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
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I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thank you Ron and thank you David for hosting. I went through the fitness, then the writing and currently am trying to find the balance between the two alongside a busy family life. Life is always full of wonderful challenges. I appreciate your beautiful nuggets of insight. These past couple weeks I feel as if it has all been falling apart but it could be a simple adjustment period as I get used to the blogging and the new courses I enrolled in. Let’s hope I find my groove soon. I do always try to keep the process flowing. Digitally recording my thoughts when they come so that I don’t lose them (downloaded app on phone for when I am driving, etc.) and catch up on reads while waiting for kids to get out of school. I try to make the best of what time I have.
Debra, you are so welcome! I’m all about finding shortcuts or tools to help me out. The digital recording is a great idea as I often tell writers: Call your voicemail and leave yourself a message. My main way of saving good ideas is using Post-It notes. It’s cheap, lower tech and being able to stick them on my monitor reminds me to write them down and work on them. Thanks for the great comment!
Thanks for a wonderful post, Ron, and thank you David for hosting it! I’ve always struggled to work both writing and exercise into my life around work and time with loved ones. For 20 years, I’ve been on a cycle where I’m either writing away and but overweight and miserable, or the fit exercise queen who isn’t scribbling so much as a sentence. I recommitted recently to making both work in my life, and so far so good. The writing isn’t going as well or as quickly as I had hoped, but it IS going, which is better than ever for me. A lot of that is due to living some of your advice here, and I plan to work even more of your suggestions in : ).
Hawleywood40, you are welcome. I think the hardest thing is finding that balance and when I get off kilter to recognize it, stop and work on balance. This past weekend was extremely difficult for me as I had three main competing things: Camping out with my son with boy scouts, fixing our basement that was flood from Hurricane Irene and a 16 mile run for marathon training. But I wanted to be working on my writing and promoting my book. Was hard, but I just got up early today to work on the book and writing stuff. Hang in there. I find talking with friends and other authors helps a lot.
David, I truly enjoyed your post. I’m a passenger on the flight today, and thanks to Wifi I can catch up. I smiled when you said you cut back T.V.
T.V.? What’s that? Yes, we have to carve time however we can. For me… too many emails, so many wonderful writers connecting, blogging… 6 grandkids, a full time job that finds me not sleeping due to work… it’s all a challenge.
My greatest challenge? Thinking I can do it all. But it is taking the toll being the supermom.
My second greatest challenge… spending more time helping other people achieve their dreams than writing. I am striving for balance.
My tips… (Exercise is essential) I read on the treadmill and in the bath tub before bed. My plan… shift reading and responding to emails until night so that half the people will be sleeping and won’t respond until the next day. Haven’t managed this one yet.. but that is the plan. Then I’ll wake up and write first thing in the morning.
Time… the one thing we all have that is exactly the same. Some just are better managers than others. I have work. 🙂
Thanks for a great post.
Karlene, I am glad that you enjoyed my post. David was very kind to invite me write a guest post for his blog.
Life is always hectic and I think learning to ease up on ourselves and not try to be super heroes is difficult to do. I am glad you like my article and hope you get some down time to relax.
Thank you Ron. I will have down time when I’m holding my grandson. The simple moments, are the best. Have a wonderful day.
Great advice! Thank you.
I’m so happy you enjoy the post! In life, we’re told we “should” do this or that and adding on more pressure to write just wasn’t working for me. I carved out time in my busy schedule and, yes, it did take me longer, but I now have two books and one short story collection under my belt.
Good luck in working your own schedule out!
I love how you encourage guilt-free writing – do what you can etc with realistic expectations. I think that is so key. Juggling everything in life is hard enough without beating ourselves up about it!
I was just pondering today about how at the end of each evening, I rarely have gotten done what I had wanted to accomplish in large part becausse I didn’t have a plan. I love your schedule (soo doable) and plan to implement something very similar!
Love this – so timely and just what I needed to hear – thank you!