Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

How Do You Balance Writing and Life?

We all know that writing can be both a solitary pursuit and one that takes an incredible amount of time. Honing one's craft over hundreds and thousands of hours while sitting quietly in front of a notepad or computer screen is often time not spent out in the world, engaging with friends and loved ones.

It's time where we're happily lost in our own head, creating our own worlds during the time we're not out living in the real one. Writing can be a dazzling, fulfilling, and meaningful time, but life can beckon and intrude into that space, and not always unfairly. Sometimes it's life that must come first.

As Jennifer Hubbard wrote in her truly magical post about the topic:

Sometimes the writing desk is a solace, an escape from tedium or pain in daily life.

Sometimes writing is a celebration. Sometimes it's a way to process painful truths.

Writing is a life examined, which is supposed to be a life worth living. But a life can't be spent only writing.

Sometimes we put down writing for a while. Sometimes it refuses to be put down.

So how do you strike the right balance between writing and living? How do you know when it's time for writing and time for life? How much living is necessary to be a good writer, and how much writing is necessary for you to live?






109 comments:

Transparent Mama said...

This is what I strive for daily. Fortunately, I have four children who demand that I have balance my writing life and my family life. And for my own sanity, I must also add exercise and time with friends to that equation. It takes discipline and planning ahead.

Gina said...

It isn't easy, especially when writing hasn't gotten me anywhere (yet). Sometimes I feel like I must be crazy wasting my time this way.

I will write in my slow periods at work, or at night when my husband is working late. I can't devote as much time as I'd like, but it's as important to me as getting the laundry done or putting dinner on the table. So, like anything that means anything, you find time for it.

Dan said...

Balance? Bal-ance. Nope, not familiar with it. Seriously, this is a big problem of mine. I dive wholeheartedly into one aspect of my life, work, writing, family, and everything else gets neglected. Then I have to overcompensate to make up for it and the whole cycle continues.

I need more organization, I think.

Widow_Lady302 said...

Treating it like a job and a hobby. That is how I maintain balance. You don't do a job (or shouldn't) 24 hours a day. A hobby you have is the same. You may love the job of writing, or love the hobby, but think of it in those terms. Scheduled 95% of the time with a 5% of spontaneity. That is at least how I manage it.

Eileen Andrews said...

I try to have a writing schedule and stick to it. Family time is family time and I'm not allowed to write or do any social marketing (twitter, facebook, blogging) when it's family time. But that also means I double down and work extra hard when it is writing time.
It's not easy, especially when my urges fight the schedule. But that's part of what flexibility is, knowing when to give and take with it.

JMCOOPER said...

Not very good at the balance part yet. I'm either in my own head or in my family's life. And each place is wonderful, so it's a constant tug-of-war.

Jake said...

Used to writing was a favourite personal past-time. But now that I write all day for someone else, the last thing I want to do is spend my 'me' time writing. So, my personal blogging suffers, my poetry writing suffers, and my novel just sits there – not writing itself. My 2011 resolution is to do more writing for myself. The best way to accomplish that is to embed me writing time into my schedule and then don't waste it Twittering and FBing!

IanBontems said...

To be honest, I'm struggling at the moment to find a balance.

Christine Danek said...

I'm still working on this. So far, I've not been successful. With two small kids, I feel like I will never get to find the right balance. I'll keep working on it. I love when I get peace and quiet to just write.
Have a wonderful day!

Margot Galaway said...

Life comes first. The bills must be paid. But if you think about, life is where the writing originates. Without it, there would be little to write about.

M.J.B. said...

I am lucky to have a very relaxed day job, which sometimes allows me time at least to do brainstorming work, query letter drafting, and sometimes real writing. I do the most significant work--the actual book stuff--on my hour long lunch breaks during the work day and on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Starbucks.

Otherwise, I do bits of work on weeknights between the gym, eating, and household chores. I attempt to relax with Netflix, and I try to read in bed at night for at least 15-20 minutes to clear my head of everything work-related. I tend to save socializing for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Other than the day job, I enjoy every second of it!

That said, I'm amazed by those people who are doing all this AND raising children. Kudos to all of you!

Julia G. Darelle said...

I don't think I can really do that "balance" thing. My family comes first. And I work in science which is pretty demanding occupation as well. But, I can't live without writing - so I guess, the answer will be - with terrible sleep deprivation. I start writing after midnight and finish around two or three in the morning, or whenever I find myself unable to keep my eyes open.

Rick Daley said...

I don't balance, I wobble. I've been fortunate to avoid a full-tilt situation where life supercedes writing entirely (or vice versa) but to be honest I haven't found a perfect medium.

WORD VERIFICATION: payinght. Just another damn bill.

veela-valoom said...

This is something that I find very difficult. I have an interesting job that has a very strange schedule. Sometimes I work Saturdays, plan overnights for whole weekends, work evenings, etc. It's hard to form writing habits when my working life doesn't follow the same schedule from week to week.

littolearnby said...

See, that's the thing. I don't have to be writing to be lost in the world I've created. I have to actively stop myself from thinking about my WIP - and sometimes it leads to getting easily burnt out.

So no, no balance. Probably never will be. I'm a writer; it's what I do. The words in my head may drown out the world around me for now, but that doesn't mean I'm not listening to both.

Porter Anderson said...

Some of us who are more solitary by nature don't feel a lot of pressure to engage in deep-field frolics among the other animals. For me, a good exchange with a cashier or a waiter is plenty of balance. Digital communications keep me more than adequately in touch with the world, and I have to use RescueTime's FocusMode to limit even that. Wouldn't mind getting a non-speaking dog soon, though. One who can edit and make blog comments for me.

Laura Campbell said...

Thanks for the post. It's good to know I'm not alone when it comes to making time to write. Right now, I am working on self discipline. When I was immersed in the work force, I put my job before everything, including myself. I suffered.

Now, I work from home as a freelance writer. Slow moving and learning everyday. I'm much happier. Although the euphoric high I get from writing is addictive, I don't spend as much time writing as I hope to EVERYday.

I'm refusing to rush anything and giving myself room to make mistakes. Hopefully, in a few months my work ethic and mind with be more focused.

Deb said...

I'm still working on this. The balance I have is more like being on a teeter totter. WAY up with the writing, down with everything else. WAY up with everything else and down with the writing. Sometimes I think that is maybe just the way I write. Other times I want to work. it. out. Looking forward to what others have to say and will for sure check out Jennifer's post. Thanks for the link!

educlaytion.com said...

This question is always filled with loads of offshoots. Any pursuit can become unhealthy for sure. Writing in and of itself is a good thing. These days, most writers can't just stop at producing words. There's the social networking aspect and much more that goes with it. I constantly hear writers lament the challenges of family and craft. I wrote only a fraction of what I desired while married. Now that my personal circumstances have changed I've been writing more than ever. I guess the short answer is that no passion or job should ever supersede relationships.

Dana Rose Bailey said...

Is there a such thing as real balance? I keep thinking that next month things will slow down and get back to 'normal.' I'll get into a schedule and find that balance. But I've yet to make it back to normal.

That's why I don't have a daily goal, but a weekly goal, so I can be flexible when I need to be. But sometimes it's hard to even make that goal, but that's not always a problem with balance.

However, in the end, things usually work out. For instance, I took a writing break to spend extra time reading. The books I read took time away from writing, but studying the writing styles of well written books made my writing better. I'm back to editing, and I can tell the difference in the way I look at my writing.

I'm constantly learning. Anything that happens outside of writing can be brought back to writing. There's a bigger picture than what feels like the right balance.

Sometimes we don't even know it until years later. At the time you may feel like you've neglected your writing, but then later realize that you needed that time away to clear your head.

Of course that's not to be confused with plan time wasting like playing spider solitaire that I am way too guilty of.

21tiger.com said...

I love this stuff. After my morning workout+ shower, I do a 20 minute meditation, then write for 1 hour.

That's BEFORE work. So when I'm flipping on the email, I've already been writing and creative, and buzzed for an hour.

To do this, yes, you have to wake up early, but if will give you the energy to write every day,and smooth out the rest of your day!

Great post!

Susan Antony said...

Originally, my novel was something fun to work on in my spare time. A year and 1/2 later, now that it is near completion, it has become an onus that I carry on my back. I don't sleep. I have cut out exercise, (I can see it on my hips) when I am not editing it I feel guilty. It is on my mind 24/7. Sometimes I feel it is my Mozart's Requiem. How do I balance writing and life? Not well.

Tracey Neithercott said...

Having a job forces me to balance writing and real life. On mornings when I wake up and want to continue last night's writing--alone--I'm forced to head to work. Now, balancing writing with other things, like sleep and exercise? Much, much harder.

lora96 said...

I view writing, like most things in my life, through the lens of guilt.

I can ignore laundry and e-mail and a sinkful of dishes to write. I cannot ignore papers that need grading, a dog who needs to go outside, or a husband who wants attention. If I do, I'll feel sorry later.

If I'm in the middle of writing something I think is flowing well, I'll give myself one sticky note to scribble the idea on and then shut the laptop.

There are, however, times when when I can write all I want but nothing decent will materialize-that's when the laundry gets done. :)

Maria I. Morgan said...

Great post! Have had these same thoughts this week. Glad to hear someone else describe the writing process as getting 'lost in our own head.' I can definitely relate to that one.

Balance comes when I schedule my time - yes, I even schedule time to call friends and comment on blogs! God has allowed me to be a wife, mother, friend and writer. He's also given 24 hours in the day. When I follow His plan, I have plenty of time to finish what He's given me to do in that day. I get into trouble when I get sidetracked by MY agenda!

Have a truly balanced week! God bless!

mzmackay said...

I loved the last line of your post. I read Jenn's blog post a few days ago and I really identified with it.

I'm lucky to have a family that is very supportive of my writing. But, I too must support them with their own pursuits, so we compromise. Every week night, I have my writing time from 9 to 11. During the weekends, I am theirs completely.

The experience of of a life lived brings so much to our writing. The experience of writing, gives me the satisfaction, that I have lived the life I want.

Gregz said...

Funny, but I think Nathan's post was actually on a slightly different topic than most of the comments. It struck me as being more about making sure you made time for life when you were writing, not making time for writing in your life.

Yet, the difficulty of finding the time to write, especially every day, is so relevant to all of us, we can take the smallest hint at that topic and run with it.

As for me, it is not easy. I have a demanding job and three beautiful daughters, two of which are teenagers and all of which are crazy-active. I would love to "write every day" and "treat it like a job", but the practical fact of my life just won't allow that. So, I grab time when I can--early in the AM, late at night if I am feeling peppy, at lunch, and over weekends.

abc said...

I have only one child. And I'm keeping it that way. I have a small house. I have learned to say "no" when I need to. And I don't let myself be too hard on myself (most of the time). I don't beat myself up if I miss writing and instead play a board game with the fam or watch Netflix streaming or, um, nap. I write when I can and try to be disciplined about it, but I also have a great job and a cool kid and a husband who insists we watch art movies together sometimes and all of that is good.

jg said...

i don't see the point of balancing anything until you've achieved what you want.

You have to go off-balance, put everything into something if you want to achive it, especially in writing - life can wait

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

That's easy -- I don't do any work at my job! But I don't write all day everyday (except during NaNo), so I love the line "Sometimes we put down writing for a while. Sometimes it refuses to be put down." I never know when I need to put my writing down because I feel like I shouldn't ever put it down, but I certainly know when it refuses to be put down.

janflora said...

Apparently, I don't do the balancing act well at all. My family life and responsibilities completely took over during Nano. I did not write a word in December.
Sometimes my writing takes over and the house (and probably the family) suffers. Some nights I eagerly wait for the household to fall asleep so I can write, and the next day I try to function on three hours of sleep.
Right now, I am in the library hoping to write a few hundred words before I pick up the preschooler in an hour.
It's not so much balancing as juggling :)

Nancy Thompson said...

Unbelievably enough, I never really had to do much balancing before...until this week. Now, for the first time, I'm having to put work before writing & I must say, I hate it! It's like a magnet constantly pulling at me, but I've managed to buckle down & get most of the work done. Of course, I only have one goal, get it all done & get back to the real game. I think I might have liked it better when the economy sucked worse!

Watcher55 said...

I was "combat commo" (31K) in the Army. The first and last thing they taught us was - KISS (Keep It Short & Simple). I keep my needs to a minimum. Family, Friends, Music and wood to split (metaphorically speaking). Do I need anything else?

Krista V. said...

Um, I don't. At least I haven't very well this week. I've been feeling driven to finish the revision I've been working on. But I really don't like this obsessive drive I sometimes get. I need to figure out how to harness it.

*guiltily crawls back into her writing cave*

Linda Gray said...

A key for me is to engage with other writers, whether in a group blog, a writers group or even making sure certain writer friends will be at conferences I attend.

They are our peeps, after all, and if you can find good friendship-type relationships and build them, you get to combine writing energy with real-life energy. You might even find yourself doing non-writing things together, like shopping and eating and drinking and laughing.

Krista McKenna said...

I believe balance is a very difficuly thing thing to get a good grip on especially on those days when the chacters in my are hear clammoring so loud to have their story told that it is hard t ignore. But, life must come first, chids, school work, dishes, laundry...All must be tended to. I try to spend my days doing all the nessessary lfe things and then once dinner is done, the kids are fed and tucked in for the night, I can fall into my own world and write. Unfortunatly that often makes for extremely late nights and going to bed at two a.m. when you have to get up at six makes for a long day...

E. Arroyo said...

It really depends on my state of mind. If I'm useless as a family member (out of wack) I write. If I can't seem to grasp anything in writing, I indulge in life. It usually balances itself out.

Jayme Stryker said...

I don't know about balancing writing and living, but I wish I could balance writing and sleeping. For some reason, thinking about my writing always seems to kick in right when I'm trying to fall asleep. Then it keeps me up sometimes for hours. Still working on figuring this one out. An off switch for my brain would be useful...

Juliana Brandt said...

I would definitely say this is something I am still working on. I am lucky to have a job that allows me have time to write. I also am an endurance athlete which allows me to both take time off of writing and also is an inspiration for my writing.

I think a huge part of finding balance is having a supportive family who both helps give time to write and also calls you back to the real world when it is needed.

Laini Taylor said...

Interestingly, this had become easier since having my daughter, who's now a year and a half. Before, "work" could be an interesting tapestry of time-wasting and self-delusion. Now that I have a very limited time each day to write, its boundaries are crystal clear, and time wasting is minimal. I wrote my last book SO MUCH FASTER than the previous ones (and I think it is the best :-) It's important to me too to take time between books. I know some people write every day and don't want to lose momentum, but I have to have a break in between books to shift the work/life balance more to "life" for a while. It recharges me for the next book, gets me itching to dive back in.

Cheers!

Shelli said...

We are facing a move, and I just realized I probably need to focus my energy there instead of my writing. Practical, right? And yet there's the little voice screaming inside me, "Noooooooo!"

I guess I'm lucky, though -- writing fits in perfectly with my current life, and I should be patient with this little hiccup.

Fenris said...

It's pretty hard, especially now that I have critique partners waiting for feedback. It's my duty to get that done as well as finishing my WIP, but sometimes life gets tired of waiting for me.

Recently, it's barged through the door and roared defiantly in my ear.

So if any of my crit partners happen to read this: it's getting done. Slowly, but surely.

As to how I balance the two, typically I set a quota, a goal. I tell myself I'll spend (say) four hours a day writing/editing/critiquing/etc. On a good day, I triple that. On a not-so-good day, I don't get anything done at all. I think the key is learning how to divide your attention; you can write for a while but never quite lose track of what's going on around you, and when life calls you away you retain the memory of what you were writing immediately beforehand, so you can get right back to it when you can.

It's tough, sure, but whoever said life was easy? Writing is simply one way we choose to spend it; that doesn't make life any easier, nor does it take pity on us while we're "away."

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I actually just started up again after a very long writing break. My real life and family had to take the forefront for a while. Now that I'm picking it up again, I've learned that all the living I did has been great for my writing.

I think that finding balance means taking into account all the different claims on your time and making sure that everything gets it due. Sometimes that means writing only gets a little time. Sometimes other things take the backseat. Each day needs it own balance.

T. Anne said...

I write primarily at night. It gives me something to look forward to all day. I love the solitude (sans tweetdeck). It's such a great way to unwind for me. Often I find myself plotting out the scene throughout the day.

B.E.T. said...

I actually did a post about this! So, yeah, already have a ready answer. It's a day by day basis. My life has gotten busy lately and so I resort to carrying a notebook around in case the mood strikes and attempt to get my 1000 words out in the morning before class. My approach might change in the future with my responsibilities, who knows? Taking it one step at a time, though, helps me not worry about how I'm going to manage in the future, and helps keep me flexible and content.

Jenny said...

My children watch way too much T.V.

But perhaps that's not balanced? Ah well.

Samantha G said...

I live life and then force writing into odd hours of the night. It's an extremly good system but I have the mind frame of "there's no need to rush" so I never feel panicked. (Expect for, of course, odd moments in the day where sit and wonder if I'm crazy.)

Stephanie Barr said...

I gave up sleep (but not sex) and collaborate with my husband.

Jen said...

I also need to balance sleep and writing. I stay home with my toddler and infant, which some people think gives me time to write. Ha! Perhaps fortunately I don't have an office or desk in my home, so I go out for 2-3 hours 6 days a week and write at the bookstore or coffee shop. I get a lot done and a waste little time procrastinating because it's all I have! We have a sheet with my husband's work schedule on the fridge and mine is written right underneath it.

Ms. Taken said...

Shirley Jackson said, "I can't persuade myself that writing is honest work. It's great fun and I love it. For one thing, it's the only way I can get to sit down." I totally agree with this. Like Shirley Jackson, I'm a mom and I don't often have time to sit down. When I do sit down, I write. It seems pretty darn self-regulating to me.

Holly said...

I have never been able to balance family, an outside job, housework, and writing. Something has to give way. Sometimes I let the housework go, or wear earplugs so I can write through a Yankees game. I lost my beloved husband two years ago, so sadly, the balancing act is not an issue now.

Family is more important. Yes, make time to write, but put your family first.

Stasia said...

I balance them poorly. But I keep trying :)

D.G. Hudson said...

I've always tried to achieve that balance, to avoid cognitive dissonance (that intuitive feeling that something's not right here).

I try to do my writing at the same time every day, being aware of the other things that need to be done. I do bits of writing when I'm waiting for appointments, or whenever I can. I edit writing when I'm fresh, not in the evening when I'm tired. That time is reserved for spending time with my husband/or family.

I have to be somewhat organized, or I start to resent the invasion into my writing life. Talking with family helps immensely. Be sure they know what you're trying to achieve. Don't be a closet writer - unless there's a reason.

The important thing in my mind is that as a writer I need to have some time alone, but as a person, I need that support that comes from investing some time in all those things that make up 'Life'.

The more commitments one has, the more divided your day becomes. Examine your priorities, and adjust what you can.

Great question, Nathan. I look forward to reading all the other entries.

MJR said...

My sons' school used to have the kids pick choose to's and have to's every day. Before they could do their choose to's, they had to do a few have to's. I guess that's the way it is with me and writing. I do work first (I work freelance), do icky stuff like pay bills etc, then I write. I keep it very flexible. If the rest of the family is watching a boring TV show, I'll sit on the couch with them and write on my netbook. For me, the whole thing about set times, places to write, and word counts per day doesn't work. But I do try to write every day.

TERI REES WANG said...

I don't.

Kate said...

Poorly

Lucy said...

@ Rick Daley

Ah, you've got my vote for comment of the week: "I don't balance, I wobble."

Makes for an interesting perspective on the world, when you're not exactly right-side-up. :D

Joel Q said...

My wife says as long as I'm writing I don't have to do chores around the house on the weekends.
And that's only the start of just how awesome she is.

Nancy Coffelt said...

I have a very hard time separating writing and art from my "real life". The circus in my head is pretty enthralling.
I guess as long as I can keep my tennis game up and my friends and family remember what I look like, then it's all good.

Leigh Ann said...

One word: Naptime.

I've made writing my Project 365 for the year. Project 365 is like a love letter to myself dated January 1 - It says, "You are important enough to take a little bit of time doing something today for you and you alone." I take that seriously.

Like Gina said - "So, like anything that means anything, you find time for it."

But, yeah. Naptime.

Stephanie@thecrackedslipper said...

It's a combination of cutting things out and combining them. For example, like a lot of other posters, I cut sleep. Writing is part of living life. As they say, I can sleep when I'm dead.

Combining is more nuanced. For example, I "write" the night's scene in my head while I'm running. When the kids are finally asleep I can dive right in without wasting half an hour figuring out where to start.

Little things make a difference!

swampfox said...

I would love to just wake up and write until it's time to go to sleep. A funny thing happens in between, however. That thing called a life. I should be on my fortieth novel by now.

Heidi said...

Thank you so much for starting this conversation. This is something I've been struggling with, and I always wonder, "How do other writers do it?"
I'm enjoying reading everyone's responses, and learning along the way, as usual!
It's all just one big lesson after all.

salima said...

If my head is clear, if I have a wonderful exhaustion and what's in me came out, then I can engage with the world fully and enthusiastically. But if I don't write to exhaustion, the story becomes a nagging hum under all my daily doings and sort of superimposes itself on things. Fortunately I don't have many people around me demanding my time and energy--just a very understanding boyfriend who is an artist himself.

Also, I do yoga, which is like Xanax.:)

Lisa Desrochers said...

This is a really good question that I’ve struggled with all year. I still have my day job, which obviously takes a good chunk of my time, but I’m also under deadlines, so sometimes life takes a backseat. Example: Right now, I’m combing through first pass pages for my sequel (due on 1/17), and editing book three so I can send it to my crit partner next week, so here’s how my day went yesterday. Up at 6:30. Kids on the bus at 7. Went to work. Home at 4. Scoured first pass pages till 8 when I realized I’d forgotten to feed my kids. Dinner at 9. Edited until 11. First pass pages until 3am. Got up this morning and started again. I read each and every comment above looking for the magical answer, but it seems this is a pattern with many of us. I keep thinking: After these edits… Or, when I finish this book… But things never slow down.

Marilyn Peake said...

I like what Rick Daley said, and that's what I do: I wobble. Trying to balance writing and life is tough sometimes.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I know when it's time to live cuz my kiddos tell me.

Anita Saxena said...

I always make time for my family and friends, and of course go to work, but I try to set aside at least three days where I have giant chunks of time for me and my writing. In between those three days I simply think about my book, way to make it better, etc... It works for me.

D.J. Morel said...

I used to write seven days a week, but have since trimmed it back to six. Sundays are now a work and write free day, the day to go out and have a life. I also often make them a computer free day, not even allowed to check e-mail on my phone. It's amazing how long and rewarding the day is when you don't do anything other than interact with real, live people. Though I'll often end up reading a lot. That's part of living, isn't it?

Adele Richards said...

My 2011 plan (working so far) is to write/plot for 30 minutes minimum a day no matter what. It's a piffling amount of time, I know but the good thing is that it's constantly rumbling along in my subconscious because I'm 'at it' so often. I figure if I take a few steps every day, eventually I'll reach my destination.

Ulysses said...

I admit that, at the moment, I'm in a time where writing is difficult. There seems to be little space in my head for creation. I feel bad about it, but there are so many other things in my life that require my attention, and deserve it, that the production of words has fallen too far down the priority list to obtain processor cycles.

I don't expect this will last long. It never does. Writing, as a creative activity, is something I find necessary, as important in its way as exercise, meditation and reading are for my overall well-being.

I suspect I balance few aspects of my life well. Like many, I respond more to urgent demands than I do to important ones (urgent is not always the same as important). As a result, stress is a frequent companion, and depression a real danger.

Still, I'm learning. Time taken to balance things out is not time better spent elsewhere. It's necessary, as is saying "No," to some things. Writing is something that makes me feel good, and when I feel good, all those other demands, those burdens, are a little easier to carry.

Honestly, though, I could use a few more hours in my day.

Who am I kidding? I could use a few more days in my day.

Ulysses said...

Reading through the comments, I see I'm not alone in the struggle to find time and energy.

Stephen King says (in On Writing): Life should not be a support system for art. Art should be a support system for life.

Anonymous said...

When you're younger it's hard to strike a balance, mostly because you think you know it all.

It's not until you're older and can draw from past life experiences when you begin to strike the real balance. Things change after 40, when you realize you have more years behind you than you have ahead of you.

Anonymous said...

There is not balance for me. I'm a full time senior design engineer for a multinational tech company, I have 1.5 hrs of commute every day, I own 10 acres of land to take care of, I need to work out regularly...it's quite insane actually. I recently uninstalled all my computer games to remove that temptation. Balance? LOL! Balance for me involves "Oh, I have some time, guess I will write." But, I do maintain lots of brainstorming docs using Google docs that I can access at almost any time and toss out and idea that floats in to my head.

Mira said...

I agree with GregZ that the question here is rather subtle. (Although the discussion about how to find time to write is always an excellent and relevant one!) I'm not sure if I'm addressing your question, Nathan, but I'll share the thoughts that came up for me when I read your post.

I guess I have two main thoughts.

The first is that when we are writing, we are the tool that we use. And it's very important to take care of ourselves, because if we're exhausted, or deprived, or resentful, or dry inside, our writing will reflect that. That's not always a bad thing for our writing, but I think alittle bit of that can go along way. So, I think it's important for us to make sure that we have a balance of our needs being met in order to come back to our writing refreshed and clear. That includes fun, rest and engaging activities separate from writing.

The other thought I have is sort of a variation of that. I believe that when we write we express who we are and what we've experienced. Many people recommend observing the world to better your writing. I think observing the world can't hurt, but I believe what's really important is being aware of and in touch with yourself.

It's a matter of grappling with who you are, what you think, how you feel, what choices you make, where you are wounded, how you are healing and what lessons you are learning. All of that also opens channels to the unconscious as well, and I believe creation is a colloboration between our conscious and unconsious selves, and the clearer the channels between them, the more powerful the expression.

All of that is to say that as writers we not only need time to rest, but we need time to reflect, absorb, explore and sometimes do nothing. Having people to talk this our questions over with is invaluable. Also, even more invaluable is time alone.

Here's a quote from Brenda Ueland that speaks to this.

"I learned...that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness."
— Brenda Ueland

Anyway, hope that speaks to your question, Nathan. I know that it was helpful to me to organize my thoughts and talk about it. :)

Lindsay said...

For me, this is THE question. I haven't found the answer yet. Getting "good writing" done means not doing many other things that also need doing (cleaning out the car, doing the dishes, doing laundry, taking my dog to the park, answering my phone). The closest I've come to balance is alternating writing and life. There are some days I don't write much, because I need to do other things; there are some days (some weeks) when "nothing gets done" because I'm writing and making a lot of progress. I'm in the middle of my first-ever week off from writing, because I'm cleaning my house for visitors and, being pregnant, I can't pull late-nights to catch up on my word count. For me, working fulltime and writing regularly means my life cannot be truly well-balanced--no matter how hard I try.

Carol J. Garvin said...

My life isn't as busy now as it used to be but I remember the yearning for more 'me' time to pursue special interests, and I sympathize with those who are trying to stretch 24 hours to span a day's commitments. I often waste a lot of precious time and mental energy doing inconsequential things. Some days it doesn't matter; other days I know I need to be more efficient. Prioritizing works for me. I don't usually stop to wonder where I'll find time to get important things done, I just do them. Like lots of things in life, if something is important enough to me I make time, and let the less important things drop off that day's schedule.

Nicole L Rivera said...

I set a schedule to write. If something comes up where I can "live" and be out in the world, soak up another's company, and add value to my vault of experience (which improves my writing) then I take it. If it's grocery shopping, I try to avoid it at all costs.

Kasie West said...

Wait, nobody told me being balanced was a requirement. Maybe that's what I'm doing wrong.

Laurie Boris said...

I write as a vocation and an avocation, so balance is particularly hard. I make time daily for exercise, good food and good sleep. I make time for family life. What frequently gets cheated is time with friends. Still working on that.

Pamala Owldreamer said...

I have so many changes and so much uncertainty and sadness in my life at the moment my writing is my life.It takes me away from all the fear of the unknown.Gives me hope for a better day in th future. I blog and pour out my frustration and pain with humor.Writing is the only constant in the drama and upheaval that has taken over my life.I can cope as long as I can write and tell a damn good story.

mnaylor3 said...

Write on your iphone! (this comment is sponsored by Apple)

Ganz-1 said...

I let each have their own time. Whenever I feel like I can't write, I stop and enjoy life. Once I get to the spirit of writing again, I stopped life and enjoy writing. I measure balance in days, not hours in a day. If I can get 2 days of writing and 2 days of life, then it is balanced.

Debbie said...

That's tough to balance for most of us and a great question. I know many writers who schedule time every day to sit at their computer and write. Very few of them, however, actually schedule time with their loved ones. I think, if you're serious about it, you need to consciously schedule both. Sure, things will happen and get in the way, but if you set aside time for writing and for living, the chances are that you'll do a better job of both.

Debbie Ouellet

S. M. Orges said...

I'm a professional copywriter Monday through Friday.

Monday, Tuesday and Friday evenings, I try to work on my book, but usually end up watching YouTube videos because I'm tired from writing all day.

Saturdays I start writing around 1pm and continue until 10ish.

Sundays and Wednesday evenings are reserved for friends and family, and Thusday nights are choir practice.

Sheila Cull said...

Yes, interesting reading the comments.

How do you balance writing and life Nathan?

Nathan Bransford said...

Sheila-

Honestly, it's something I struggle with all the time.

Nathan Bransford said...

Well, I should say in my case it's the balance between the triumvirate of work/life/writing

Joy N. Hensley said...

Balance between writing and life? Yeah right! Between my commute, the two boys who demand (and rightfully so) time when I'm home, and the exhaustion that comes from teaching 90 13-year olds a day, it's hard for me to focus. But, I set a goal for myself to do one writing-focused thing a day. Tonight my two-year old was having a bad night, so we went to wal-mart and I bought index cards for my next story--that's my writing thing for today. Not too exciting, but it got something done.

I also carry a digital recorder with me in the car. So on my long slogs up the highway, I will write story notes or story ideas, then transcribe them at some point.

Every little bit helps and every little bit gets me that much closer to my goal of publishing a novel.

Adam Heine said...

"How do you balance writing and life?"

Poorly.

Deepam Wadds said...

It is an ongoing effort to maintain balance between the worlds. I don't write for a living (yet) but I set aside time to write as if I do. It's that important.

Anonymous said...

You set priorities and learn how to say no, which usually means your social life suffers. And, friends get mad at you. But for me, I'd much rather experience a new release, knowing I put so much work into it, than spend more time with friends. As selfish as that sounds, it's the honest truth.

You simply can't have it all.

Sharon Bially said...

This is a great question but it begs another question that keeps nagging at me: how do writers FINANCE the writing life over the long term? I hear many writers talk about writing all day, year round, and while I was lucky enough to work part-time for many years, it became difficult for my family and I now have a full-time job. I'm lucky if I squeeze in an hour of writing each morning. How do those who do devote most of their time to writing sustain? Do they earn enough from publishing revenues to forgo a salary? Or do they have the support of a spouse or a trust fund? I realize there are many answers, but I'd love to hear 'em all!

Nick said...

Easy.

I have no day job, don't go back to university for another week, and never really hung out with friends a hell of a lot to begin with.

The trickier part is balancing writing with gaming/reading/film watching/etc.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Well put, Nathan! Glad I'm not the only writer suffering from the balance act. :D I tend to be an all or nothing kind of gal. So, I'm totally living life or I'm totally in writer/reader mode. I have a hubby and four boys (three of which are teenagers, the other is 5) and I can literally shut out the commotion around me when I'm in the writing zone. It usually takes an earth shattering event for them to get me attention. :D

Lucinda said...

First half century, I lived.
Great question, Nathan....as usual.

Now, I am making up for lost time in pursuing the dream of writing...I don't try to balance it.

However, four children and three grandchildren often force a little balance here and there.

Lucy

wendy said...

In the past I've had a lot of solitary time which has been a joy to fill with writing pursuits. Some of my happiest times have been while writing. The only family I have is my mother who lived a State away, back then, and I don't make friends easily, so being able to create stories about imaginery people has been a great blessing. Writing and music have saved me from a huge amount of loneliness, emptiness and self-doubt.

These days time is harder to come by as I'm a full-time carer for my mother now she's frail and ill, but I don't regret that either. Everything has its season, and I've moved on to the next phase with acceptance and joy.

Gordon said...

I forget the speaker, but somebody once said a writer only writes based on the first 25 years of his or her life, ie, you should spend a quarter century living all the way up then sit down and be a monk for the rest of your days, spinning out those epic yarns of your well-spent youth.
I'm 22 and have spent a year and a half on a novel sort of based on the previous couple years of my life. I guess I lived through some stuff then wanted to write about it, but I never stopped living. You have to keep observing the world to stay inspired, to keep alive the necessity for your work to make it out there.
My one Unbreakable Vow is to never allow the Word file to stagnate for more than 24 hours. As long as something in the ms changes from one day to the next I know I've made tangible progress, and hopefully lessened the overall work remaining in the project.

Hillsy said...

I decided I didn't like the balancing act anymore. Writing becoming more of a looming, excrutiating failure than an enjoyable hobby, so I switched it for stuff that makes me happy.

I mean I still write my SF and Fantasy epics, I just don't commit them to paper anymore....=0)

Ann Elise said...

School was clearly the creation of the Devil, designed to gobble up so many hours of our lives in order to turn us into antisocial, pasty adolescents with no creativity or social lives, so I have to shove some of that out of the way to make time for writing. I handwrite most of my first drafts and any new scenes I'm inserting into existing works so I don't have to lug around a laptop--I'm too little and weak for that :)

This year, with two sets of study periods (that's one-third of my time at school), I'm hoping that the balancing act will be more manageable and I will finish the novel I started at fifteen years old. Then again, this is my final year so all bets are off.

J.C. Martin said...

I used to work full-time from 8 to 5, plus I had part-time commitments taking up at least 8 hours of my time every week. Now I've left my job extended my part-time hours to 4 days a week. I also have a schedule that includes allocated writing time as well as time to deal with everyday chores. I'm still earning enough to survive, and I'm enjoying my job much more, plus I have loads more time for writing! :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

You know; I'm just going to say it:

I don't balance it at all. I'm a selfish and self-indulgent kind of writer, and that can make me a distant and self-centered wife and friend and blogger and twitterer and facebooker.

I SAY I want to balance my writing time with "Real Life Time," but in reality I'm not trying very hard to draw a line in the sand that says, "This is my Real Life time, and this is my Writing Time . . ."

Nope, instead, I am like the Type A driven executive who comes home too late while her husband/dogs has already had supper and the Type A executive stands in the kitchen, eating from the refrigerator, still thinking about work . . . and has to PUUUUUUULLLL herself into the "Living Room" as if through some weird invisible force-field . . . schhllurrp!

Hi Honey, I'm Home! and he looks so grateful, it both makes me sad and mad all at the same time.

Linda Godfrey said...

Like George Costanza having no hand, I used to have no balance. My writing and associated activities took every waking moment, including some that I kidnapped from what should have been sleeping moments. Then one day cancer found I'd left the door open and let itself in. I learned balance fast, the hard way. Now I do not feel bad taking that hour for exercise or meeting friends for coffee or watching a movie with the Hub. I'm just glad I'm here years later to do these wonderful things. And my total output is somehow still the same!

Emma @ emmasota said...

I've been blogging on this topic lately, too. I write outside the house for my day job, have a family, and am writing a book at night. For me, the most difficult thing is patience--I simply can't write my book as fast as I'd like to, because I'd also like to make sure that there's spaghetti on the table, clean clothes for my toddler, and that my pregnant body gets some sleep.

Chemist Ken said...

After I come home from work, my family expects me to spend a certain amount of time with them in the evenings. (Damn leeches!) But every other minute I can spare goes to writing, even if it means less time to sleep. Not really much of a balance.

Layla Morgan Wilde said...

Writing means the house is never clean.

caleb said...

I journal in fiction. It's therapeutic, so writing balances the rest of my life.

Sophia the Writer said...

haha I just blogged about this. The only way I get all my writing in is by sacrificing sleep. And that's been getting hard to sustain after a few months...:(

I'm also leaving a really stressful job and taking less hours freelancing, so hopefully this will open up some time.

And sometimes life just gets TOO overwhelming - like we're going to move from a house to an apartment in the next month and I have to make a trip to Taiwan for ol' grandpa's birthday.

Anonymous said...

Sleep deprivation. That's the answer. I have three wonderful daughters with busy schedule from one field or court of something to another. My husband isn't well. I teach about 140 great students. There is little spare time except after the house finally falls silent or at least somewhat. This is when I write.

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