Nathan Bransford, Author

Monday, March 21, 2011

How to Find Balance?

There's a joke at every college that you can study, sleep, and have a social life, but only two out of three. And when you're out in the real world and trying to build a career at whatever you're doing, that may as well be two out of three of work, sleep, and a social life. And yet we writers with day jobs are trying to cram a hugely time-consuming fourth task in there: writing. There's never enough time.

These past few years I was on a treadmill that I know many writers can relate to. If it wasn't working, writing, blogging, or watching the occasional TV show or basketball game at the end of the night, chances are I wasn't doing it. I lived for the vacations I took every six months or so - those were my breaks.

The time I took for doing purely fun things slipped away, and the day when I was going to slow down kept receding in the distance. It was a bit of an unsustainable course. Now, I didn't go Britney Spears and shave my head or anything like that, but something had to give, which is partly why I craved a fresh start and a new challenge in a new career. I knew I had to find a different balance.

This all came to a head the past few months. I was starting a new job as I was trying to finish up WONDERBAR #2 (which I'm now editing), starting WONDERBAR #3, spending time with family around the holidays, dealing with a sick dog who wasn't sleeping through the night (he's fine now), and other assorted massively time consuming travails.

The thing about this is that I know full well these are the problems of someone who is very blessed and fortunate, and I'm not asking for, nor do I deserve, sympathy. I know I'm lucky! Oh - gee, my hobby that I love is too time-consuming. Woe is me. There are people out there who are working far harder and who are struggling and for whom the idea of finding "balance" in their life is an abstraction.

But I also know that's the guilt of the ambitious writer talking, and it's a great justification for running yourself into the ground. Someone out there is always working harder and more successfully and look like they have it made in the shade. I have to remind myself to ignore that. If you have the luxury of time: It really behooves you to take some of it for yourself.

So these past few months I've been searching for a new paradigm. No longer am I working late into the night; I'm trying to spend my weeknights hanging out with friends. No longer am I spending every single Saturday and Sunday writing; I'm trying to spend at least one of those days doing something fun. My new job is going great and I'm trying to get out of the apartment more and reengage with the world. One day I went to the Steinhart Aquarium and just stared at the fish, which made me feel slightly crazy, but hey, what can I say world, I'm back!!

Have you ever gone through a similar rebalancing of your life? How did you find the right mix, and are you happier as a result?


erikarobuck said...

I'm still searching for that balance. I really love immersion in writing, but I have to remind myself to come up for air and spend more time with the ACTUAL PEOPLE in my life than my characters.

Kudos to you for recognizing and pursuing your need for balance.

M.A.Leslie said...

The hardest part of stepping away from writing is that it is extremely accessible. All you have to do is pull out the lap top and start slamming away. Not to mention, you can't turn off a creative mind once you've turned it on. There isn't a cork to stop it.
It is never off, but I have found a way to step away from it. I just focus on what I am doing and I am present to other tasks. If you can’t write and have a life it isn’t worth doing.

SierraMcConnell said...

I just twitted this morning about how obsessed I was getting about book two in the Chasing series. I have the tendancy to not want to eat, sleep, /bathe/ because I'm too busy planning or jotting this or that down. I want to wander around in my pajamas and focus on that and nothing else.

My friend there has the same problem. It's hard to find balance when writing feels so good. Other things feel good, too, but is so hard when you'd rather be in that world, not this one.

Nicole said...

Ha - great timing on this post! I've been struggling to find that balance and realized this weekend that something's gotta give. I'm guessing it's going to be sleep...

That being said, I've learned that when life makes me walk away from my writing, it's usually for a good reason. It's a chance to take a breath and get some new perspective.

Raj said...

I am still looking for the balance. Strange coincidence that I just finished reading 4-hour workweek by Tim Ferris. It discusses these issues in some detail and also offers several solutions. You may not implement all of them, but they sure get you thinking in a different direction.

Munk said...

Discovering my love for writing help lead me to a more stable balance.

Laurel said...

Having kids sort of imposes balance. They HAVE to eat, get to school, go to scouts, soccer practice, get tucked into bed, etc. And since other parents participate in a lot of these activities, I'm forced to deal with real human beings instead of the ones manufactured by my brain.

Which is infinitely frustrating sometimes but essentially a good thing.

Tommy Salami said...

I just got off a jag like that. then I realized the best work happens when I set aside an hour or so every day, sit down and write. I always scrabble down ideas as they come, but the writing and revising can't be forced.

C.G. Powell said...

Glad you have found your balance. Some days I find mine and some days I ignore the world to become a part of my own written words. But I would never turn down a visit from a friend or a drink with the neighbors to do so.

Shari said...

I think I'm re-evaluating my life's balance every day trying to keep up with everything. I'm glad you have found some in your own life.

Vivacia said...

Some days I have the balance right, others I really don't. But I've learned to not beat myself up if I don't do as much writing one night because I instead go out with a friend or watch a movie. The hardest thing though is trying to get others to understand that at times I just need to be left alone to write...

Dave said...

Hmmm...working on a mid-life career change, juggling various writing projects in various stages of completion, and expecting my first child with my wife...yeah, I'm working on that balance thing! I think the important part of all the chaos for the writer, though, is to remember that every one of these experiences is inspiration that we can draw from to write about at some point in the future.

Jenna said...

I picture my life as a horse and these types of "a-ha!" moments as the "Whoa, Nelly."

I notice the imbalance when my ability to truly listen to others starts to suffer. If I can't be mindful of someone else while I'm spending quality time with them (because my mind is in a thousand places at once, trying to do!do!do! in my head), I need to re-evaluate what I'm letting myself become.

Jess said...

While some recent interest in my writing from agents and other people who can help my career has been wonderful and amazing (to say the least), I happen to have a lot of other things on my plate that make balance difficult.

I am a full-time middle school teacher. I have two young boys, a husband, a small farm that includes livestock, and I teach some private classes on the side. So until I can find a way to say no to some of those other things (or dump them altogether along with the income they provide), my writing happens at night, in between classes, in the waiting room at the orthodontist, and in any other fits and starts I can find during the day.

It's occurred to me this morning that I could dictate while running and driving, but I fear this is an indicator that I have most certainly lost balance.

danielle spears said...

That's great that you are trying to find balance with work and life. I find I have the same problem and sleep is the one thing that suffers. The time I spend writing is either after my one year old goes to bed or before he wakes up in the morning. Last night I got only five hours of sleep. I don't have near the pressure you do with your following, but I do find I put a lot of pressure on myself. I am blessed with a supportive husband who is okay with the fact that the house isn't clean or dinner isn't homecooked. So I try to make time for family by using Sunday as a day for them.

My brother is in the coast guard and overseas and when I remember that it puts things in perspective. I can only imagine his agenda or why he doesn't get enough sleep each night.

Mr. D said...

You think you're busy now? Just wait til you have kids.
(And I hope you do have kids, btw, I think you'd make a great dad!)

Deni Krueger said...

Ummm...I think I'm pretty far away from that. I spent the day in my pajamas. Figured if I waited to change and shower until after studying and running, it would give me 30 free minutes to write tonight.

Sandra said...

I agree with what Laurel (7:17 am) said - having kids imposes some sort of balance because there are certain aspects of having kids that forces the routine of meals, bedtimes, sports, homework and the occasional all out game of pretending-to-be-a-monster-and-chase-the-kids-all-over-the-house.

My need for even more balance came last month. Book number one was making the rounds (querying properly is very labour intensive), book's two and three were vying for attention, my blog was cranking up on readership, my day job was more intense (and rewarding), the kids sports schedules were becoming more demanding and then WHAMMO - I got the flu.

Nothing like being sick for a week to put everything in perspective. It was my body's way of saying to my brain, "Hello, up there, we need a break!"

The Lemonade Stand said...

I agree with Laurel. Even though my kids aren't in school yet they require constant attention so writing during the day isn't even possible. You can't have perfect balance with kids. That's why I started the nasty habit of writing until 2:00 in the morning. Of course the balance is disturbed here because sleeping a full eight hours after that with early bird kids? Yeah. Doesn't happen.

Amber J. Gardner said...

I don't have balance. I'm really struggling in this area, but I'm different than most people.

While people work too much, I work too little. While other people find it hard to do nothing, it's hard for me to consider working nonstop all day or work into the night.

And it makes me feel like I should be doing more, cause I spend so much time reading blogs, meditating and just simply doing nothing (hell today I just walked around the library and looked at books I wanted to read).

Doing too little is just as much as doing too much and I'm afraid of doing too much than I am doing too little apparently.

So the search for balance continues...

Chuck H. said...

There must be something in the air. Domey Malasarn over at the Literary Lab just blogged about spending time in the desert listening to the wind and watching the lizards.

A few years ago I was trying to work full time, go to school full time and have time for family. After two years, I dropped school and spent a year just working and sleeping. Then I went back part time. Took me twice as long to finish but I got there more or less sane. Some times you just have to stop and smell the Peonies. It also helps to have a motorcycle and some good winding roads.

Tanisha said...

I'm still searching for the balance. It seems just as I think I have it all figured out something else pops up. I try to step away and enjoy what life has to offer, from sitting at the park to going out of town, at least once a week. I call it my reboot.

Deb said...

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "I never worked full time until I became a mom". Truer words were never spoken. Balance is no longer my goal. Finding space for myself in the midst of three other people's needs is my hobby, and spending that space in quality ways (rather than screwing around on the internet or watching TV) is my goal.

Loree Huebner said...

Great post.

It’s so hard to find balance these days. You have your real job, family, friends, other stuff (pets, car repairs, worries at work, bills…etc.) and throw writing into the mix along with finding time to work out…it’s just sheer overload sometimes.

Recently at work, an old man came up to me and right out of the blue said, “Don’t forget to have fun, missy.” I looked at him square in the eye and then it hit me…”Yeah, you’re right, sir, I’ll take that advice.” He must have seen something in my expression showing that I was having a tough day. I didn’t know his name and have never seen him again since, but I’m taking his advice. I’ve been trying to seek out the fun things I used to do, and scheduling me time once a week.

Kathryn Tuccelli said...

I am definitely still trying to find a balance between work and writing. My job drains me so much mentally that by the time I get home, I am usually fried. If I do work on the computer at home, work is usually not far from my mind.

However, I recently re-discovered the joy of writing in long-hand. (I know, it's not "joy" to most!) Though long-hand is more time-consuming, it motivates me to write more as I don't have to continue staring at a screen after I arrive home, and it forces my brain to switch gears.

It IS good to make time for friends, for vacations, for pure enjoyment. I try to sit by our saltwater tank for a few minutes every day and get lost in the beauty. No, you're not crazy for staring at the fishes, Nathan ;-)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I think balance, for most people, is a fairly amorphous thing. It's not something that you have, or don't have, but something that you are always working toward, something that is always evolving, always shaping itself around new experiences and new parameters in your life.

It's a matter of degree. Life is always changing, and so the goal of balance, and the processes for finding it, are in constant flux as well. A new concern, a new need, a new friendship, a new hobby, a new responsibility - these things will all transform your idea of balance. They'll transform, whether to a small degree or a large, what you need, what you want, and, simply, what you can actually accomplish.

And this last point, it seems to me, is important. That evolution toward balance is an evolution toward meeting goals that are within reach, that we can actually accomplish. A plan is great, but if it depends on things out of your hands it's going to be hard to find balance. You'll always be needing to do one more thing, and other activities will be pulled along in your wake like a rusty old tailpipe; you might hear the rattle sometimes, but you've forgotten how to get to the mechanic's garage.

Paula said...

By the comments it seems most of us struggle with the same thing and who knows the answer. I have had times when I've pushed myself to go out with a friend and think, wow, that was fun. I have so little "alone" time that everything chunk I get - I write. But that was an eye opener for me. Made me realize that I had forgot what it was like to have fun and be "outside" myself rather than in my head or in my character's heads.

Sommer Leigh said...

"One day I went to the Steinhart Aquarium and just stared at the fish, which made me feel slightly crazy"

Hah! I know exactly what form of crazy this is and what it feels like!

Taryn Tyler said...

I've recently experienced something very similar. I'm trying to let go of the straight, studying, work, writing schedual, and watching geeky TV when I am too worn out to think anymore scuedual, and encorporate a little more social and exploration time. Sleep, however, has been greatly sacrificed. I may need to do some more rethinking.

Anonymous said...

If you really love what you do, and I mean really love it, finding balances isn't always as important as when you're doing something you don't love.

In other words, I'd rather be writing or promoting my books than hanging out with friends. I never wanted kids, and I don't have them. I know who I am. It's just the way I'm programmed. I look at people sitting next to pools doing nothing sometimes and wonder how they do it. I'd lose my mind.

Lauren said...

This year I'm deep in the middle of a paradigm shift. I was obsessed with teaching high school then used my off-times to do freelance PR for my brother's company. I lost a decade. And I had taken very little time to pursue my ultimate dream of writing. Finally, after a lot of prodding from friends and family I went part-time at work for a year, got a roommate, and cut back a lot on my brother's company. This year I'm dedicating to living and writing. It's been wonderful to pull back and reassess my priorities in life, and to make real time for my writing. I've found that my downtime is often what inspires my best writing. A walk on the beach, a yoga class, or dinner with friends all add humanizing richness to my writing. Anyway, thanks for sharing Nathan. Sounds like we both just shook things up a bit for the better :)

D.G. Hudson said...

'Everyone is looking for Something' (a popular song refrain).

I've had this happen at least twice in my life, where I realized I was nearing burnout. Family obligations & over-work were my villains (over-achiever wannabe). Usually I would sacrifice sleep, getting down to 4 or 5 hrs a night. Not that healthy.

My helpers in finding balance: exercise, cat naps or fresh air, & organizing priorities - what has to be done today and what can be put off? (a well-known stress exercise)

Sometimes we're trying to live up to the ideals of others, not our own. Learning to say NO to things I didn't really want to do helped - which meant sacrificing some social time as well.

We each have to sort out what's important to us, and make time for reviving our 'soul'. Don't scrimp on time for yourself - as writers we need it. Doing something we enjoy makes us feel we have some control.

V.K. Tremain said...

Yes, it's very hard to find that balance. I love writing and sometimes find my self dreading going out because it takes precious time away from writing. However, I also know how important it is to get out, it feeds my creativity, and is just as important as staying in and writing.
The Academy of Sciences and Steinhart Aquarium is amazing. I made it to the DeYoung for the Impressionist's good to get out once in a while :)

Whirlochre said...

If you've no time in the day for idle thoughts, all the important things you think you think will be worthless.

John Jack said...

[Cue manic laughter.]

Balance comes and goes as the wheel turns and burns. Seeking balance is a lifelong pursuit. It comes in fleeting moments all on its own though. The first occuring sometime in late young adulthood. The second sometime in late early adulthood. A third after a mid life crisis. A fourth in the late twilight of late adulthood. A late fifth in the sunset of life, when confronting mortality face-to-face.

No less, a disequalibrium occurs anytime a significant change in circumstances occurs.

Boxes of existence wanting balance: basics--subsistence, security, society; luxuries--physical, emotional, recreational, spiritual, and intellectual activities.

How do I find balance? By thriving in the between times of chaos cognizant balance is fleeting.

Carol J. Garvin said...

My "ah-ha" moment didn't happen until after a minor nervous breakdown. I had the unreasonable expectation that I was suppose to do everything just because I could. The "musts" and "shoulds" crammed themselves into my life and left little room for the "wants" and "likes". Finding balance required making deliberate choices.

I discovered for me to survive required three things:
(1.) agreeing that "no" is an acceptable answer. I had to acknowledge that I didn't have to be all things to all people in my life, that the world wouldn't stop turning if I left certain jobs to others or left some tasks undone.
(2.) learning to live in the moment. When my schedule was jam packed I missed engaging fully in the present because I kept thinking about what else I had to do. When I began focusing on one thing at a time it eliminated a lot of stress.
(3.) scheduling in time for spontaneity. No, that's not a contradiction in terms. I needed to have breathing space in my days... time to do whatever I felt like doing whether it was daydreaming, walking or spending an extra hour writing.

Yes, I'm happier, and I'm glad you've found contentment as a result of the choices and changes you've made, too.

(This turned out to be longer than I intended. Sorry!)

Ella Schwartz said...

Excellent post! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one struggling with this balance!

I have been trying to finish my novel for 4 years! All along the way, friends and family would ask me "how's that book going?" And the answer was always the same "still writing." I knew that most of them must have been thinking to themselves that the book would never ever be finished. I felt like screaming out to them: "Don't you understand that I have a job, 3 kids, and a husband to take care of!"

The truth is, I put enormous pressure on myself to write in my spare time. But with a day job and a family, spare time is tough to find.

And remember, we all have to sleep too :)

Proud to report that I finally finished the novel :)

Stephsco said...

I'm cutting out video games for awhile as I finish revising my novel. I feel stupid for even saying this, because a lot of people kind of scoff at the idea of a 30-something working professional who plays video games, add to that being a woman, and I get weird looks at my non-preggo belly, since apparently I should be having children rather than mowing down irradiated wasters in Fallout: New Vegas.

I want to play Dragon Age: 2 pretty bad but I also want to have a draft I am proud enough to send out to a few trusted test readers. It's all about sacrifice! Plus, I love to write and to read, so cutting out some TV and video games has helped me focus on other things I like.

Craziness abounds said...

Hey I find myself in similar postions all the time. I think you are on to something with just taking a step back. Good for you. I'll be following to see how it works out for you..

A. C. Crispin said...

Your blog post really spoke to me, Nathan, because I'm struggling to do all of the following:

1. Promote new book that will be out May 17, 2011. Working with publicist to arrange appearances, etc., plus do internet promos...something I've never tried before.

2. Start new project. I'm not ME unless I have a book in progress. But there aren't enough hours in the day to do it ALL!

3. Keep up with Writer Beware. Next Monday I'll spend half the day schlepping myself to Northern MD to talk to a bunch of aspiring authors, many of them probably getting pretty desperate, and it's my task to try and convince them to eschew PublishAmerica and Strategic Books and the other scammers.

5. Maintain a home, yard, get tax stuff together, and help my mom manage her finances.

I feel like I've been on a three month marathon with the Red Queen.

After reading your post, I made the decision to take time off and go see the cherry blossoms this year. It's not much, but it's a start.

Thanks, Nathan! Good blog post!

-Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware

A.C. Crispin
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom
Disney Editions
May 17, 2011

Rebecca Stroud said...

Right now, my writing is on hiatus because I, too, tried to cram it in all in at once. Writing, editing, social media, taking care of dog/husband (don't have kids but one stepson is fighting addiction so...), and all the other stuff that life entails.

So, yeah, my balance needs improved and it will be one day soon when my fingers get itchy with all that junk in my brain seeking release.

And, Nathan: So glad your dog is okay. They are such wonderful souls...:)

Kariss said...

I recently finished college and am working and writing. I am also trying to juggle a growing social life in a new city. All great things, right? I have had to set a schedule and stick to it (which is so hard for me because I can be a workaholic when I become focused on a task). I set aside time to write and time for myself and social time. My friends are learning when I can and can't do things. I am learning to say "no" (which is very hard for me). I work hard to stick to the schedule and hold myself accountable, giving myself leeway for those inspired moments that happen at the most inconvenient times where I just have to write. :) So glad I am not alone in trying to find balance!

Anonymous said...

If you work at home, or for yourself, or too much, days off, days out in the world, can way too easily dry up. Years can pass and you are spending your days in your sleepwear (or the equivalent) in front of the computer.
I also think that's a reason social media is so popular. I have friends who only socialize on line.
It is hard work tearing yourself away from what consumes you.
I have to schedule the get-out-get-away-time in and then, when I lose it, reschedule it in again.

Marilyn Peake said...

So glad you’re giving yourself some free time. You deserve it! I reached that point a couple of years ago. Ironically, I’m on the "treadmill" today, trying to do way too much, but I no longer enjoy working at this pace. I made time the other day to plan some fun vacations, and bought tickets to see both The Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil, and am looking forward to all of that. Today, I feel exhausted from all the writing-related work I’ve been doing, but I’m not complaining either – I’m lucky to be able to spend so much time on writing.

I love Bryan Russell’s post. I wish I could be that eloquent today, but I’m way too tired. I agree with his statement, "Life is always changing, and so the goal of balance, and the processes for finding it, are in constant flux as well." That is so true. Every time we find balance, it has already begun slipping away. It’s a constant process.

Chris Eboch said...

I try to remember a concept from The Artist's Way -- filling the well. In order to keep drawing from the well, you need to make sure the well is getting filled up. Writers and other artists do this by having real world experiences -- playing, socializing, getting out in nature, visiting museums, galleries, the zoo, the aquarium, etc., trying new foods and new activities, listening to music... anything that feeds your creative spirit.
Chris Eboch
The Eyes of Pharaoh: a mystery in ancient Egypt

Stephanie Barr said...

I appear to be self-balancing because of the efficient way my subconscious works. See my writing is all done by my subconscious with the conscious part of my mind doing nothing more than correcting spelling and saying "Are you sure you want to use that word?" The good stuff, the building of characters and worlds, the interplay of dialog, the plot twists and interactions, all these are the work of my subconscious.

What that means is, when I don't fee like writing, I don't because it's garbage. My subconscious will let me know when it's ready. In the mean time, my subconscious will direct me to watch movies or read book or steep myself in this or that, which is uniformly entertaining, feels like self-indulgence, but always turns out to be inspiration as I try to capture this or that aspect that my own work is missing.

Then, when my subconscious is ready, I'll sit down and write like a madwoman, with the words coming out as quickly as I can type them, often not knowing what I'll write more than a sentence or two ahead of my fingers.

In between these fits of frenzy, I can do my prescribed inspiration, revise existing works and fret over marketing which is a weak spot probably because my subconscious won't have anything to do with it.

Yes, I'm well aware I'm weird.

Katherine Hyde said...

I'm still searching. Add to the work/sleep/writing mix two kids, an active church life, and the fact that I am in my fifties (and thus way past having the energy of a 30-something-year-old), and you have a scale that is dipping dangerously into the negative on time for rejuvenation. I woke up exhausted this morning after attempting to have a relaxing weekend--don't even want to think about how tired I'll be by Friday. Or how unrestful next weekend will be. And I've only written about two hours in the last two weeks.

danielle spears said...

Tense? An English teacher spent a lot of time marking grammatical errors on her students' papers and was beginning to doubt whether she was getting through to them. One day as the stress got to her, she leaned over her desk and rubbed her temples.

"What's the matter, Mrs. D?" A passing student asked.

"Tense," she mumbled.

The student hesitated a moment, then said, "What could be the matter? What has been the matter? What was the matter?"


Donna Hole said...

"Just say no" to writing and blogging sometimes is my balance. Every two or three months I take a weekend off and just hang out with everyone. Feels weird, but I'm learning not to feel the guilt.

I've had a few epiphanies while not focusing so hard on the current WIP; so it wasn't all wasted writing time :)

Glad you're getting a handle on things Nathan.


Lucy said...

Thanks for this post, Nathan. Like you (and many others), I've been pushing too hard for a while. This spring, however, I'm going to take time out for my gardens--several projects involving dirt are under way, and I'm excited about them--looking forward to the weather breaking so I can really get started.

I don't know if you'd call that balance, but it's a much needed refresher. :)

Anonymous said...

Went to the art museum this weekend to see the new exhibit. Stared at the same spots of paint for 10, 15 min stretches.

Didn't see the exhibit, much. I did witness a startled docent when I asked to borrow his pen to jot down writing ideas on my brochure.

jenniferkoliver said...

Thanks for the post, Nathan! It's great to hear you're finding a good balance. It's amazing how a few adjustments can change your quality of life and outlook. I think change can be worthwhile almost any time at any stage. And hey, if it doesn't work out, you can always change back, but if it does work you can find new and exciting opportunities.

I was consumed by an activity a few years ago, and even though I knew it wasn't doing me much good I still clung to it because it was familiar. But like you, I knew something had to give, and since re-evaluating life I've found an amazing balance. I'm still busy, but it's a happy, even kind of busy, and wow, what a difference it makes to overall well-being. :)

Anonymous said...

We are always dancing.

Matthew MacNish said...

I've been through this kind of thing before, but not in ways I'm going to talk about online.

Suffice to say that you are not alone. I don't have nearly the stress in my writing career that you do, only because I'm not internet famous, not published, and not (quite) as awesome, but it is still there. And I have kids.

I think you made the right decision. And it sounds like you have a great perspective on what's really important.

You're also right, that people like us, who can pay the bills, have enough to eat, and still find time for our hobbies should not complain, but that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't think about ways to improve our lives and our work.

Oh. And thanks for letting us in.

Leila said...

Sometimes I think that the notion of 'balance' suggests we are striving to find a place of great achievement and stability that will last however long it lasts. But I wonder if society and it's definitions of 'balance' actually put us into a mindtrap instead.

Everyone knows the saying, 'everything in moderation' and it's a good one. Perhaps we need to unlock our brains, free ourselves from the mindtrap and stop trying to 'find' anything.

There are no guarantees in life, and our worlds may change in their entirety from one day to the next due to unforseen circumstances.

So perhaps one way to experience life is:

a) to live it, not just exist in it
b) not put unrealistic expectations on ourselves on a daily/regular basis
c) not overcommit - prioritize, yes it is possible. There are many artificial deadlines, sometimes self imposed, out there.
d) not lock ourselves into a mindtrap that we must 'achieve' balance to succeed or be happy.
e) look for the opportunities arising out of the everyday for hope and happiness
f) appreciate and respect what we do have: choice, freedom, opportunity, friends, family, (insert other 1,000 things we should appreciate here)
g) not compare ourselves to others - the grass will always be greener on the other side
i) not 'check' ourselves for investing more time in any one hobby, event, occupation etc than we think we should. Everything will balance out in the end if one keeps the notion of moderation in mind.
j) DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY, not what you think you should to make others happy.
k)Ok, I'll stop here.

In my attempt to live in a 'balanced' state, I discovered that by definition I'd never make it. So I've tried to let go of the expected, or the norms I've consciously and subconsciously adopted over time, and gone back to exploring what genuinely makes me happy. So far I've found I'm becoming a more content me, and my relationships are strengthened in all contexts.

And yet, I'm still a work in progress and I sincerely hope I always will be. The world will never stop evolving and I hope I'll keep moving with it.

Michael Offutt said...

I think I'm perpetually out of balance aggravated of course by my energy level. As far as your success goes though Nathan, you've definitely earned it. This is the best blog on the internet period for publishing advice and you help so many people with your knowledge of how things work that you alone are probably responsible for hundreds if not thousands of writers finding success.I feel fortunate in having found this blog at a time when I was searching for answers to all the questions I had about the industry.

Pen and Ink said...

The deal is only YOU get to give yourself time to play, to relax, and that fuels your writing. The Artists Way by Julia Cameron recommends a one half hour artists date - doing something that fuels your imagination- once a week. (The book works. I wrote a picture book during an Artists Way course that I just sold to Simon and Schuuster) This is your LIFE if you are not taking time to enjoy the journey, why are you on it?

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, Michael!

twittertales said...

Some years ago, on my way to work and uni etc, I was trying to start my dodgy kick-start motorcycle and gave myself a giant gash all down one leg. My main feeling was relief that my day was ruined.

Every since then, I've set aside one day a week as a day of strictly no work (even housework) - I figure there's a reason one of the ten commandants was "Take a day off".

Louise Curtis

jesse said...

I think Chuck Palahniuk/Buddha said it best: let that which does not matter truly slide.

TheUndertaker said...

Personally I think balance only comes with planning. You got a busy life? Plan it, then follow the plan. Plan the fun stuff, plan the time-out, plan to do nothing!
Have accountability buddies that emails and asks if you did write that morning for even 30 mins and why didn't you?
Balance NEVER happens by itself. I think you have to want it and make it happen (and perhaps fail, like I do constantly, but I'm getting better slowly). But that's just me : )

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

All the time. If you're not striving, you'll never get "out" of balance, so I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to find yourself in that place. You just need to find a way back, and it looks like you have. So, yay you! :) I'm glad the balance is tipping back.

Nicole MacDonald said...

It is hard to find that balance.. I'm working on book two of my trilogy while beta reading for two friends as well as trying to keep my blog active and figure out more ways to promote my book... sometimes I do wish I was a tiny bit less ambitious ;p
The Arrival, Book 1 of the BirthRight trilogy available now

Rachelle said...

Oh Nathan. Just think, you're having trouble finding balance and you don't even have kids in the picture yet. At that point, all bets are off, balance is a figment of the imagination, and a good night's sleep is a pipedream.

Still, I'm not complaining. Life's pretty great. :-)

Kitty Bucholtz said...

Nathan, this is *such* a great post! I looked at some of my more successful writer friends and thought, I do NOT want the crazy less-happy life they have. They were working so hard to meet deadlines, they were running themselves ragged. I didn't want that life, but wasn't sure if that meant I'd never have a professional writing career. Then one day I woke up and remembered *I* get to choose what my life will be like. So things are going slower, taking longer to finish a manuscript, but if I die tomorrow everyone I know will have heard lately that I love them. No regrets. On the other hand, I'm in my final semester to get an MA in Creative Writing, so I have to remind myself that is a really good reason the other book isn't finished yet - because I've had to write a whole bunch of other stuff! LOL! I've begun to take periods - no more than 3-4 months - of working like mad and not doing much with friends. Then I take a break for a few months and work slower, M-F 10-4. It seems to be working for me.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Definitely been there! In fact, I'm still there. On top of a full-time job and a social life, I've got grad school AND writing to take care of. I feel like I can handle three out of the four, and berated myself a little for whining about it on my blog a while back, although I came to the conclusion that sometimes you HAVE to take a break. Otherwise, you'll burn out and have no inspiration, and all your other activities will suffer, especially your writing. Finding that balance is difficult, but necessary.

So I've just stopped beating myself up about it. I still strive to meet my self-imposed weekly writing quotas, but if grad school is super-busy and I come in a little under, I forgive myself. Grad school will be done in a year and my productivity will return to pre-grad-school levels.

I'm not too worried about taking on other activities and responsibilities as my life progresses, though, because they will be part of the work or writing mental sphere. So perhaps it's better to say that I can sustainably carry two of the three mental spheres without trouble (work, school, writing).

africa2asia said...

I've had to learn to say no to invitations, since I was very much of the study/social live orientation. It was great for my writing and my health!

J.C. Martin said...

I'm quite fortunate to have an active job (martial arts instructor) that I enjoy that helps balance the sedentary lifestyle of a writer. Also, I try to commit to two hours of badminton a week, something else I enjoy. I also allow myself up to half an hour a day wasting time on Facebook games, which may not be such a good idea, but it helps keep me sane! :) Now all I need for perfect balance is for the other half to take me out for a nice meal every now and again--at the moment, getting an agent seems more likely than dinner at a nice restaurant! :(

Amy Talbot said...

I guess busy-ness comes down to priorities.These past 6 months, I've lived through two major earthquakes, 5000 plus aftershocks and the resulting trauma and dysfunction. Now, I balance work and play, and take more time to slow down, hang with family and friends, drink a glass of wine, and eat the chocolate.

AM Riley said...

LOL. Wait until you have kids...

I remember studying for a German test while my teething baby projectile vomited onto me. And the day she 'travelled' across the keyboard and deleted a weeks worth of work.

Balance is for when you are dead.

wendy said...

I have no balance right now. Almost every waking moment is spent caring for my elderly mother. But it's not something that will last forever. She will either make a grand recovery, as only she could, or decline and have to go into permanent care.

Even so, I still don't think I have as much on my plate as you did, Nathan, while agenting. But to write, I have to live in the world of my story, immerse myself, but there's too much pressure to do that now. I have to answer to doctors, specialists, the people from Warrigul Care, dentists, etc, and be getting everything sorted with my mother's vast array of treatments and appointments. Not to mention housework, housework, housework.

A.J. Cattapan said...

Your post reminded me of something I learned from Julia Cameron's book "The Artist's Way," in which she recommends taking "Artist's Dates" at least once a week.

An Artist Date is when we take time do something totally fun to reinvigorate our creative juices. This is exactly what you did when you went to the aquarium and stared at the fish. Cameron says that all people who wish to be creative in their lives need to take time out to remember the joy of being a kid again.

In other words, taking a break from our writing can actually make us better writers!

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado said...

Whoa... have you struck a chord today! It is impossible to find balance on a daily basis. The most you can accomplish is to be attending to one area of your life for a while... then switch to another... then on to the third... and finally, the fourth! You just have to hope that the pockets of time you alot to each balance out in the long run.

Marian Pearson Stevens said...

Feels like I never stop trying to find balance. Your blog is incredible for up-to-date pub news and I tune in often. It's amazing how you manage it, along with everything else. I agree, sometimes you just gotta take time for down time and things you enjoy. Writing can easily consume every second. Thanks for fessing up!

jenniferemcfadden said...

I wish you the best with your balance quest. While I was in Colorado with my family last week, my computer was off (most of the time) and I did not write one word in my book.

Although I missed immersing myself in my story, I realized my life needs more balance. I spend too much time on my computer, so I have creating a flexible schedule to allot time for my everything I do.

Anonymous said...

Finding balance is easy as long as you have a job that doesn't require a lot of hours. I once worked a job where I put in 60-70 hour weeks, and that was the norm. No one really had good life balance in that job, so I moved onto something better.

I write for about 1-2 hours every day. Sometimes the writing is good, and sometimes the writing is awful. I also read for about a half hour before going to bed. But for all the things that I want to do, I set time aside, and I only spend that amount time on something, good or bad. That's really how I achieve balance.

EricPriuska said...

Nathan, this is my greatest struggle at this phase of my life, and no matter what I do, I feel like I'm failing at something. I have a full time job, a partner and an eleven year old son, a love (and need) to exercise, and this writing career I'm trying to jump start.
Somedays it seems my only hope is to be "rescued" by a big publishing contract or an overnight windfall. Or at worse times, I think I'll never find a balance.
At those darker moments I remind myself that this life, this moment, is all we get, and the reason I work, play, love, or write is for that moment of satisfaction or joy. There is no reward, no arrival, no solution. There's now to do the things you can, and tomorrow will come either way.
When I hold true to this belief, I'm happy right where I am and find I already have the balance I need.
It sounds like new age crap, I know, but sometimes cliches are true.
Thanks for this great post!
Eric Priuska

MJR said...

Last summer I lost my job--which at the time was so traumatic for me...I'm working freelance now and not making much money, but I'm so much happier because I have much more balance in my life, and I think because I'm happier I don't need much money (and oddly enough, I often more money in the bank than I used to). I have time for writing, for playing the ukulele, or whatever. Downsizing a bit might be something for people to consider. Somehow we are making college and mortgage payments, but life is so much more relaxed for me now.

wry wryter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wry wryter said...

Into all of that craziness add children, soccer games, bake sales and funerals, floods, fires and termites for Christ’s sake.

I’ve told my daughters, you CAN have it all just not at the same time. If writing is what you want to do...write. If staring at fish feeds your soul...stare.

Ms. Trite says:
Balance is for the Wallenda’s, busy is better than bored.

Sandra Stiles said...

As a teacher I'm always trying to find ways to balance my life. While finishing up my final edits on my WIP over Spring Break I realized that I had spent no time away from my desk or with my family. I spend ten - eleven hours at school each day then try to come home and grade papers and still find time to fit in writing and family. Spring Break was an eye opener. I made a commitment to no longer bring work home unless it is a day or two before grade cards. I made a commitment to go out with my husband whether to walk the beach, a museum or walk around our downtown area. I'm feeling more relaxed and find I am actually getting more done. I've removed the time constraints I'd put on myself. I think I will always be working to try to keep balance in my life.

Mira said...

I'm so glad that you're feeling more balanced, Nathan. I was concerned about you last year; you were working so hard! I'm very glad that you did what you needed to do to take care of yourself. Even though I was upset when you left your job, underneath I thought it might be a really smart move for you.

I think we all need much more to our lives than work. Life is not just about working - it's so much more than that. We deserve more than that. We deserve to be nourished, in touch and connected, and we can't do that when we're exhausted and distracted.

In terms of writing, one of my favorite quotes about writing is from Brenda Ueland:

"So you see, imagination needs moodling - long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering".

I've found that to be true. When my mind is full and stressed and tired, I can't write. I won't even ask myself to write. Too painful. Writing, for me, is an organic process. My mind needs to be rested and relatively calm. Otherwise I can't think and I can't let the words flow through. At least for creative writing. Non-fiction is abit different.

Very good topic, Nathan. Thank you.

Marilyn Peake said...

Michael Offutt said:
" help so many people with your knowledge of how things work that you alone are probably responsible for hundreds if not thousands of writers finding success."

I want to second that! I agree! I want to thank you for how much you’ve done for so many writers, myself included, with your blog. Thank you for providing reams of information about the ever-changing publishing industry plus an incredible number of helpful links. Thank you for putting up with all of us, for allowing quite a bit of lively discussion and debate while still maintaining a civil atmosphere, for allowing us to think out loud and learn from each other. This blog is really community + blog. It is made of awesome. :)

Becca said...

I'm currently trying to find my balance. I just got a new job, and I fell into it at a horrible time for the company. (Horrible in my opinion). My first full time job, and I'm working overtime, not getting out of there until rather late, on a good night, and then going to bed early to get up early and go back to work. And they took away our days off so I don't even get the glorious weekend to sit down and write something.

So my time and energy is already depleted, and the only time I do have left, I'm searching for a new job.

I probably shouldn't be complaining, but I come home every night expecting to write something, and end up falling asleep in front of the computer.


Great Advice. As soon as I'm published, I'm going to kick back and find some balance. Who am I kidding? It's not in my nature. ; )

Madeleine said...

I'm a high school student and am aiming at graduating early. I know it sounds ridiculous that I should be stressed, but as you said, there's always someone else who's working harder, and that doesn't mean you aren't driving yourself nuts.

This has been the best week in a long while. I've been overanxious lately to the point I thought I'd explode. With my blog, revising my book, exercising, homework, sleep, family - EVERYTHING - I was overwhelmed. I finally took a step back this week and decided that there were only so many things I could manage. I'm finally lowering (though very, very slowly) my expectations of myself, and I actually managed to get more done!

JJBennett said...

Writing itself for me helps balance my life as a mom. It gives me something that's mine. It's creative expression is an outlet that helps me manage myself. Although I don't write on a schedule, which I really should do, I think it's important for others in your life to respect your personal balance. Especially a spouse.

marion said...

I don't know how you do it, Nathan. Just the blog must take hours a day. So impressed that you're up to Wunderbar 3.
I hope my blog won't take away focus from my WIP. At least I feel I finally hit my stride in my blogpost today. ( Hope I can keep it up--and really get stuck into revision too.

wry wryter said...

Nathan, it is my hope that you realize how inportant you are to all of us. You are a source, an inspiration and a place to come when writing stresses scrabble our lives.
Thank You Nathan, for being human, much success and balance.

I was going to suggest...make a baby, children have a way of creating balance in a teeter-totter kind of way, but I realized you already have. His name is Jacob.

Much success.

Adrea said...

I remember, and hope everyone does, that I am always creating. I will never get it all done because my creativity never, ever runs out! I know when a good idea hits but it sticks. There is plenty of time. Everything always works out. Yes, I do have to repeat that while subtly rocking and drooling at times, but it is true. We are those who create. No need to rush. Slowing down and feeling happy actually makes things magically easier to create, edit, and promote. And how could we be better reminded of wanting balance if we weren't out of balance from time to time? The crazies create balance. Whoa. I love it! Thanks for the post!

Alison Barber said...

That's great Nathan, you may find that those fish swim into Wonderbar #3. Behoove, another fabulous word.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I go through periods of finding balance, maintaining it for a while, then having something new come up (Kid numbers 1 and 2, for example) and being on the treadmill for a bit until I figure out how to find the balance again. It's natural, I think.

I find that focusing on being present in the moment really helps a lot: when I'm with my kids, I really try not to think about my manuscript or my blog. When I'm watching my favorite show and it ends, I turn the TV off and move on to the next thing. I keep to a daily routine of exercise, housework, writing time, and time with kids. Maintaining balance requires a lot of discipline for me. If I veg out, I end up feeling like there's no time for everything again.

Also, having my kids forces me to engage with the world on a pretty regular basis. They have friends, teachers, extra-curriculars. It's nice.

merrymuhsman said...

It's interesting that so many of us have found common ground on this post. We're all searching for balance. Every single day.

My search for balance came quite quick and quite hard. My family farms, and my dad was injured in a farming accident. He was on a ladder working on the combine, and when the combine rolled back, the tire began to roll over the ladder. As the ladder was crunched under the tire, my 75-year-old Dad was knocked off. My eight-year-old son is the only one who saw Grandpa fall. We don't really know what happened for certain.

Soon we discovered Dad had an open book pelvic fracture. Go ahead and groan guys, it hurt a lot. Then followed three months and seven surgeries to get it repaired. We had to drive an hour to get to the hospital everyday. My mother would stay at the hospital for the entire day until I got off work, could pick her up and bring her home.

Talk about finding immediate balance. Everything, and I mean everything (including my writing) got put on hold. The things I used to think were important, suddenly seemed insignificant on those days I thought we'd lost my Dad.

Now on those days when I wish I was further along with my edits, I remember that writing must come in it's own time. My Dad is here, he's walking, he's a miracle. And the whole ordeal made me realize those things that got put on hold or I didn't do, weren't as important. I know what's important now. I'm certainly watching less TV, I don't play farmville and I even spend less time on Facebook.

If it's nice outside, I go play ball with my son. I take the time to spend with family and friends. I have also learned there are some friendships that fade, and it's better to focus on the ones who are still around and care enough to check in with you.

We're lucky to have my Dad. I'm also lucky enough to have learned from the whole ordeal. I'm still seeking balance, but it's easier to recognize now then it used to be.

The Holmes said...

I can't claim to have a solution to this, but I can completely and totally relate. A full-time job, house, wife, two kids, and I'm working on my first novel. Most other writing gigs have been shoved to the back-burner. I catch myself being pissy about my lack of free time, then remember, "oh yeah, this is supposed be something I love."

Thanks for writing a great post that so many people can relate to.

Melody M. Nunez said...

Balance is certainly elusive, and will likely be something I'm always working on - but I'm a bit closer after having made a few tweaks to my life and schedule. Last August I launched my blog, and was quickly over-scheduled. Why? Because I work full-time, and already had a very full schedule for the five months of the year. (charity/volunteer projects, two half marathons, NaNoWriMo, etc.) When I added blogging to that things go officially crazy.

In order to slow down and regain some quality of life and down time, I changed my blogging schedule in January and only post twice a week instead of three times per week. This is a big help, because my blog posts virtually always include photos - and often includes more that "just" writing (art project, baked goods, etc.)

I'm glad to hear you've added some more "just for fun" activities back into your life! Best wishes for continued success and for near-perfect balance...

Jen Zeman said...

I'm glad I stumbled upon this post. Suddenly, I don't feel so alone. I'm ready to just chuck it all and move to a remote island in the South Pacific. Anyone care to join me? :-)

Edward said...

Balance, I think think that is a Van Halen record/album/MP3 collection. Great post Nathan, and great advice from all.

'Yes, I'm well aware I'm weird.'-the entire comment from Stephanie Barr is close to how I am and function. I do not have kids or regular duties other than fussing at my mom, but I cannot turn off my mind usually. This is not negative, but why I am so into music, because notes sort of soothe me. Also why pressure, while good at times, could cause distress, so I want to have a good number of books ready so 'monetary need' never forces me to create, and I can go live somewhere in rural 'Southeast-Northwest Texas'.

So balance for me is writing or playing music. I found myself going out and still lost in my own head after stopping the 'party favors', so balance was getting everything out of my head, as to not remain trapped within it. This blog has been a sort of comfort and de-stress balance itself, and I thank everyone for the advice, which I needed/need and really, really appreciate. Apologies for the overuse of 'air quotes' and length. Thanks again Nathan.

wry wryter said...

To merrymuhsman.

Knowing what's important is what makes the difference.
When my kids were little I let the laundry pile up, left the dishes in the sink and we'd go for a walk in the woods. Lunch on a blanket in the front yard was a lot more fun than yelling at them to clean their rooms.

Reading to my daughters replaced writing for awhile and I do not have one regret. They are amazing women and though I'm a little late to be back in the writing game I have a huge advantage. I may not be as young but I'm a hell of a lot wiser.

Much luck to your dad.

Sharon M. Smith said...

Not so sure if I believe in balance in a day, a week, or a month. Maybe in a lifetime we might have been able to accomplish a "balance." With kids, a full-time job, and a need to exercise (oh yeah that), I can only write on Thursday nights! Oh how I love Thursdays. It is what it is and my book will come one day.

heather said...

About kids and balance: I’d like to build on Ishta Mercurio’s point, when she wrote, “I find that focusing on being present in the moment really helps a lot: when I'm with my kids, I really try not to think about my manuscript or my blog.” I think having kids has actually helped me to achieve balance in ways I didn’t have before. When I think of doing things with them as “down time” for me—instead of as things that take me away from my “real” work of writing or grading or whatever—then I am able to enjoy the time I spend with them and find it rejuvenating (also, they enjoy it more!). Ironically, it wasn’t until I became a single parent that I fully realized that kids can provide balance. I no longer wonder when someone will relieve me of kid duties so I can work; I just enjoy the time with my kids.

(They are older now, too—7 and 10—and able to read, do homework, play, etc. on their own while I work. So it’s not like I spend every waking moment having “down time” with them—though they are homeschooled, so they’re around a lot. The 10-y-o just made me hot chocolate while I was writing. Yay for kids!)

BTW, I’ve been lurking on this blog for a very long time now. Hi, everyone. Thanks for all the great advice, Nathan.

Cally Jackson said...

This is a great post, Nathan. As a communication advisor by day and a novel writer by night, I can totally relate to what you’re saying here. I went through a similar ‘re-balancing’ last year – although I have to admit that I let things get ridiculously UNbalanced before I admitted that something had to give.

The main difference for me this year compared to last year is my job. I changed jobs at the start of this year and while I still work full time, my new job is less draining than my last, so I still have some brain power left when I get home – which is kind of handy when I’m trying to plug away at a novel!

Serenity said...

I love this post. And I'm so happy for you - what a great thing to reevaluate and then actually make a change. I'm completely inspired.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Italy for several years, and I have come to love the balance that the U.S. offers in terms of organizing and sculpting my life.

Many people think of Italy as a much more leisurely culture (which in some ways is true) but the fact is, I have much more leisure here in the States. In Italy everything, absolutely everything, is a major hassle. Hours at a time are routinely sucked down the toilet trying to commute on public transit systems that always strike, trying to shop for miscellaneous items that can only be obtained at random spots scattered around Rome, or making numerous trips to the grocery store because, hey, one day they were out of bananas, the next, no shampoo, etc.

There is no Walgreens, open 24 hrs., that you can dash to to grab vitamin c when a nasty cold is coming on at 9:15 pm, and you want to fight it off before you go to sleep.

In the US, everything is organized. I can pay my bills online, get all my groceries in one swoop, stock up on anything and everything (that's a no-no for medicine and vitamins in Italy, too).

The bad thing about the US is that you can work yourself into the ground. Not only will no one stop you, they will probably cheer you on and supply you with the no-doz and ginseng tea with which to do it.

It would be nearly impossible to work yourself to death in Italy!

As much as I loved my time there, I much prefer a life in which errands and life's task can be neatly accomplished, leaving the rest of my time for work and genuine, relaxing leisure.

The struggle for balance is much less difficult for me now that I've lived having to stand in line for 2.98 hrs. in the post office, in order to pay my rent via wire transfer to my landlord who lives in Naples.

I've learned the absolute, shimmering value of 2.98 hrs. and I treasure living stateside where I can spend it as I see fit.

Alika said...

Ok, I agree with the need for balance, but how are you managing to get your writing done? Or are you okay with less production?

Kjersten said...

What a lovely post, Nathan. Just a tad vulnerable in a beautiful way. Very personal too. Thanks for sharing this.

P.S. I don't think I've ever commented on your blog before despite reading it for some years. I only mention this so you know my sincerity regarding the above statement. All your posts are great, but there's something fresh about this one that goes a step beyond. Thanks.

catherinemjohnson said...

I'm trying to do the same, it's so important, good for you. She says while reading this on a Friday night :)

Amber Slattery said...

Writing is my way of finding balance. I have a demanding job. I have two brilliant children. One of those children is about to graduate high school early, and is being heavily recruited by schools offering dramatic arts programs. She is in two plays, works two jobs and is taking college courses online. My other child just asked me if I had any old CD-ROM drives because he thinks he knows how to build a laser. "I mean a laser wouldn't be too dangerous if we had all the right stuff. It would be so fun."
My best friend is getting married. 'Nuff said about that. My neighbor is running for city council, at my urging, so I am helping him with his campaign.
We just spent a week in Paris (I'm not complaining, I'm just exhausted). I spend many nights at board meetings, plays, neighborhood meetings and other school events. I feel guilty that I haven't been to my friends' children’s’ athletic events.
I need to get up, take a shower, clean my house and clean up my yard before our retired neighbors vote us off the island. (If they have so much time to worry about my yard, why don't they just pull those weeds themselves?) But here I am, pouring over blog after blog about writing, publishing, etc.. I am behind since I was out of the country. Google reader says I only have 203 to go.
And all I really want to do is write.

Nancy Kelley said...

I'm catching up on the blog posts I missed while I was in England, and this one really hit home. I took two... no, more like two and a half weeks off for my vacation. It was wonderful and fantastic, but I came home and immediately felt the pressure of deadlines looming. I wrote out a time line for myself that will let me get everything done on time, but it doesn't really allow for much time off.

However, I'm pushing myself on with the promise that this is only for a few months. I'm taking two whole weeks off in June. I might work on my website and Facebook page, but I will not write or edit in that time. I just need to get things done before then, so I can enjoy the reward.

Interesting... word verification is cousnel--so close to counsel. Thanks for your wise counsel, Nathan.

Curtis Galluzzo said...

I just started waking up 4 to 5 hours earlier. Turns out there's all this extra time in the day I was unaware of!

Karen Prince said...

Thank you for admitting you are working extremely hard, Nathan. I just love reading your blog but I must confess, it makes me feel if the successful are geniuses from whom eloquent words flow so naturally and easily that they can bang out blog after blog and a book on the side, whilst holding down a full time job. I feel a little more relaxed now.

To all those who commented about how difficult it is to cope at the same time as raising kids. It gets better. All that parenting comes home to roost when they become independent and start helping you.

I am writing from Africa. Anytime I feel like slacking off I take a trip to the townships to remind myself 'there is worse pain than yours'

don e. nelson said...

. . . . .as that great & wise teacher once said:

"Live in the moment- you will . . and the moments you do not live in- will take care of themselves.

Yoda's Brother: Star Wars Episode VII

(Huh? You didn't know Yoda had a Brother.)

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Balance is hard to come by, with so many things in the world competing for your attention and time.

I was taught long ago that when you're faced with a host of possibilities or problems, break everything down into the simplest elements possible.

Complete one thing, rather than trying to start a million at once. Then, move on to the next thing. Like having to build something. Step A. Then step B.

With writing, I can spend hours just trying to come up with "one true thing." A simple declarative sentence. But once I manage to, it's like the spark that ignites the gasoline that causes the pistons to move that starts an internal combustion engine.

A sentence is the first element of a paragraph. A paragraph is the first element of a page. And pages are the first elements of either a short story, or perhaps something bigger.

But it all starts with that first sentence.

I tend to have tons of ideas. And far too little time to implement any. So often, with whatever time I have, I'll start something that then I can pick up later with little effort and continue on.

Editing is easy in the sense what you're editing is already there, you're just trying to refine or improve or polish it.

Writing--putting an original (hopefully) idea on paper, whole and complete and expressing exactly what you want to how you want to when you want to--is to me much, much harder. Therefore, I'd rather spend "writing" time writing than anything else. Editing, I can do, either when I have a deadline to meet, or have time and little inspiration.

And like Erika, I can be so immersed in an idea, I could literally--if I didn't have other commitments or people vying for my time--spend days, even weeks, "building," putting things together, expressing my idea or ideas. But when you come up for air, if everyone's gone, it may occur to you that one day, there will be no more inspiration and then what will you do with all your time?


And in this day and age of "self-marketing," if you don't at lest occasionally acknowledge the existence of other people, there may come a time when you have completed all you wanted to--but no one else knows or cares, because they have no idea what you've been doing since the last time you were heard from.

Lisa said...

I have to say, I really enjoyed this post, but it has absolutely no impact on me right now. Not because it isn't full of wonderful ideas, but because that whole separating yourself (on your own) can be very difficult. Yep, I'm struggling with balance. I can shut things off when I've got someone there saying, "hey, let's. . ." But if they don't, I keep going--that smelly, hermit, writer junkie :P

So, for example, today I did work work, then I revised an article for a journal, then I started on another round of revisions on a work of fiction. Somebody pulled me out of it all for about an hour. I decided I couldn't handle more revisions, so hey, why not blog. . .

I don't know if others are that way, but sometimes I just can't find the right distractions to shut my mind off. I think I need tips on how to MAKE myself stop. Or an intervention. Either one will work :D

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