Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More on the work/live balance...

Maven Carrie RyanWe've been talking about it around here recently, the work/life balance conundrum.  And recently, my fiance JP also blogged about it.  Plus, I've been struggling with the whole balance issue myself recently, so I thought I'd blog about it.

I think JP brings up a lot of good points, one of them being:

My other thought is that you need to take the time you need to get things done right. And that means that sometimes writing needs to win out, and that means sometimes the Day Job or other things need to win out. The trick is to keep one from pushing other off the face of the map, particularly writing. Too many people let the stress of life be an excuse not to write, myself included. Conversely, though, you shouldn't let the drive to write add more stress to an already stressful period.
 As JP points out in his post, there are a lot of people who will say that if you truly love writing, if you truly are a writer, then you'll find the time to write.  No matter what.  You'll sacrifice everything else before you'll sacrifice writing.  But I think that is unreasonable when you've also got other things going on in life: day job, raising kids, moving, a budding relationship, etc.  It's just a fact of life that sometimes, other things will have to come first.

Conversely, I hear from a ton of writers who never put writing first.  Family, job, cleaning the house, volunteer work, exercise, cooking, etc. always comes first.  This is also unreasonable if you want to be a professional writer.

We all know that a writer writes -- it's the bottom line of the profession.  How that happens?  That's the difficulty.  And yeah, it's going to take sacrifice.  If you want to sell a book, I don't think you can just throw writing on at the end of your priorities and have that be enough.  Just the opposite, I think that it has to come first (and has to come first a lot).  That's why I'll be eating a frozen dinner tonight.  And tomorrow night.  And every night this week -- because it takes a lot of time to cook and that's time I could be writing.  That's why our house is often messy -- because we write rather than clean.  That's why our garden isn't winning us any awards in our neighborhood.

We had to prioritize.  One of the first things to go -- most TV shows.  Did I *really* need to know who the last Cylon was right when the rest of the world found out (or has it even been revealed yet)?  Nope, that's what Netflix is for.  Do I *really* have to see the million different shows about planning a wedding?  Nope, that's what eloping is for (just kidding mom!).  Even when I go online and find myself following comment trails on blogs and message boards I ask myself: do I really need to spend time doing this?

And sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes other things must take priority.  Yes, JP and I take the time to walk the dog and spend time together.  We take the time for our day jobs because we happen to like our house.  But we looked at what could go, and we cut it.  I do think often that's the investment writing to go pro requires.

But you know, the thing is, sometimes life just gets in the way.  You meet someone new.  You get buried at work.  Sometimes, even though it's a big priority, writing just has to get bumped down for your own sanity.  For me, the key is then to ENJOY that time not writing.  I think of it like dieting, if you're going to eat that tres leches cake, enjoy it!  Don't sneak it in, pretend you're not eating it -- no! sit there and savor it!  Same thing with time off -- admit that you're taking time off.  Live with the decision, and don't beat yourself up.  But also acknowledge that taking that time might mean extending personal deadlines -- again, you have to make that decision knowingly and honestly and then live with it!

In the end, remember that you're going to mess up.  We're human, it happens.  Sometimes the alarm will go off at 5:30 and you'll jump out of bed ready to write.  Sometimes you'll keep hitting snooze until your fiance rips the clock cord out of the wall.  I think it's a constant struggle and it constantly needs tweaking.  Bottom line, I think you just have to be honest with yourself.  It's way too easy to fritter away time rather than being conscious about the choices you're making.

All that being said... I have some pages to write :)  What are y'all's thoughts on the work/life balance?


MM said...

I loved this post.

Are you a Libra? Libra's are all about balance. There are times when I put writing first, and other times I put work first, and other times family friends are first. I think the goal of writing first or only writing is irresponsible and unrealistic.

However, I can't believe that you didn't find out who was the final cylon. I watch that show for professional development. I love the tension between Starbuck and Apollo. And as a teacher?writer I love that a teacher makes such a kick ass President.

Carrie Ryan said...

I loved that show too! Ironically, JP is the one who got me hooked on it but he doesn't like it anymore and there's not enough time for me to watch it now. I'm JUST starting to catch up.

And I'm a Capricorn... I forget what that says about me!

Jackie Barbosa said...

Balance? What's that?

In my life, it seems that everything and everyone demands the most attention at exactly the same time. I've come to the conclusion that there's no way to achieve balance--one end of the teeter-totter is always going to be sticking up in the air and one's always going to be on the ground and someone, somewhere is ALWAYS going to be unhappy. (Conversely, however, someone is always going to get his/her day to be happy. So it's a kind of balance, I suppose.)

Unknown said...

Balance? I've been teetering since the baby was born...

Darcy Burke said...

This post is so awesome, Carrie! I've definitely made choices when it comes to writing. I'm finding it harder during the summer to make the amount of time for writing that I want, but that should get better once school starts up again. I am allowing myself to be spontaneous and have some fun - guilt-free! I never realized life would require such juggling.

Celeste said...

Since starting the day job, I struggle with balance every single day. Family, friends, chores, even volunteer work. But you are right. You gotta have faith it will all balance out over the course of a week or a month. Doing what is needed that day is what's important. And I feel much better about my writing when I let it be a happy event rather than something I crammed in where it didn't fit!

Anonymous said...

My philosophy is that nothing new and creative ever happens between 9 to 5. I wrote my first book by simply going to a coffee shop every evening before going home and writing a few pages every day. Within 3 months it was done. It was non-fiction which made it easier I think. But just like excersing, a little every day produces great results. Now I'm working on selling the book a little every day, which I'm finding is harder. I'd rather be creating something new.

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