Finding Balance – A Daily Task

In Christina Katz’s ezine, The Prosperous Writer, she writes on the 52 Qualities of just that – prosperous writers. This week, she focused on balance.

The word balance pops up everywhere these days — in posts (like this one from Allison Winn Scotch) about negotiating social networking around writing time and in essays (like Sayantani Dasgupta’s) about the plight of the mother-writer.

Balance, for me, equals writing longevity.

Sure, like many others, I juggle writing with parenthood, a day job, my marriage. Toss in time spent browsing Twitter, reading blogs, and thumbing through the pages of a good book. All of a sudden, I look up and see a cluster of balls suspended in the air, and I duck for cover.

In my eyes, juggling is organized chaos. Balance works more like a swinging pendulum.

At one end, I am stuck, not writing: there isn’t enough time, I don’t know what I want to say, I’ll never get published so what’s the point.

Sometimes the pendulum swings to the other end and drops me, head first, into writing. Like a maniac, stay up until the wee hours of the morning, punt on housework and sometimes dinner, ignore the phone because I am busy – writing.

At either end of the spectrum, I don’t function well. When I am not writing at all, I am miserable. When I am writing non-stop, I am self-indulgent and easily irritated when anyone or anything disrupts my flow. And, I am miserable.

What I have learned, is that balance is critical. Not only for my mental and emotional well-being, but for my writing career. If I am off balance, I am either on the verge of “quitting this whole business of writing” because I’ll never be good enough. Or, I am writing so hard that I am sucking the life out of my muse. Then I find myself on the verge of “quitting this whole business of writing” because I’ll never find the time I need to write well.

I love writing, and I need it. But, I also need times without writing to rejuvenate my creativity, to nurture the relationships with the people around me, and to remember what is important in life.

Finding that balance between life and writing is a daily pursuit.

Things that send the pendulum into high swing (and how I bring it back):

  1. Discouraging news about the publishing world or the writing life. I skim these articles or essays. Because, regardless of what’s happening in the publishing world, I love (and live) to write.
  2. Flat responses from friends or family when I talk about writing. Jody Hedlund wrote a great post about this the other day. Some people will just never understand the writing life. My best bet is to find safe people with whom to talk about writing, and plan coffee dates as often as possible.
  3. Forcing a story. Occasionally, I think I have to submit something to a particular place or literary magazine, because, well…they put a call out for submissions. I don’t want to miss my chance. But, that kind of motivation leads to manic writing — hovering over my laptop in a corner, looking like a feminized version of Mr. Hyde.

Things that keep the pendulum close to center:

  1. Posts from writers, like this one from Aimée Laine, that talk about keeping expectations and goals manageable. And, books like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, that suggest weekly artist’s dates: time away from your craft of choice (writing, painting, etc.) to rejuvenate, to refuel, and to return with fresh eyes and a fresh spirit.
  2. An email from an editor that says, Hey, we love your piece and we want to include it in our next issue. After reading that kind of email, I can take a break from writing and indulge in life’s goodness for a while. No, this doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but when it does, I definitely feel close to center.
  3. Trust in a Power greater than myself. Spirituality surrounds every writer. Whether you call it your muse, your genius, or God, something guides us. My job is to take the actions set in front of me: write when it’s time to write, play when it’s time to play, read when it’s time to read. I am not in charge of the results.

I am not in charge. Phew! If I remember that on a daily basis, balance is surprisingly easy to achieve.

What does balance look like to you?

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12 responses to “Finding Balance – A Daily Task

  1. I have so much I want to respond to, I don’t know where to start. In short, balance to me means challenging yet realistic goals. I’ve swung wildly between the two but am settling down the past year or two. (Great analogy with a pendulum.)

    Email from an editor – I agree – keeps you flying high for weeks, and longer, often popping into your mind unexpectedly bringing a grin to your face.

    Finally, thanks so much for pointing to Jody’s blog, I’ll go check it out. I’m very fortunate that I have an over-the-top supportive husband, but some of my extended family gives that soul-crushing response of disinterest and a hint of mockery.

    • Thanks for your comment, Cathryn. I like the “challenging yet realistic” goals. I am striving for those as well – goals that are manageable but still push me along. And, something about “hint of mockery” made me giggle…a laugh of Oh, yes, I’ve seen that face before….

  2. I can relate to this post all too well. For me the biggest struggle is balancing the promotional activity with writing. While I love social media, I have a tendency to get addicted. I have to be SO disciplined to keep that “cluster of balls suspended in air.”

    • Kirsten, It seems, these days, published authors are expected to take charge of their own PR more often than not, so I can imagine that those kinds of activities draw substantial amounts of time away from writing. It’s amazing to think about all the different facets of a writer’s life!

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment!

  3. What a great analogy, Christi! I like the idea that we need to keep the pendulum close to the center. It sure is hard to keep it there! But I like your ideas–especially finding encouragement through reading posts of other writers! Like this one! Thank you!

  4. Wow, Christi, do we share the same brain? I think and feel the exact same way you do about writing and swinging from one extreme to the other. Thank you for this very helpful post. I’ve got it bookmarked so I can remind myself the next time I’ve swung to one side (which will probably be in the next hour or so).

    • Amy, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m glad to hear my post was helpful, and we must run on the same plane of life — my pendulum swings wildly every other hour, too, sometimes!

      By the way, love the post on your blog about lessons from your dog and tenacity!

  5. Well that is exactly how I feel most of the time. I nodded my head the whole way through your post because I have just been learning about balance…without knowing that is what it was. 🙂
    Thanks so much for this post!

  6. Hi, thanks for this post, I feel very new to writing, just revealed my blog to family this week and friends, so I am glad to have found your blog. I will have good look around.

    Kelly x

    • Kelly, Thanks for stopping by! Writing is all about taking risks — good for you for sharing your “secret.” 🙂 I hope you find some other helpful posts here.

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