David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather and a grounded pilot. He cofounded Warrior Writers Boot Camp with Kristen Lamb. You can read more of his posts at https://davwalk.wordpress.com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx. Today’s guest blogger is Ron Vitale. After you read his post, go to his site, www.ronvitale.com, to read my post on God’s greatest miracle.
A few weeks ago I flew to San Francisco to work at a conference for 4 days, came back home for only 12 hours and then headed to Washington, D.C. for another two days on the road. With my hectic work schedule that I have had recently, the topic of work/life balance is on my mind. I have read many articles written by women on this important topic, but I have not seen many articles by men.
Like many writers I have a full-time job, have kids and pen novels in my spare time. My schedule, like many, is hectic as I try my best to balance work, family, writing and exercise. With all the hard work and the crazy balancing act, I recently reflected on why I write and why I continue to do so.
Around 19 months ago I decided that I wanted to write another novel and decided to carve out time to do so. Today I can proudly say that I have completed “Cinderella’s Secret Diary,” and I also learned a lot on how best to balance life, work and writing work. I’ve done some thinking and I’d like to share what I learned.
Make a Commitment
I set a realistic goal and made time to do so. I wanted to write a young adult novel and knew that I would not have large chunks of time to work on it. I cut back on watching TV and set times to write. Since there are only 24 hours in the day and I worked out of the home 11 hours of that time, I needed to schedule time to write. I also needed to be realistic and not focus on guilt or worry. I simply needed to write. When I woke up early, on days I didn’t exercise, I would sit in front of my laptop and write. To stay accountable, I would tweet out to the #amwriting community (I didn’t know about #myWANA at the time) and was inspired to see so many other writers from around the world up writing as well). I took strength in networking with fellow writers and would finish my writing session with a quick tweet to the #amwriting community. Ten months into writing my first draft (72,000 words) was complete. A little writing every other day adds up.
Exercise the Body
What I had neglected to do in the past is to weave exercising into my weekly routine. A little more than 2 years ago I took up running and have since run several half-marathons and am training for my first full. What I learned about running is that it allows me the freedom to think about whatever I want. I simply put on my running clothes and go. I do not listen to music but just run. The freedom to allow my mind to wander where it will is a perfect blank slate for me to solve plot problems, work out how I feel about decisions I need to make in my life and the endorphins are an added bonus that help me deal with stress.
Admit That You Cannot Do It All
I learned that it is not possible for me to always juggle seamlessly my various responsibilities. I have had to let some things go because it’s not possible to do everything. I have two young children and it is important for me that I be an active parent. I strive to be a parent who is involved and listens. Choosing to be a writer does add complications to my life. Not only do I work full-time but I also need time to write, research, read and network. I want my children to see how important writing is to me, but not at the expense that they never get to see me. Finding a balance takes time. I choose to write before my kids get up in the morning. Others choose to write after their kids go to bed. When I have had a scene burning in my head, I’ve done both. The most important lesson I have learned is to ask for help. In trying to rewrite my book, my wife helped me by taking the kids out shopping some Saturday mornings and I would have a solid few hours to write. I still feel guilty in asking for time, but there are times when it is important to ask for what one needs. The important thing is to then ask: Am I being too selfish? How can I help support my wife when she needs time for herself?
Be Easy on Yourself
Life is busy, hard and full of such beauty and splendor. For each of us, there is a middle ground between not writing and becoming a hermit and only writing. The sweet spot for each of us will be different, but I found it important to search for the sweet spot. Many writers say: “You must write every day.” Sometimes that’s not possible because there are difficult choices to make: Work might require that you be on the job for 12 plus hours and your kids are home sick. It happens. I tried to avoid feeling guilty because that simply wasted my time and depressed me. I also did not focus on a daily or weekly word count. Rather, I looked at the calendar and set simple goals:
Write: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday mornings
Run: Tues, Thursday, Sunday mornings
By not having a word count, I was free to write as much or as little as I needed and simply focused on strengthening my discipline. No matter if I wanted to or not, on a writing day I would sit down and write. Some days the writing was better than others, but that’s how life goes: It’s not perfect. But I still wrote.
Work Toward the Long Tail
Writing takes time. Becoming a successful writer might take years or more. I have learned to be consistent with my writing and to complete tasks by creating a business plan. As my grandmother used to say: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It is not possible for me to write a novel in a day. I cannot complete such a task in a short amount of time, but I could break it down into pieces and, over time, did reach my goal.
Moving forward for my next book, I will take what I have learned to help me navigate through the challenges and obstacles. We all have busy lives, but there is a way to manage writing, a job and family without going crazy. It simply takes more time, patience and lots of support. The good thing though is that we are not alone. We can help inspire and support each other.
Bio: YA author of CINDERELLA’S SECRET DIARY, DOROTHEA’S SONG & the sci-fi novella THE JOVIAN GATE CHRONICLES. Podcaster and website communications specialist. Follow Ron on Twitter @ronvitale and learn more about him at www.ronvitale.com