This is a weird time for many of us. So many people find themselves out of work – more than most of us can remember during our lifetimes. And yet, some businesses have been booming and working harder than ever.
Work and life are a constant balancing act for most adults. For writers in particular it can be hard to separate the emotion and exhaustion that comes from creating and building new worlds from our regular everyday lives with family and friends.
What is Work Life Balance?
Most of the people I know, including myself, strive to have a good work life balance.
In simple terms this means that while we recognize the need for and value hard work, we also equally value spending time with the important people in our lives. It also means that we value spending time doing things just for ourselves – the much popularized (an absolutely necessary) idea of self-care.
A healthy work life balance means that our lives aren’t consumed by work, but rather, we try to work in a way that supports the lives we want to have. For writers and creatives, work life balance becomes a little more tricky simply because of the fact that it’s not usually a traditional 9-5 Monday to Friday gig.
Why do we Crave Work Life Balance?
Balancing work and life is by no means a new idea. But, there have been a growing number of discussions about it as workplaces change to meet new digital world needs and flex for workers who are more concerned with balance than just making decent money (which we also want).
What’s the big deal about work life balance? Why do we crave it so much? And why is it important to writers and creators who aren’t typically at the office 8-9 hours a day?
We Want to Really Live, Not Trudge Through Survival
In a world where almost half of people under 35 have “side hustles,” everyone wants the opportunity to enjoy what they’re doing. We don’t want to work multiple jobs to be comfortable!
Although we can survive that, and some people continue doing this throughout their entire lives, the idea of work life balance allows us the hope that someday we will do something we like that we don’t have to work 50+ hours a week doing.
Even when we are doing what we love as writers, it can be all encompassing if we let it. Working remotely as a writer can be just as many hours, if not more, than a traditional job, simply by virtue of the fact that we feel more comfortable at home or in a coffee shop. So we keep going, even when our bodies and minds get weary.
There comes a point where we have to be able to take days off and know that won’t mean we have to be late on a utility bill – we need balance.
We Love What We Do, but We Love our Family & Friends, Too
Writing is a pretty solitary activity. I wrote about it before (find that here). This is because for most writers to have focus, they have to have a relatively calm and specific setting to be productive enough to get things done. Much like people walking up to you in an office to start a friendly conversation, having family members chatting you up while you’re trying to work isn’t really conducive to productivity.
But we love our people! We want to spend time with them and enjoy them. As much as we love writing, there is more to life than just that one activity. The idea of work life balance gives us a chance to do what we love, but then also have a separate time to spend time with loved ones and friends. It can’t be an all or nothing scenario, and it shouldn’t be.
Sometimes We Just Need a Break!
This is a reminder mostly for those of us who are workaholics or struggle with constantly overworking yourselves. HUMANS NEED BREAKS. We can’t always be working, just like we can’t always be in vacation-mode. That’s the beauty of balance – it allows for both.
We need to be intentional about taking time to breath and vacation (or staycation). It’s good for our writing, and it’s good for us as people. By the way, this is also me! I am a workhorse, and as my husband politely doesn’t point out, I always seem to be working. We achievers struggle with this, especially when our work is also a hobby in other aspects. It’s a hard line that we have to draw.
Why is Writing Hard to Balance with Work & Personal Life?
While it’s great to fantasize about having a balanced life, this isn’t always a walk in the park to achieve, right? How many times have you told yourself you’re leaving work early to spend a long weekend with your family and looked at the clock to realize it’s already 5:30 pm.
Or said that you’re just going to write down one scene “real quick” and all the sudden it’s 2 or 3 hours later and you look away from your writing in a confused daze not even really remembering what day it is.
There are several reasons that writing is particularly hard to create a work & personal life balance with:
Writing is Emotional
If you haven’t cried or gotten irrationally angry when you’re writing, you will at some point. Whether we’re creating new characters and scenes or working through hard conversations, writing is emotional.
A lot of writing reflects the human spirit, which means you’re literally looking human-ness in the face and somehow getting it onto the paper. It’s not a quick pivot to write a heart-wrenching scene and then leave your home office to go have a pleasant dinner with your family.
Writing Takes Time
Everything takes time, but as most people who regularly write will tell you, writing almost always takes longer than you think it will. This is time away from other hobbies, family, friends, and a job if you don’t write full time.
Writing isn’t really something people can do for 5 minutes here and there. While you can get some excellent stuff done with timed writing (if you haven’t tried, you totally should!), at some point you will have to sit down with all of these little snippets and put them together.
Writing is Isolating
Even for those of us who cherish alone time (maybe even more so after the pandemic lockdown), writing is isolating. Most projects aren’t collaborative, at least not during the initial writing of the project & we feel that when we write regularly.
My husband pointed out that I was in the office for 5 hours one day this week and he was right! It was a long time. I got a lot of work done, but I do spend a lot of my time by myself when I batch my writing out in longer chunks.
Creativity is Kind of Like a Wild Animal
Most of us can’t just call on our creativity to help us write when we do have time or are stuck. We can’t call it on the phone and tell it, “Hey, I need an idea, whatcha got for me today?”
While this would be great, inspiration and creativity sometimes hit at the most inconvenient of times, which isn’t great when we’re trying to balance our lives. I regularly get novel inspiration while I’m taking a shower right before bed and then I frantically try to get all the info down onto a piece of paper. Typically that leads to late nights.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just wake up with that idea instead?
No Strategy is One Size Fits All
Every person is unique. You can read all the blogs and books in the world, but ultimately each person has to decide what balance looks like in their lives. For someone with multiple children, their balance will look different than mine with my husband and two dogs. And mine will look different from someone who is single and writing full time for a living.
We can give (and receive) all the advice in the world, but ultimately there is no one size fits all solution, which makes it tricky to work on balancing our lives.
From Tiffany: if you’re considering writing a blog, check out the reasons why these 15 bloggers do it!
These 3 Strategies are Invaluable in Maintaining a Work Life Balance
It’s only kind of funny that right after I say one size doesn’t fit all that I’m giving you strategies, right? I don’t pretend to be a time management or work life balance expert.
I am a writer who has been balancing a full time work life, writing, and a family life for years, though. It’s not always easy, in fact, it took a long time for me to be okay with moving my calendar to accommodate unexpected things – I’m a major planner. My inner critic is also a bit of a jerk, so it often expects way too much from one person.
These 3 strategies have, honest to goodness, been a lifesaver for me. There’s so much narrative and rhetoric around what it means to be a writer and what writers should be doing that it’s easy to get lost in what you can actually do.
So here’s what works for me:
Write One Scene at a Time
When I work on my novel, I write one scene, maybe two if I’m really feeling it, at a time. I don’t aim to get a huge portion done at a time. The most I typically write, if it’s a long scene, is 10 pages in a day. I also don’t work on my novel every single day. Instead, I shoot for one solid section per week.
I know that there are a TON of recommendations for daily word count goals. And while I’m sure that works for some people, all it does is stress me out! Sometimes it’s all I’ve got in me to write the 2-3 page blurb of dialogue that just popped into my head. I should also probably note here that I don’t write linearly, meaning, I am not writing my book in chronological order of events. I write pieces and then I weave the related scenes together when they’re all complete.
If you’re struggling with balancing, try setting smaller goals. A section a week. Or maybe 5-10 pages for the week. You can still be consistent, but without the daily added stress of feeling like your writing is another obligation that is pressing down on you.
Write When No One Else is Awake
I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I’ve written half my novel when my husband is either not home or asleep. I will sometimes sit in bed at night and just write with a pen in my journal.
It helps that I tend to get inspired right before I go to bed, but it’s also the most peaceful time of day when I’m the only one awake in the house. I’ve also written early in the morning before anyone else is awake. Something about the true quiet of a sleeping household makes it possible for my imagination and inner writer to be super productive.
So, if you’re struggling to find time, or just peace and quiet, try getting up an hour before anyone else, or staying up for a bit after everyone is asleep. Sometimes we can hear ourselves best when there’s no one else to need us, and writing during these times doesn’t take away from family time.
Time It & Block the Time on Your Calendar
If you’re not a planner, you might hate this. If you are, you’ll love the feeling of putting appointments on your calendar to write. After a long and exhausting week, it might not feel like a break to tell yourself “Oh crap, I was going to do that scene this weekend.” Before you know it it’s Sunday night and you’ve got the Mondays!
But, if you schedule some time for yourself – plan for a specific time to write, and let everyone who might ask you for something about it – it’s a way to free yourself from that worry. Using the calendar is just a way to save time for yourself so you can’t get roped into doing something else during that time. It’s also a way to make intentional time for yourself and your progress, which is more important than binge-watching Tiger King on Netflix anyway!
On the flip side, it also puts a limit on what you will be doing. You don’t have time to just sit there and look at the page if this is your only time to write, so you’re less likely to do that.
You Can Maintain a Work Life Balance as a Writer!
Whether you’re working full time and writing on the side, or writing full time, work life balance is critical for all of us! We can do simple things like writing one scene at a time, writing when no one else is awake, and putting time on our calendar for our writing to help get some balance.
My challenge to you is to choose one of these strategies this week and put it to work for you. Let the strategy do the heavy lifting on balancing your life.
What have your experiences been with work life balance in your writing or creative life? Have you tried one of these strategies before? Or others that worked? I’d love to hear about them! Find me on social media, drop a comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Let’s chat because you, my friend, are on your way to great writing.
About the Author
Rachel Tindall is a passionate writer and creative confidence coach at CapturingYourConfidence.com. She has worked with numerous writing students in the classroom and building confidence in others is at the heart of all she does. When she’s not writing, she’s reading books, learning and building her business, watching lame TV shows with her husband, and playing with her adorably sassy dogs, Charlie & Maxwell. Rachel can always be found on Twitter @bloggerrach or you can track her down on her blog at capturingyourconfidence.com.
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