Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tell the Truth Tuesday: Balancing Is A Tough Act

Anyone who does anything besides write novels knows that there is a huge part of an author's life that no one really tells you about.

It's called balance.

And it's incredibly difficult to achieve, especially if you're like me and are balance-challenged. I'm more on the pit bull side of "balance" where I sink my teeth into something and don't let go until either I'm dead or the other dog is dead or I've gotten what I wanted.

So yeah. Not so great for the whole balance thing.

I could make a list of the four kagillion things I have to do everyday, from household responsibilities to parenting to teaching to writing to church obligations. I'm sure you have a list ten miles long too. (And if you don't, I sort of hate you a little. And you know by "hate" I just mean "am extremely jealous of" and/or "love".)

How does one balance it all? The cooking dinner with the edits? The book signings with the family time? The church responsibilities with the job responsibilities with the family responsibilities? And the TV! Dude, the TV.

Here are some things I do that help me achieve a semblance of balance.
1. DVR. Seriously. Some of you may not watch TV, but I do. And it's nice to know I can just record and watch whenever.

2. Google Cal. A lifesaver. I can put all events on that thing, and it syncs to both my son's and my husband's phones. Then we can coordinate who's going to take whom where and when.

3. Strict bedtimes. This allows me to work after the kids go to bed. Then I don't feel like I'm neglecting them.

4. Make a list. I'm a huge fan of lists (really? Just like this one!), and sometimes I even put things on my list that I've already done, simply so I can feel the joy of crossing them off. I make a ginormous list, and prioritize what needs to be done that very day and what can wait until another day.

5. A dedicated day for chores. Every Monday, I clean my whole house and do all my laundry. This frees me from worrying/thinking about cleaning the other 6 days a week. (Of course, I still sweep up spilled cereal and wash the dishes and other stuff that has to be done every day.)

6. Layering activities over "dead time." When my daughter has dance, I make sure to write/edit during that time. When she has swimming, I bring my pages. Any dead time is used. I no longer just wait for my son to show up. I read or comment on blogs. I tweet in line at the post office. I am always working while I wait for my kids or while they're at their activities. That way, when they're home, so am I.

7. Sacrifice. When you have forty billion things going on all the time, something has to be sacrificed. Sometimes it's my writing time. Sometimes it's family time. Sometimes it's making dinner. I try really hard to juggle these things around, so that a different thing is being sacrificed each time. So I'm not always choosing writing over going to a baseball game. I'm not always editing over making dinner. I'm not always blogging over going out with my husband.

But no matter what, it always comes down to sacrifice. Weaving writing into life is a delicate balancing act, and it's always tough.

How do you work toward balance? What is in your rotation of sacrifices?

39 comments:

magolla said...

You forgot a biggie--exercise. I tried to edit or crit while my kidlet was swimming, but the echoes were too distracting.

So I started walking around the school. In 35 minutes (swim practice is 40 minutes), I could walk the school four times.

Walking plus Weight Watchers (started June 19) I've lost 19 lbs. I still have a long way to go, but I feel much, much better, plus it's a great way to work out your plot issues, the next scene, or discovery why the heck your character wants to do XYZ!

Good Luck!
Margaret

mshatch said...

I have to agree that exercise is very important - it also helps the brain! And sacrifice. If I didn't sacrifice some things (like television) I wouldn't get any writing done.

Matthew MacNish said...

Mom is never home at night, and my kids are pretty old, so half the time I just make them cook and clean. We do eat together at least once a week though. It's important.

Luckily I can blog and write at work, because I need my time at home to watch sports.

Mary said...

Balancing is a hard one--thanks for some ideas to try!

I try to do as much writing as I can during lunch and while my hubby and son are gaming.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I swear by 3 & 4. Not entirely sure what 5 is though. Chores? Cleaning? ;)
~ Wendy

Natalie Aguirre said...

I really struggle with the balance. I did get the Internet on my phone so I can check blogs while waiting for court and my daughter's activities.

Like you, I'm busy almost all the time and just try to prioritize.

DRC said...

I suppose I'm a lucky one here. I work from home, I have no kids, and my husband is trucker who is away most of the week. My week days are divided between working and writing. I rarely watch TV unless I'm in the mood for a good film, and one person doesn't generate much mess for housework.

I do sacrifice writing time on weekends though. I use this time to ensure my husband and I get to spend at least some quality time together. So far, it's working nicely.

Leigh Ann said...

Dead time, dead time, dead time. I am never, ever still. Even when I'm eating dinner I'm jotting down ideas, especially in a drafting stage (as I am now.) If I"m revising, I have the MS on my Kindle and am always glancing at it to see if anything looks or "sounds" funny.

Also, I don't really sleep that much anymore. THe only quiet time in our house is 4-6 AM, and a little bit of naptime. But my characters woke me up twice last night, and my kids woke me up twice too. *yawn*

Oh, wait - that's the opposite of balance. Hopefully you get some saner commenters. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great post, Elana. I had to remind my hubby recently when he complained about me being in my office again that I made sure and spent time with him every, single day before I head to my office. He is self-employed and can't say the same thing--even when he asks me out to lunch I usually spend half the time listening to him while he talks to a customer on his cell phone. He hadn't recognized I was making an effort to do that and felt better once I brought it to his attention. Fortunately my kids are all grown now. I can't imagine trying to do this with little kids, too.

My hat goes off to you. :notworthy:

Stephanie McGee said...

Dude, it's like you're watching my life on tv right now. I'm trying so hard to find that balance and I feel like I fail at it most days. Sigh. I'm going to have to keep these tips in mind. (At least the ones that I can use. No smart phone or DVR. I'm behind the times, I know.) Thanks, hon.

Jemi Fraser said...

Balancing the sacrifices is the perfect way to describe it. We can't do it all - it's impossible. But we can do enough. There are ebbs and flows to my life and the balance is affected by that. We had a ginormous curve ball hit our life in the last month and everything else has been put to the side. We're getting a handle on it, and the balance is sneaking back in - it always does :)

Christa said...

This is fantastic. I've been really struggling with balance over a very busy summer. Some days I feel like everything gets lost. I find breathing and reminding myself I don't have to do it all "RIGHT NOW" is helpful.

storyqueen said...

As a fellow teacher it always amazes me, as I sit in the summer trying desperately to fit it all in, to try and figure out how I possibly made it through every school year!!

Balance is my biggest struggle.

Shelley

GigglesandGuns said...

Friday is everything house. My sacrifice is yard work. Unless I need to work something out because it's a guarantee that everyone disappears when the mower, etc exit the garage. Ahhh, uninterrupted thoughts. ;o)

Steena Holmes said...

Love your list ;)
I'm realizing I need to make time - like get up early to work on certain things, or read blogs before my kids get up and before I go to work. I write during my lunch hour too (or try to).
The balancing act is hard.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Your "Make a list" one could've been written by me! I think anyone going on a scavenger hunt through my house on any given day could find 8 or more of my lists.

And I LOVED your "Sacrifice" one! I totally agree, but I am not always so good about rotating which thing gets sacrificed.

I think I'm going to go make a rotation list right now.

Mary Ann said...

I'm a list freak, mostly because I'm very forgetful. My list has four sub-categories: Family things/chores, church calling, personal goals, and work goals. Then I prioritize the 'have tos' plus I've learned not to take life too seriously. Flexibility is a must. Using 'dead time' is a life-saver!

Mary Gray said...

Amen to layering activities duriing "dead time." The other day I was getting dressed and brushing my teeth at the same time and didn't think anything of it until my husband laughed at me. With writing AND having kids you become the quintessential multitasker.

Angela Brown said...

Layering and sacrifice are essential. It's like Life: Multi-task.

Michelle McLean said...

I pretty much do what you do :) esp with the lists LOL The thing that most often gets sacrificed is sleep. Monday is my big pull it together day as well.

Miriam Forster said...

For some reason the image of you as a pit bull made me LOL.

I'm kind of a horrible balancer. (Which is probably why my house is so dirty.)

I tend to get really focused on things, and then have to take a few days to stop and regroup. But I don't have kids, so that probably helps. :)

Tiffany Garner said...

You have some great suggestions here that I'm definitely going to borrow :) I'll be back at college in a week, and then I'll be taking 18 credit hours, working two jobs, and querying agents. Needless to say, I'll be busy. But it is possible! :D

Susan Aylworth said...

Oh yeah! We writers (mothers, employees, cooks, cleaners, wives or husbands, ets.) are familiar with the "rotation of sacrifices." You hit a bingo with this one, Elana. So true!

Kari Marie said...

I'm going to have to try the Google Calendar! I'm still figuring it out but like you said, balance is hard and often consists of sacrifice on some level. I also need to learn to say No to protect my own sanity when life gets hectic.

Krispy said...

Sometimes, I wish I still had DVR. It was such a time-saver in college! It let me skip shower while something was on & then I could come back and simply skip the commercials. It was hard re-adjusting back to non-DVR, but then again, I watch most things on the internet these days. :P

The first thing that gets sacrificed for me is sleep. It's always sleep, even though I love it. Balance is indeed very hard to achieve!

Margo Berendsen said...

A rotation of sacrifices! I never thought of it that way before... but so true! I like that better than the ever-unachievable "balance"

Abby said...

I am a huge person when it comes to balance, although I don't always achieve it. I am huge on making lists too! Even writing something I've already done just so I can cross it off! Love it! I like how you talk about sacrifice. It's so true and just has to be done. Good not to sacrifice the same thing all the time.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's why I don't take photos very often anymore. Something had to go. Besides, weddings usually coincided with Saturday book signings (back when they were worth doing often) and after I gave up taking photos professionally, I realized it was a great weight off my shoulders.
My motto- The chaos becomes the balance.

Jenny said...

Great post. I am hopping to the google calender thing right now. Is anybody else jealous of Matthew MacNish?

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hi, Elana! I so hear ya on all this. Sometimes when there's a huge project that needs undertaking, I ask the kids to help run the house. They're pretty sufficient at making meals and stuff. I'm grateful for them!

I take advantage of deadtime. While we drive, I bring my laptop along and edit/write or blog. Great post!

♥.•*¨Elizabeth¨*•.♥
Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

So very true. Though I'm still not 100% convinced you don't have a secret army of cyborgs to assist you. :)

Tess said...

Some good advice here...learning to be okay with less than perfect is important, I think. 'good enough' takes on new meaning when you are a debut author.

and, cyborgs? I want some!

Adam Meyers said...

I've always had the problem of being to unfocused with my life. By trying so hard to stay "balanced" in my personal life, I realized I'd been neglecting my professional duties and it's hurt me a bit.

But, luckily, I'm changing that up. I'm still striving for balance, but I've learned the value of taking that one thing you really want to do and exploring the heck out of it until all the groundwork's done, then moving on to the next thing on the list. That way I can keep all my activities going without feeling overwhelmed, because keeping up the writing habit or improving your personal or professional life is so much easier than starting them.

Lisa and Laura said...

I'm with Shannon, I seriously think you have clones. Or something. From where I'm standing your balance is nothing short of amazing.

As for me, I try to get as much done as I possibly can while the kids are out of the house. With 3 kids under 6 it's pretty much impossible to get work done when they're all home. I LOVE strict bedtimes because that's when I do the bulk of my writing. I'm riding this 7 PM bedtime for as long as humanly possible. I'll totally bump it up to 7:30 when they're 16. See, I'm totally flexible!

Carolyn V said...

Wow Elana! I love the list! Right now I'm not balancing my life very well, but I hope in a few weeks I can do better (school starts again). ;p

Julie Hedlund said...

Thank you for writing realistically about this. It's important for writers to realize that sometimes things do need to be sacrificed, and it's not always the same thing.

I used to feel so guilty if I went a day without writing, but now I know that sometimes my life demands that. Other times, I know I can ask my family for grace while I finish something that really needs to get done.

It's good to know that we're all in the same boat...

Liesl said...

I think this is something that's a constant battle for everyone. I'm always struggling to find the balance. I like your dedicated day for chores. I think I'll pick that one up. I also try to just be present and for me that means no multi-tasking. I can't write and be with my kids at the same time. I have family time and I have writing time and I do my best to not let one get in the way of the other, otherwise I lose on every side. My family helps me stay balanced.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I'm totally with you on Number 3. And I'm TOTALLY going to do a dedicated chore day - it seems like it will be the only way for me to tackle the whole "housework" thing. I suck, suck, suck at getting the housework done, and it has to change. Thanks for the idea.

I do the double-dipping on time, too - I bring my writing journal or pages to edit and revise while my son is in dance class. My older son has to come with, but he's a big reader, so he gets out his book and I get out my pages.

I like Margaret's suggestion for exercise - I'll have to see if I can figure out something like that.

L.T. Elliot said...

My current balancing act? Epic fail. And that's all I have to say about that.

However, I love YOUR balancing act. Especially the Monday clean up so the rest of the week can kind of kiss off. I may need to integrate that.

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