work for them in rising above similar challenges. I would love to hear what has worked for you. Or even what hasn’t worked. What struggles do you experience? And how are you working to overcome them?