Friday, July 28, 2006

Discussion Week Day 5: Life Balance

We're starting off with 2 quotes from my luverly day planner, both of which apply to yesterday's discussion on goals.

"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." --Eleanor Roosevelt
"It's never too late--in fiction or in life--to revise." --Nancy Thayer

I like that last one very much.

Today's topic is one that we all deal with, every single day of our lives.

How do you fit writing into your busy life? How do you try to achieve a balance?

I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one, because I know everyone has different approaches.

Mine works for now, though it might not at a later stage (never too late to revise). I have a small child, a full-time job, and a husband who not unreasonably wants to spend time with me in the couple of hours we have together. So how was I going to fit writing in, when I decided to get "serious" about it again?

Lunch hour.

Sometimes people just don't believe me on this one, but I really did write the second draft of Murderess almost completely on my lunch hours. I developed the ability--because I had to--to shut the door and instantly be in "writing mode", spend an hour working hard on it, and then open the door and go back to work. I also write whenever I have free time at home, and it worked out well that during a crunch period, when I was trying very hard to get my draft done before Surrey, my husband had a temporary evening job. For those weeks I was able to add about 5-6 hours a week of writing time.

For now that's all the time I use, because the Other Stuff is too important to cut into, and because I can't get up early and write like some people; I already am sleep-deprived. But I've proven to myself that I can work this way.

How about you? How do you do it?


Sara Walker Howe said...

Since there's not enough time to do it all, something's got to go. I gave myself huge relief from a major source of stress earlier this year when I decided I didn't want my children to remember me as a mom who was always cleaning, or always bitching about the mess, and gave up trying to have a perfect house everyday. The dishes may not get done everyday, and there are toys all over the floor, but as long as things get cleaned up and in relatively good order once a week, I can live with that.

Since I also work from home, and that work has to get done everyday, I get up early and get it done while the kids are still in bed. Then the rest of the day is mine (except for the odd interruption about work) and the kids'. During the school year, it's just me and the toddler until 3:30-4, so I was able to get a fair amount of writing done while he played beside me, and while he napped. Now that it's summer and I have to play referee every five minutes, I'm getting much less writing done and having to rely heavily on my husband to give me free time in the evenings, but by then I'm usually worn out.

It's much harder to keep the balance during school holidays. It seems to be either I let the kids have as much TV and video games as they want, and ignore the fighting while I write like mad, or I give them stuff to do (like reading, book reports, math, piano practice, swimming, chores, etc) and lose writing time. It's a different kind of balance, and I have to live with a smaller word count. But only 4 more weeks to go!!

I try to reserve evenings for husband time.

Mrs. Mitty said...

My kind of balance is like the guy on the Ed Sullivan Show with the spinning plates. I buzz from one thing to the next, and *try* not to let anything crash to the floor.

Summertime is easy for writing, since I'm unemployed and broke every summer. :> School year, not so easy.

My most productive writing time is late night - usually between 11:00pm and 3:00am. However, this is not terribly healthy for someone with daytime employment. (More to the point, it's not helpful for hauling a** out of bed in the morning to get to work on time.) Ah well, we must suffer for our art, right? ;)

My DH is very encouraging and supportive of my need to 'do what I have to do', so that helps a lot. My kids are grown, so they don't divert me from writing much any more.

I really admire your determination (and that of others) who are writing and FINISHING novels while raising children AND working full time. Kudos to you for keeping all your plates in the air. And especially for not cutting into your Other Stuff, cause you're right, it is too important. :)

Cindy said...

I try to get a few minutes to an hour in the morning, to get the story started working in my mind, and then I leave my computer running throughout the day, so I can nip in and get a few more words done as the children permit.

I also keep a notepad in the kitchen where I scribble down scene ideas and quick notes, or I will forget. Nothing more aggravating than going to the computer and not being able to recall that good idea you think you had...

Then there's the evening, when I win the bedtime lottery and both lil'uns are asleep before 10 or so. I've been trying to use whatever time there is between their bedtime and 11 pm to write, at least most nights.

DH keeps pretty busy and doesn't require much upkeep, so that's easy. He also takes my writing seriously - even more so than I, sometimes. He's willing to help out on the weekends for an hour here and there, which is good because I find that I do best in 1-2 hour sprints.

If I can make writing at least as important as the laundry and the prevention of food poisoning, I can make progress. It just has to make the list, or I get into a Mood. (Like I am right now, after three days of not writing....)

Susan Adrian said...


Oh, yeah. The house. You'll note I didn't mention my house, and that's because cleaning it is my lowest priority. My house is A MESS. Sometimes this bothers me, but most of the time I realize that it's not critical, whereas my family, my sanity, and my writing ARE.

Thanks for your v. cool and detailed answer!

Susan Adrian said...


Man, another one of those late-nighters, huh? I always admired that about Diana, but I could never do it. I NEED sleep, and have a really hard time when I don't get enough of it.

Sounds like your schedule is working out great for you!

Susan Adrian said...


Argh, 3 days of not writing! Bleck.

I had time to write today and struggled. {shrug}

I love how you do get to writing even in little bits of time. I think that's a necessity when you have little ones around, and really helps to keep things going when you don't have large blocks of time!

Yay, you! You'll get back to it this weekend, right?

Mrs. Mitty said...


It helps to have insomnia, too. [g] (Just be glad you're not around me when I start going wonky from sleep deprivation.)

Rose D. said...

Um, I stay up late -- very late. [g] And unfortunately I don't write every day. But when I do write, it's several thousand words at a time. Yeah, I'm weird. [g]

Chris Mac said...

I'm a late night writer too. I tried getting up early before everyone else is up but that just didn't happen. It's so hard to get up early!

Monica said...

Hmmm, balance huh, well unlike many of you I’m divorced so I don’t have to concern myself with “spouse time”, but one the other sides of that is it’s just me, so all the child running is mine to accomplish. Luckily the kids are old enough not to require tons of supervision from me (16,15,8) and I’ve been doing this long enough that they know what’s going on and leave me alone if I have “that look” unless blood is involved.
As far as writing habits, well I’m lucky in that I can write at work most days, and I’m off on Fridays so if schools in session that’s totally a writing day until 4ish or so. Housework is a hit and miss kinda thing, some weeks I get to it and some I don’t . I will say that the mindlessness of vacuuming is an excellent time to mull over a sticky plotting issue though. One of the coolest things is that all three of my kids write, a lot.

Cindy said...

Dear Susan:

Yes, and hopefully soon. First, coffee!

Renée said...

Hi Susan:

Great question! Here's a link to a blog entry I wrote back in January about this very topic: Art and Life

Susan Adrian said...


Argh. I get insomnia sometimes--in fact, I have a post-insomnia post that might amuse you around here somewhere. (found it)

Unfortunately I haven't yet managed to "use" that time for writing instead of stressing that I'm not asleep. {s}

Susan Adrian said...


And were you trying to write when your kids WERE small? If so, was it easier or harder? I've seen some anecdotal evidence that it's actually harder to get yourself to write when you have more free time. Paradox.

Susan Adrian said...


Ooooh, excellent post!! Thanks for linking to it. My feelings exactly. {s}

Mrs. Mitty said...

Oh, Susan, that was *funny*! :D Sounds like CWS had set in (Clinical Wonkiness Syndrome). Been there a few times myself, but usually, my 'creative synapses' are what is causing the insomnia, I think. One of those good/bad problems. ;>