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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Writer's Life: A Juggling Act?

Time.

Do we ever have enough?

In the days before I embarked on my writing journey, I was doing well. Our one and only was in high school, and my days as an active parent volunteer had drawn to a close. I actually had time on my hands. My house was clean. The laundry was caught up. I had a weekly menu plan. And I was bored.

With the help of a life coach, I dug deep and rediscovered my dream: to be a writer.

The next two years rushed by as five stories flew from my fingertips. Talk about fun. I'd rarely had so much.

But writing in isolation grew old, and I became lonely.

And then I discovered cyberspace, the blogosphere, and a world peopled with other writers. I learned about heaps about craft, promotion, platforms, and more. I made friends. I was having fun again.

Trying to fit in all my new activities, however, became a challenge. In addition to writing, I'd added a host of other activities, including:
  • writing blog posts
  • interviewing blog guests
  • reading others' blogs
  • keeping up with email
  • reading and reviewing others' books
  • keeping up with my Yahoo! groups
  • maintaining my website
  • editing critique partners' work
I wish I could say I've become adept at juggling everything, but there are times I feel overwhelmed. I admire those who have children at home, write, and make it look easy. I wonder what their secrets are. I'm sure we could learn a great deal from them.

I wanna know ~

Do you struggle to juggle all your activities?

Do you have a set schedule for your writing time?

Do you have a system that helps you keep things running smoothly? If so, do share.

28 comments:

Jamie D. said...

I struggle with things like laundry and working out...because I just don't *wanna*. LOL

I work a full-time day job along with the writing, so my writing time is between 10:30pm and midnight 6 nights per week, and whatever free time I happen to have on the weekends. For the most part, that schedule works well.

I depend very heavily on daily routines and my PDA alarms to keep our life running smoothly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but most of the time it keeps things running pretty smoothly. :-)

Anne Barton said...

I agree with Jamie--laundry and exercise often fall to the bottom of my to do list. :)

You're a great juggler, Keli!

Terri Tiffany said...

Since I started working fulltime 8 weeks ago, I still haven't been able to get into a good schedule for during the week--weekends I'm good but my blogging is lagging!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Keli -

I'm out of work, but still find it a challenge to write and keep up with Internet activities, my house, my family, and church.
Once I have a job again, it will be VERY interesting.

Scheduling posts and a task list with flexible scheduling keep me sane.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Jamie, carving out that writing time can't be easy, but you're doing what it takes to follow your dream. I admire your dedication.

Anne, when it comes to juggling, you've got me any day. You teach, care for three children, and write award-winning stories. Wow!

Terri, I feel for you. Returning to work would be a HUGE adjustment. I hope you find a schedule that enables you to write when you can.

Susan, isn't it amazing how our activities can expand to fill our available time? I hope you have a smooth transition when you find a job and are still able to fit in your writing time.

Laura Marcella said...

I've just started my first blog, and right now I'm struggling to find a schedule where blogging and commenting don't interfere with my usual writing time! Sometimes I wish there were more hours in the day... but then I'd probably still fill up those hours with activities other than writing, lol!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Oh yes. I'm still feeling my way through.

Keli Gwyn said...

Laura, blogging can be addicting. I have to limit myself. Kinda like chocolate. :D

Kristin, with all you've got going on, I imagine you have a challenge fitting everything in. I admire you!

Pepper Basham said...

Kelli,
Yes...and yes...and AMen :-)
Finding time is really tough, but writing is that itch in my soul I just HAVE to scratch.
I juggle full-time work, 5 young kids, church responsibilities (my husband's a pastor), and all those house things. ugh. It's SO tough. There's always a Mount WASHMORE.

I find that I can stress about not having a daily writing time. My goal is to write at least 3 days a week after all the kids are in bed. Of course, I find little snippets of time to write in my pocketbook/notebooks, but for more extended writing time, it's late at night.

I just found two critique partners and that's been great. It helps you not feel as alone.
Thanks for the post.

Billy Coffey said...

It's so hard trying to fit everything into 24 hours, especially when you're a writer. So many things fight for your time and attention, and it really is hard to keep up with all of it. The only time I have the guaranteed silence I need to write is at night once everyone's in bed.

So I guess I should get to writing, huh?

Great post, Keli. I feel your pain!

sherrinda said...

I'm not a very good juggler. Working full time wears me out and I am always behind on housework. Writing has been mostly on the weekends, but that can be hard to come by when the weekends fill up with weddings, Holidays, etc...

There will always be something to take away from my writing. I just don't know how much I want to sacrifice for it. I love my sleep way too much. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Pepper, I can't believe you have time to breathe, let alone write. Your days must be non-stop activity from first light until you hit the pillow at night. Superwomen like you who are raising big families, keeping up with the housework, and dealing with Mount WASHMORE (love that!) while still finding time to write amaze and impress me.

Billy, you've destroyed my image of you. I envision you kicked back on that porch of yours all day thinking up those amazing stories you share on your blog and writing others we'll be reading in your awesome novels. (I know Snow Day isn't out, but I have a hunch it's gonna blow my cat socks off.)

Sherrinda, I can't imagine working outside the home all day, caring for a family in the evening, and still having energy to be creative. I think I'd write on weekends too if that were my situation. You have sacrificed for the sake of your writing, and look at all you've accomplished. I'm proud of you!!!

MaryC said...

You raise such interesting points, Keli. I suppose it would be easy to say to put the writing first and then, when daily goals are met, use time for blogging, emailing etc. But writing can be a solitary process and sometimes you just crave the connection the internet affords.

Pat Gaffney gave a really funny speech at RWA some years ago about how email was interfering with her productivity. So I guess we're in good company. ;)

Like so many of the others who commented, I work full time as a teacher. I find that leaves me with separate issues.

The first one is actual time. The kind of problem everyone has mentioned. How do you find the time to write words with all the other responsibilities. I try to deal with that by making myself spend some time every day writing - even if it's only five minutes. At least I stay connected to my story. The downside of that is that I've gotten SO good at writing in small snippets that when I face open stretches of time I feel overwhelmed. That's my problem today. I'm on Easter break as of today so I have 11 glorious days of no school during which to write. But that almost paralyzes me. It's sort of like a huge blank page waiting to be filled. I will fill it though - and I'll take Annie LaMott's advice to do it bird-by-bird - because I know I'll feel guilty at the end if I don't make good use of the time.

The second issue is really more a problem for me than actual time. I can find hours at the end of the day like Jamie does. My big problem is a lack of creative energy by that point. The will is there but my brain is drained of energy by the end of a school day. Sometimes I just stare at the screen. It's much easier to read blogs and email. :)

I'm not complaining though because I'm blessed to have a job I love and my writing to entertain me.

Good luck to everyone in making time for their writing amidst the otehr possibilities.

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary, my teacher hubby is off this week as well. I hope you enjoy your well-deserved vacation.

I hear you on the blank screen intimidation factor. That vast expanse of white space can be daunting. I'm a recovering perfectionist, so I struggle with the same thing. I fear I'll produce tripe, look at it afterward, and cringe.

I might. But here's what I've been learning: get it down. I'm big on inspirational sayings and motivational phrases. They fill the walls of my tiny office. One near my computer serves as an important reminder when I stare at the blinking cursor and freeze: "Don't get it right the first time, just get it written!" by James Thurber. Others have voiced the same thought, and I'm doing my best to heed this sound advice. Once I have something down, no matter how bad it is, I can move forward and capture the story waiting to be told. I tell the pesky perfectionist in me she'll get her turn. But she can't until I do my part: write the story, such as it is.

My hope is that at the end of your vacation, you'll lean back in your computer chair, look at your word count, and feel an immense sense of satisfaction at all you've accomplished.

MaryC said...

Thanks, Keli.

I also collect quotes and one of my favorites about the blank page is from Nora Roberts. "You can fix a bad page. You can't fix a blank one."

It's not so much the blank page that's intimidating me this week as all the blank time. It feeds into my tendencies towards procrastination. That's why the dog got a 2 hour walk in the park today. LOL I did work on some story ideas while we walked though.

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary, I understand the blank time phenomenon. My teacher hubby deals with it every summer. For the first week of his vacation, he has a hard time relaxing. He says it comes from living his life on a rigid schedule, one complete with jarring bells to mark the passage of time.

I hope you enjoyed your walk and that you got some great ideas for your story.

Jill Kemerer said...

Yes, yes, yes! I juggle and struggle. My first books were written in no time. I naively thought they would all come that quickly, but like you, hadn't considered the other aspects. Then came learning the craft (funny how much longer revising takes!), joining writer's groups, becoming part of the Internet community.

I wish I could say it's easy for me, but it isn't!

Keli Gwyn said...

Jill, did you write in isolation at first too? For how long? I was in my writer's cave a little over two years. Tina Russo found me back in March 2008 when she invited me to be a guest in Seekerville. I'd only seen one blog post before that with a family friend's ultrasound picture. I had no clue what a wonderful world awaited me in the blogosphere--or how much time I'd be tempted to spend there. These days, like you and many others, I struggle to juggle writing and the related activities.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

I can't do all of that and I have gobs of time. I do work a full-time job. I don't blog everyday. On the off days I try to make new friends and keep up with old ones. I find I only get to read three of four blogs a day. Right now, I'm editing my novel, so I have dedicated my time to that. I guess you do what you can. There's no hard and fast rule.

Good luck and keep having a blast.

T. Anne said...

I guess I have an unofficial schedule. Blog in the morning, write blog posts Sunday, sometimes through the week, write mostly at night. Day dream all day. Yeah I'm pretty absorbed in this writing life. ;)

Keli Gwyn said...

T. Anne, I smiled when I read "Day dream all day." My characters chatter away all the time, and I think about my story at all hours of the day and night. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Elizabeth, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I have such respect for those of you who work full-time outside the home and still manage to write. What dedication. I hope your edits are going well.

Jessica Nelson said...

Keli, I def. don't juggle well and that's why I pick up as few balls as possible. *grin*
I admire all that you do! Seriously, I couldn't handle all of that.

Keli Gwyn said...

Jessie, I think you're wise to limit your activities. I saw your recent post about extending your break from the blogging, and I applaud your decision to take it. Have a great time on your upcoming vacation to the Keys.

Duane Scott said...

I just wanted to stop in and say that I am now following your blog again. I used to be, but due to some privacy issues, had to go incognito. I look forward to reading your post again, and hope you follow me back to my new site. Thanks!

Dianne Duvall said...

Keli, I SO needed to read this post today. I do struggle to juggle all of my activities and feel better knowing I'm not the only one. I recently joined facebook, which increased my online time significantly. But connecting with so many other writers and readers really inspired me and increased my productivity. I was writing faster than ever and very close to finishing the second book in my series.

Then two rushed film jobs came in (post-production) that have been very time consuming. As a result, my Yahoo groups fell by the wayside. So did exercising. The usual household activities have been rushed. I haven't had time to read my favorite blogs, let alone begin one of my own. My writing slowed to a crawl. Emails are piling up.

BUT there is a bit of a glow on the horizon. I'm almost finished with the film work; so I'm hoping to be able to catch up on everything, finish my WIP and find time for some new activities (creating a blog of my own and designing a website for my series) very soon.

*sigh* If only we didn't need to sleep . . .

T. Anne said...

*raises hand* juggling here! And not too successfully either. But as in life, I am not perfect. I just do my best with the day the Lord gave me and let the pieces fall where they may. ;)

prashant said...

I agree with Jamie--laundry and exercise often fall to the bottom of my to do list. :)
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