The Balancing Act

As a writer, I’m reminded daily of the amount of discipline it takes to get those words on the page. It’s tough to carve out time to write each day. Frankly, it’s tough to carve out time to get a shower but it’s a priority for me so I do it. The same goes with writing–it’s a priority. But guess what? My family is my ultimate priority and in order to be a good wife and mother I need to take care of myself so that I have the physical, emotional, and mental strength to get through each day. And that’s where the balancing act comes into play.

I’ve read a lot about how in order to be a successful writer you have to deny yourself of many time-sucking activities. TV, Facebook, internet surfing–those are easy ones for me to see and I agree that usually they are time-wasters. But I have even heard a fellow writer go so far as to recommend limiting the amount of service you do outside of your home so you can have more time to write. Sports, music, art, crafts–all of these things must be eliminated so that you can make more time to pound out those words. One author even said that they can’t take time to read books because it cuts into the writing time. This example of not reading books I heard recently, and it was the wake-up call I needed to realize that not every author gives good advice. I’ve been questioning this kind of advice and continually asking myself what I personally need to do to find the writing balance in my life.

Lately, I’ve been praying for help to find the balance in my life to keep my family and myself happy and in tune with the Spirit. I’ve been given a few opportunities that have helped me gain a new perspective on the correct balance.

Writing is a creative process. You cannot draw water from an empty well. One thing I’ve learned is that sometimes I have to refill my well by participating in other creative avenues. I love music. I play the piano, sing, and compose, but it’s something that I have not been able to devote as much time to as I would like. The little time I had is now dedicated to teaching my two daughters piano and singing lessons. A couple months ago, my sister asked me to accompany her on the violin for a beautiful piece that had a strong and difficult accompaniment. It was the first time in years that I practiced on a regular basis. It felt wonderful. I remembered how much music re-energizes my soul.

This incident put me on a path to rethink my approach to writing. Rather than feeling like I had to deprive myself of every other thing I enjoyed, I questioned some of the advice I had heard. You see, I plan to write for the rest of my life and I’m hoping that I have a lot more life to live. I realized if I continued on the path of creative deprivation I’d embarked on, my spark would burn out.

I spend most of each day trying to keep my one-year-old son from getting another bruise/bump on his head, my three-year-old son from destroying everything in his path and sitting on his younger brother, and taking care of my two daughters. Right now we’re potty-training so that puts a whole new spin on life. The point is we’re all busy in whatever stage we are experiencing in our life. We should be busy because we wouldn’t want to be bored–I’m definitely not made that way.

Recently my husband asked me, “Have you ever wondered how it would be if you didn’t write, because you know it’s so hard to find the time and it’s so much work?”

I thought about it for a minute and I said, “I would probably just find something else to fill my time because that’s my personality.”

It was a good reminder. My personality is driven, goal-oriented, determined. I go after things with my whole heart. That means that I need to take extra care to keep the balance. I’ve made a decision to find more joy in my life. My family brings me joy. Writing brings me joy. So does baking homemade bread, gardening, crocheting, sewing, stamping, singing, running, and many more things. I’m changing my mindset from the deprivation mode to seeing all that I can enjoy when I am balanced.

I love spending time with my family and I struggle with actually being able to relax with them once in a while. My kids are always asking me to watch cartoons or a movie with them, and my standard answer is, “Sorry, I can’t.” There’s too much laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, and writing to be done. I can’t waste time watching a cartoon when I could be doing something else.

A few nights ago, I decided to put my new plan into action and I whipped up a batch of popcorn and watched, How the Grinch Stole Christmas with my entire family. I watched the whole thing and just sat there and did nothing except laugh and listen to my kids say, “Mom, watch this. It’s my favorite part!”

It felt great. I felt joy and balance. I’m not cured. I’m still frustrated because between changing sheets and wet clothes from potty training and all the other household stuff, my word count is suffering. But my brain is ticking through ideas for my story as I do laundry. Dialogue is flowing in between the fogged spaces as I rock my teething baby and I’m finding that when I do sit down to write the story is still there eagerly waiting for me.

How do you find the writing balance in your life? What could you do to improve your balance?

 

About Rachelle Christensen

I’m a mom of four cute kids—two girls and two boys. I have an amazing husband, three cats, and five chickens. My first novel was awarded Outstanding Book of the Year from the League of Utah Writers and was also a 2010 Whitney Finalist. My second suspense novel, CALLER ID, was released March 2012. I was born and raised in the rural farmlands of southern Idaho and I like to work over my tiny piece of field AKA garden each year. I love reading, running, singing and playing the piano. After graduating from Utah State University, my husband and I moved our family to Utah County. Visit my blog at www.rachellewrites.blogspot.com to learn more about upcoming books.
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6 Responses to The Balancing Act

  1. Jonathan Langford says:

    I think there’s a lot of variation among individuals in how best to keep that balance — and a lot of change over time for the same person. The most important thing is knowing what works for you. I agree, though, that approaches aimed at maximizing the total *amount* of time spent writing sometimes miss the boat. Yeah, there can’t be quality without quantity — but honest, a productive half-hour can often yield more lasting output than a low-quality half-day.

    So how do I keep a balance? I’m still trying to figure that out. One thing I think is important, though, is to obey the little nagging thoughts. You know, the ones that say “You really ought to spend just a few minutes writing right now.” Times I wake up with headaches are also especially valuable. (No, I’m not saying that makes it worth it to have a headache, but at least it gives me something to distract from the pain…) And don’t hold back out of fear. Exhaustion, other priorities — those are good reasons. Fear, not so much.

  2. Marianne Hales Harding says:

    Oh my goodness, I absolutely could have written this post! This is my current (lifelong) struggle. I also work flexible hours for an online university from home so I’m constantly juggling mom duties and work duties of one sort or another (plus I’m a single mom of very young kids so I know if *I* don’t do the dishes *nobody’s* going to do the dishes). For me it’s a matter of remembering that time is finite and finding creative ways to multi-task.

    Recently I took a crazy trip that I booked based on amazing airfare that my friend found for me. Once I had booked the nonrefundable plane ticket there were a million other expenses associated with the trip. When all was said and done the trip cost considerably more than it was worth to me (in terms of percentage of my salary spent!!!!). If I had been presented with the total bill when making the decision to go on the trip I would have said it was too expensive for me to do but once I had purchased that plane ticket I couldn’t back out.

    Daily time-sucks are the same way. I inherited a 5 minute gene. That’s where you think to yourself, “Well, as long as I’m doing X, I’ll just take 5 minutes and do Y as well…” or “Of course I can do that for you, it’ll just take 5 minutes…” or “I can stop on my way, it’ll just take 5 minutes.” It doesn’t take 5 minutes. It never takes 5 minutes. (Checking my email obviously didn’t take 5 minutes because I followed a link to a blog post about something I feel strongly about!) I feel like I am constantly barraged with things or people who want this Fake Five Minutes from me. I have to remind myself all the time what the true cost of these things are and only choose to do the things that are really worth the percentage of my life that they take. I actually made a list of the things that make demands on my time and crossed out with a giant red X the things I have decided to say no to. I have this posted in my office so the next time the PTA calls I can remember that I’m not doing PTA this year. I am too busy for PTA.

    But I agree that you can’t cut out everything in favor of working/writing because you won’t have anything to draw from. Something that helps me is having a laptop and having various computer-free jobs I can do. I can sit with my kids and watch a movie even when I’m on deadline because I have a laptop. I don’t get anxious sitting in the hall until my girls fall asleep because I have my Gospel Doctrine Lesson that I need to be working on. Making each minute count!

  3. Susan Corpany says:

    I am an empty nester, so I don’t find myself juggling what a young mother does. My biggest problem is fighting my own self, my tendency to procrastinate, my inability to be as disciplined as I would like to be. For me what works is getting some momentum to what I am writing. Then it calls out to me and I find a way to fit it in around the other stuff. I have been trying to allocate specific time in the morning to checking email, time wasting games, etc., and some time again in the evening, to detox. I think the best way to get more writing time would be to get a cleaning lady. So I write stuff so I can sell stuff so I can someday afford the cleaning lady.

  4. Jonathan–I totally agree about utilizing time for peak performance. You can get so much done in 30 minutes when you feel good. Thanks for the reminder.

    Marianne–Kudos to you for all you do! I loved what you said about the fake five minutes. That is going to stick in my head and help me to continue prioritizing!

    Susan–You are too funny. I think the cleaning lady sounds wonderful–send her over. :)

  5. Love this post! Thank you Rachelle. I agree with you about not always taking other writers’ advice. I’ve heard many times that writing has to be the first priority but my family, church, and serving others will always come first. I am happiest when I have a good writing schedule (write for two hours while the baby naps and his brothers are in school) but as a mom that is not always possible.
    I’m proud of you for recognizing that you need balance and implementing your plan. The best advice I have: Savor what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Enjoy each moment with your cute family and when you get to the writing, make it count and Be grateful you’re blessed with that talent. Good luck!

  6. Get rid of stuff. The less stuff I have, the less time I need to clean it, rearrange it, find it, lose it again, and (hopefully) find it so I can put it away. (Easier said than done, and I still have too much stuff, but I’m gradually sending it out the door.) It’s not just little kids who take time. Big kids want to talk. Husbands can’t find things. Sometimes I write at the kitchen table because then I can get a few minutes writing in between “Mom”-ses.
    Bless all you writers. You need it.

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