Like any healthy relationship there is going to be a give and a take but sometimes it is hard to see that one partner in that relationship is always taking and you are always giving.
When I was working on my first book – Child of the Light – I was living a very unhealthy writing-life balance. I was trying to do both at the same time and I burnt myself out. I would work during the day – writing during my lunches – and when I got home I’d make dinner only to start writing the moment I was done eating. Everyday was like that and for a while I was fine… but when you are working for nine hours and coming home only to work for another eight hours with no time to unwind it quickly catches up. I knew after finishing book two – Children of Sirphan – that I had to make a change and find balance in my writing or I wouldn’t be able to make writing a long-term option.
So, how did I find a writing-life balance that worked for me?
Simple. I reflected on the needs I had and the desires I had. I needed to eat, work, spend some time with my SO, take care of my cats, volunteer, and unwind. My desires were to keep up my blogging, build my social media accounts, and work/complete book three of my YA Fantasy Series. Once I had those written down on paper I took the time to schedule my needs and my desires using first Excel, then a date book, finishing off with Google Calendar. For the first little while I relied on Google Calendar to control my life until I got into a routine. I would make necessary changes along the way until my routine fit my life perfectly.
Monday to Friday: I dealt with my needs.
Saturday: Volunteering and housework/ social media updates.
Sunday: Writing. No matter what.
There are times where inspiration strikes hard and I need to write something down. I still allow myself to take those notes or work on those ideas, but only until I complete that idea. This is notes in my phone or in my notebook. Once the idea is down, I close the app or notebook and return to what I was doing prior to writing. This had helped me build up my creative drive for the week, getting me excited to write on Sunday.
When you are trying to build a writing career it is hard to find that balance. It took me almost three years to find a healthier balance, and in my opinion I still have a long way to go. Some other ways I’ve helped myself find balance are as follows:
Giving myself a dedicated place to write:
Now that we – Mr. Canuck and myself – have settled into our own place we are able to establish our own offices. He has his computer room and I’m no longer stuck at the kitchen table. I was able to make one of our rooms into my writing room, where I have surrounded myself with things that inspire me or relax me. The room still has a long way to go but at least I have a place I can go to work.
Have music just for your writing:
I can’t work without music. At work I have my earbuds in and rarely take them out of my ears because the music helps me focus. The same goes with my writing. Although I’m alone in a room with the door closed I don’t want to be distracted by meowing cats or Mr. Canuck’s shouting at useless teammate while he plays WoT in the next room. Having a playlist that is dedicated to keeping me focused on my project or helps inspire my project allows me to connect to my work and disconnect from life for just a little while.
The same goes with life balance. The playlists I make for writing I don’t play in my everyday life, so those songs don’t make me want to write when I’m not in the writing room. This can be challenging if you are a radio listener, or are listening to random playlists that you haven’t curated for yourself… but we all have to start somewhere. If you need help with how to start a writing playlist I’ve written a post all about that right here.
I have become the main cook in the relationship, which means I have a lot of meals to plan. Meal prep has saved me time and has reduced my stress ten-fold. As I work later than my partner, having something in the fridge just having to be pulled out and heated up helps him from having to do some guess work. I know what I’m cooking for the week and what I’m having for lunches, which removes that huge burden that used to be looming over me every day.
Get out and do you:
The big problem I had when working on my first two books was doing something outside of just writing. My life was work and writing… that was all I was. It was after we moved to London that I realized that I had to do more with my life. I started to volunteer, which helped me get out of the house and where I was volunteering helped me find inspiration I wouldn’t have otherwise found if not for that opportunity.
The same thing happened when I started going to the gym. When you work at a computer during the day and write during the weekends you aren’t being active. I was starting to feel like a slug with no energy to do anything… so I joined the gym. I needed that time to step away from my life and focus on me. When I’m not working with my trainer I can put in some music and zone out. This gives me time to reflect on myself and helps me work through the problems I’m having in my life. The gym wasn’t only helping my body become better but was also helping me with my mental health.
I still have a long way to go until I find the perfect writing-life balance but I’m getting there. Everyone’s needs and desires are different but finding that balance that works for you starts with you. If this can help you, then I’m happy to share.