It has been my intention to write a long post about writing-life balance, but I have decided against that. Something as complex and variable as “life” can hardly be discussed in a single post. Instead, let me address the issue of priorities and efficiency.
How much of a Priority is Writing?
Writing is a priority for me, but it is not my highest priority.
As a Christian the expression and growth of my faith must take pole position. As a married man I must take proper care of my wife (which is a joy), by earning a wage and contributing to the home-work. Wanting healthy relationships, and personal sanity, also means giving time to family and friends not just spending my life putting words on a page.
Writing must be maintained as a priority however if it is to become more than a side-hobby or not be lost among other pursuits. To this end, I am trying to avoid the other recreational activities that I know will suck the hours out of my day.
I remember hearing a (highly successful) man I respect say,
Work-life balance isn’t about always having balance; but about having balance on-the-whole.
You might have periods when the writing fever takes you, hot and sweating into the cave of isolation. But that period will only last so long. You don’t have whole-of-life balance during that period, but when the fever lifts you regain balance by investing heavily in your other priorities.
In the same way, if your other responsibilities are being “taken care of” a short period of neglect is not disastrous. As a simplistic example: If I mow my lawns, a weekend or two of writing isn’t going to result in an overgrown yard. Be generous with your other priorities, and they in turn will be flexible when you need them to be.
As the good book says,
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
Be diligent in both making hay while the sun shines and taking care of the other things when the sun doesn’t shine.
Time is precious so it’s important that you are efficient with what you have. If I want an effective day of writing I must follow the pattern I know works. It starts with:
- Getting up at a reasonable hour (0830 at the latest),
- Eating a mid-sized breakfast, and finally
- Spending some time in personal devotions.
Reading that list, you might think I’m wasting a whole swag of time. If I’m not intending on going out on the day, why shower? Why shave? That’s time better spent writing, you might think but you’d be wrong. After 13 years of work my brain is hardwired that being dressed and shaved means “work time”. I find I can focus more when I have acquired the worker bee mindset.
I also know what not-to-do in the morning. I can’t watch TV, read the newspaper or browse through my “regular” blogs. If I watch TV my brain is dulled to a state where I just want to be spoon-fed entertainment all-day. If I start browsing, I find that time will evaporate and I’ll be wanting to go back for a “fix” or “update”. As a bit of a news junkie this can be a weakness for me – However, if I don’t know the day’s news I can’t be interested in it.
It also helps to know in advance what I am going to work on. If I can I will do some “recon” and decide what comes next at the end of my previous writing session, Doing so lets my brain think about that in the background and gives me clear goals for the day.
Make the most of the time you have. If I have only an hour there’s no point in trying to work on my novel. I can however proof-read it, work on a short story or blog post. I can puzzle away about plot problems / issues and try to solve them.
A day is wasted as a collection of wasted minutes. (me)
Make every minute count!