It’s the last Sunday of the month, which means that it’s time for one of our chapter PAN members (PAN stands for Published Authors Network, a professional designation within RWA open to members who reach a certain level of sales) to visit the blog to share some of their wisdom and expertise.
This month, Kristina Matthews is here to give us some advice about finding balance.
Take it away, Kristina!
The Myth of Balance
~ By Kristina Matthews
A recent topic on one of the writing loops I belong to asked the question “how do you balance writing with real life demands?”
Several people chimed in with helpful tips. Some suggested writing first thing in the morning. Others write on their lunch hours or on the weekends. I often mention that most of my first book was written in the parking lot during my sons’ Little League practices.
I work part time at an elementary school. So I have more time off than most. I’m on Spring Break right now, and while I would love to think I’ll get so much done, there’s a good chance I’ll wake up in the middle of the night after Easter Sunday lamenting how much I didn’t accomplish over my break. Doctors’ appointments and taxes and saxophone repairs and shopping for jeans since we’ve all outgrown our old ones will eat away at that time. Guilt will snag some of the rest.
I have an incredibly supportive family. My husband does a lot of the housework. Okay, most of the housework. I clean the bathrooms and nag the kids to unload the dishwasher. My sons are in seventh grade and high school so they don’t need constant attention. Now that the oldest drives, I spend a lot less time playing chauffer.
There are some days, like when my husband takes the boys to ski team practice, that I get a lot or writing done. He loves it, was on the ski team when he was in high school and he’s now a coach. So I feel less guilty for writing all day Saturday if they’re up on the slopes trying to ski on snirt (a combination of snow and dirt).
Some nights the words flow and I feel like I might actually pull this off. The three books my publisher bought weren’t a fluke and I will actually finish the fourth. My husband is happy watching whatever cop/gold mining/sasquatch show he knows I would never watch with him. I can finish a scene or chapter and still have time to have a glass of wine with him and watch the wedding episode of Outlander or Bull Durham.
And then there are the days when the words won’t flow. The laundry has reached epic proportions. There is no food or milk or coffee in the house. I forgot to pay the propane bill that comes every three months or so and isn’t automated. My son needs something for a project or a permission slip or for some reason the automatic school lunch payment didn’t automatically fund and my son went without lunch on a day when he had football until six pm. Oh, and he’s out of gas so can I meet him at the gas station because he used his cash to buy snacks.
There are the days when your husband is annoyed that you’re on the computer instead of putting the laundry that he folded away because every time he walks by, you’re on Facebook trying to interact with readers and maybe sell that book you’ve sacrificed so much for. You’re both wondering when this writing thing is going to pay off in the financial sense. You’re alternately proud of having more than one book on Amazon (and all the other eBook platforms) and frustrated that so does everyone else.
Great reviews will send me flying high for hours. A drop in my Amazon ranking will send me into depression for days, or however long it takes for my Novel Rank app to tell me I sold a book in the UK.
There is no such thing as balance. Some days I will get zero words on the page, but I will have spent the day with my family, enjoying the many outdoor activities Northern California has to offer. But as I’m hiking up the mountain or rafting down the river, I’m still working on my writing. I’m observing a setting, or watching strangers interact, or having an ah-ha moment about a scene I’ve been stuck on for days. Maybe I’ll jot the idea in my notes app on my iPhone, and once I get back to my computer I’ll be able to work that idea into my story.
Some days I’ll get so much writing done that my fingers ache, my eyes are crossed, and there is no way I can come up with an idea for dinner and I have to send my teenager to Taco Bell because his dad is at a meeting or business trip or guys’ night out.
Even though I don’t feel like I have enough balance in my life, I’ve somehow managed to do something that many people only dream of doing but don’t because they don’t have time or have a day job or a family. Somehow, despite all of these other things pulling at me, I’ve written and published more than one novel.
How cool is that?
* How do you find balance in your life? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.