I am a new author, under contract for my first novel to be published early in 2007. My publisher is interested in my second novel as well. I am a wife and mother to twin toddlers aged three. My question is this, how does one find their flow and balance between all of life’s obligations? I have reprioritized my responsibilities over and over to the point that I’ve become frustrated. What’s your advice on juggling life’s interruptions?
Harried in Halifax
Dear Harried in Halifax,
Oh, please, let’s talk about balance! One of the most difficult things for new writers, or established writers for that matter, is finding the balance between their writing lives and their regular lives.
New writers have all the normal day-to-day obligations that everybody else copes with. They may have a family or a job or, in your case, twin toddlers that demand a good deal of their time and attention. There’s also grocery shopping, meal preparation, bills to pay, gardens to weed, community events to volunteer at, homework to help with, and maybe a little social life, some exercise and some sleep to shoehorn in.
Established writers find their time eaten up by revision, edits, promotion, travel and teaching. Personally, I have all of the above. I have a family, a full time job, a writing career and volunteer work in the arts sector. My family still expects to be fed (can you believe it?) and to at least to be able to see the living room floor. And I’m one of those unfortunate souls who needs eight hours sleep a night, or else… Well, believe me, you don’t want to hear the “or else.”
What I’ve found works the best is turning writing into your primary “down time” activity. Whenever you’re not working, taking care of children, cooking, shopping, exercising or eating, put yourself in front of your computer. Don’t sit down to watch a sit com. Don’t pick up a book to read. Don’t call a friend or surf the net. Do something, anything, related to your latest manuscript. Write a new scene, revise an old scene, work on your synopsis, read a craft book. A little on-line research is okay, but don’t get distracted by interesting web sites. You can also use the time to read work from a critique partner or compose a query letter. The trick is to keep your mind focused on your writing career during all those moments of spare time. Pretty soon it becomes a habit. If you try to do something else, you get fidgety, and something feels wrong and out of place. You head for your computer, and suddenly everything feels right again.
A writer friend once called this the Eveready Bunny method. You just keep going and going and going. Eventually, you’re there!