March PANorama – The Myth of Balance

Dear Readers,

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

IMG_0837~ 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.


11 thoughts on “March PANorama – The Myth of Balance”

  1. Oh, I so needed this today. I’m sitting here staring at a blank page, wishing the words would come. All I can think about is that I need to renew my DL and the dog needs to go to the vet for shots and I used my last clean underwear this morning.

    Thank goodness I’m not alone living this crazy unbalanced life that is somehow all worth it, most of the time. 🙂

  2. Hi Kristina – You don’t need to have kids to feel the balance challenge! I have dogs, not kids, and a supportive hubby, and writing is my full time job. But there’s the kitchen remodel, the backyard renovation in this old house we bought, and.. life. We can never plan everything. If I tried to reach my writing goals, I’d have 28 hours day! Balance is an illusion, like perfection, a specific point designed to keep us working and learning and living life! Be happy! Yvonne

    1. I did manage to tile a backsplash on Spring Break last year. About eight years after finishing the rest of the kitchen. So yeah, I know about remodeling stress. But demo work is great for plotting.

  3. Kristina I’m not married/w kids but I do have a very demanding, full time job that requires me to write all day. I work as a copywriter in advertising agency. The hours and stress of very fast deadlines adds up. It’s always hard to carve out the writing time, especially when the last thing I want to do is sit down at a computer and write some more when I get home.

    1. I’m lucky my day job is active. I work at an elementary school, mostly on reading intervention. So it’s almost a relief to sit down at a computer.

      Good for you for continuing with your own writing even after working with words all day.

  4. Kristina, never feel guilty. This is a woman’s lot, this guilt over taking time for ourselves, time that might or might not be financially advantageous. You work part time outside the home. You are also a wife and a mother–there are two jobs for you right there. Being those two things requires many skills and tasks you do every day that you never actually acknowledge, because they just come with the job. It’s not just the physical tasks, but the emotional load parents carry. Take yourself out of the equation. What does life look like to your husband and sons? THAT is a huge job, being all that for them.

    So when you take the time you need for writing, don’t even bat an eye. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling enough books to “warrant the time you put in.” Ugh! That feels dirty just putting out there. Not only are you fulfilling your artistic needs, you’re fulfilling your needs as a person, as a woman. And you know the best part of that? You’re showing (not telling!) your boys that being selfish is not a bad thing. If you don’t want them growing up to feel every bit of time taken for themselves is somehow wrong, don’t do it to yourself.
    (stepping down off soapbox now…)

  5. I hear you on balancing time for writing and family and house and etc. I retired from my job in Sacramento 3 1/2 years ago. I thought now, I’ll have all the time in the world for writing. Not so. My 89 year old Mom lives with us. She is practically deaf and I have to be her ‘administrative assistant’. I take her everywhere she needs to go store, doctors, dentists etc. I am her ears. While we’ve had some great times together, we’ve also had some down times, lots of health issues. My husband and I have to make time for each other, without Mom. BUT I have managed to be published in two anthologies through Windtree Press. I’m almost through with the edits for my first Novella, ‘The Witch with the Trident Tattoo’ do out this spring. I find my best writing time to be in the morning. I try and make appt for Mom or me in the afternoon. House cleaning & groceries & trips to Barnes & Noble with Mom, in the afternoon. Enjoyed your blog post! Happy writing!!

  6. Hey Kristina! Totally can related and loved this post. I have 2 kids grade school kids, one almost a middle schooler, who keep me on my toes. As well, my husband and I run a business. Some days, the dishes pile up and the laundry sits. I have two WIP and I am bound and determined to finish one of them this year, both if I can get some quiet time.

    I fully believe there is no balance, and have written on the subject myself. You can’t do everything well at the same time. Something has to give so you can focus on one thing at a time. Your story inspires me as I manage to keep the house functioning, kids well fed, hubby happy AND find time to write. I’m pretty sure many writers are in the same boat we are, which is also inspiring.

    1. Leigh,
      Thanks for the comment. It is a subject we all can relate to. I think many of us get discouraged because we look on Facebook and all we see are people who seem to have it so much more together than we do.

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