Balancing Act

~ By Mellanie Szereto

I wrote this blog post several years ago, but the demands and commitments in my life have changed since then. My husband is thinking about retirement, our daughter has graduated from college (multiple times) and lives halfway across the country for her job, our autistic son has started college, my elderly father (also in a different state) is having health issues, my parents are preparing to downsize and need help sorting through 60 years of stuff… Oh, and my laptop’s hard drive crashed and burned earlier this month—three days before I had to fly to NYC for the November RWA Board meeting. I definitely need to rethink, revise, and re-balance.

Life has a way throwing curveballs into the best-laid plans, so let’s re-evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. Ready?

While writing is a full-time career for many authors, not all are able to sit at their computers for six or more uninterrupted hours each day. In fact, the vast majority of writers must balance numerous demands on their time. Many have part- or full-time jobs in or out of the home. Some have young children or ill family members to care for. Those who homeschool their kids have an important responsibility to fulfill as well. Children’s extracurricular activities or a job requiring travel can mean lots of time spent on the road and at various venues. Laundry, grocery shopping, meals. And a clean house—what’s that???

That doesn’t even take into consideration the time required for social media, promotion, attending events, etc. in relation to having a writing career. The list goes on and on. What about writing time???

Woman Sitting In Yoga PoseFinding a way to balance it all can add stress to an already hectic life. Unfortunately, no single template will work for everyone. The non-writing demands for every author differ greatly and every writer has a method that best fits her situation. Create a manageable calendar with reasonable and realistic goals. Above all, resist comparing yourself to other authors.

Prioritize…

Make a list of those things that require a scheduled or unscheduled commitment each day or certain days. What non-writing jobs/tasks must be done at or by a specified time?

  • Day/night job
  • Childcare
  • Caregiver
  • Homeschooler
  • Transportation to and/or from school activities
  • Meals
  • Pay bills

Other variable responsibilities or activities:

  • Laundry
  • Volunteer work
  • Housekeeping
  • Doctor/dentist/vet appointments
  • Grocery shopping
  • Vacation
  • Holidays/birthday parties/anniversaries
  • Family time
  • Exercise

What writing jobs/tasks must be done at or by a specified time?

  • Book deadlines/submissions
  • Events/appearances/signings
  • Writing chapter meetings
  • Blog appearances/scheduled posts
  • Contest entry judging

Other variable responsibilities or activities:

  • Recordkeeping
  • Email
  • Website updates
  • Social media/promotion
  • Critiquing/beta reading

Schedule…

Even if the times vary, penciling in tentative writing times can provide enough motivation to stay on track. A calendar also provides a visual account of available time to help establish good writing goals and make adjustments to non-essential activities. Less wasted time means more writing time.

Writing…

What time of day is the most effective for writing?

Are publisher- or self-established deadlines achievable with reasonable and realistic word count goals?

Is the location/atmosphere conducive to successful writing?

Is the plotter/pantser/plantser approach still working well?

Are current critique partners/beta readers offering constructive feedback?

Is the current manuscript the best one to write at this time?

Relaxation time, family/friends time, and self-time are also important in the balance. Authors can avoid the set-up for failure and finally achieve balance with the most basic of schedules, one that lays out exactly what must be accomplished each day, or anything in between.

Take a deep breath. Prioritize. Schedule. Write.

When her fingers aren’t attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-one years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers.

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About the author: contempadmin

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  1. Win Day - December 5, 2018 Reply

    A very wise woman once told me, “You will have balance in your life. Not every day, not every week, maybe not every year.”

    It’s important to not beat ourselves up during the unbalanced times. Hire out what you can, delegate what you can, take care of yourself and the people in your life. Do the rest as you can.

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