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.
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?