Like many writers I’m forced to have a day job, especially given that I have a very large family. Therefore there are often times when I have to let my number one passion – writing and storytelling – take a back seat to paying the bills. It’s not that I don’t make money on my writing – it’s just not enough. YET.
Until I get to “yet,” I need to balance and juggle. This juggling often times makes me feel like that famous picture of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. You see The Cat is balancing the fish bowl on a rake, while balancing a ship on his index finger while holding an umbrella and on the other hand a stack of books; on his head a lit birthday cake and cup of coffee; with one foot he holds a plate with a glass milk bottle and corresponding cup; his tail is fanning a fan…all the while balancing on one leg on a beach ball. That’s kind of how it feels to be trying to be a writer while maintaining a 9-to-5, work-for-someone-else schedule.
In addition, I volunteer in my community to help other writers achieve “new literary peaks,” which also is the fan in my tail. So, there is work towards that as well, since our group would like to as soon as 2012 host its own writing conference as well as become partner in educations with our local schools to get students excited about writing and being writers.
Don’t get me started about how my family’s activities, namely my youngest two children, impact my schedule as well.
Then someone had the brilliant idea to not let my G.I. Bill go to waste and get her fanny back to school and score my MFA.
So, how do you do it? How do you make the writing a priority? Here are a few tips that I use:
1) Write any where and any how. I use my lunch time during my day job. I get up early or stay up late. When waiting on my children for activities or at the doctor or dentist’s office, I write. While stuck on boring conference calls that devolve into conversations that don’t concern me…I write. Napkins at coffee houses end up in my portfolio with poems scratched on them. Old envelopes from the mail pile are used while cooking dinner and I have a premise for a short story or see a new scene in my current novel project. I have pens and paper every nook and cranny of my life, to include the laundry room.
2) Make a schedule of regular writing times. Take off – away from the house to the library or a café, or even a spot in the park. Block it out of the family calendar just like you would a doctor’s appointment and go write. Make that regular time – once or twice a week – as sacred as possible. Only let actual emergencies get in the way.
3) Take a class. Check your community or senior center and see if there’s a crazy person like me giving a class for free to help you improve your writing. Again, it will carve time out for you to devote to your craft, hone your skills and focus some energy behind it.
4) Sometimes I let the writing slip. Yes, sounds contrary to what I just said. What I mean, is that you do have to give it a rest. You need to give the creative process some time to recharge. You have to sleep every night. Sometimes your writing time needs a nap, too. That’s when you go out and observe. Sit in the coffee shop without writing and watch people. Go for a walk in the woods. Take a bike ride, or a long car ride. Get the other brainwaves in your head moving, too.
5) Surround your self with people who support you and give support back. For those family members who think your writing is just a hobby or a bad distraction, talk about the weather with them – provided you’ve already made the best attempt possible to ask for support from them. For my family they know that I turn into Mr. Hyde when I don’t to write. They much prefer Dr. Jekyll. Friends who don’t get my writing tend to fade away; whereas my fellow writers and I have grown closer and closer over the years. Don’t forget to attend book signings, writing conferences, art shows, and conventions as well as performing art events. Support your local library, too, since they are some of the artists’ biggest fans. Send a note to an author, editor, painter, singer, songwriter…etc. that made you feel something. Pay it forward and you’ll see huge rewards.
Some days the beach ball I’m doing the ballet dance on rolls out from under me. But, I just get back on and roll on along – keeping in mind the top five things to keep me juggling effectively.
Now it’s time to go work on Martius Catalyst. Oh and I think the laundry is calling. 😀
What do you do to keep things in balance?