If you’re like 95% of writers, writing is not your day job! Instead your lunch break, afternoons, weekends, when the baby is sleeping, and when you should be sleeping, too, are the pockets of time you find you’re able to write.
Even if you’re passionate about writing, it’s important to keep a balance. The best way to do that is by having priorities.
No matter what you do, as long as you keep family first, you really can’t go wrong. Does your son need help with his homework? Don’t pawn it off on your sister! Do it yourself. It won’t take long and your son will feel loved and appreciated. (Or at least he will in a few years.)
The worst thing we can do is to put other things between us and those that we love. It creates a distance that fills with a moat of doubt, frustration and anger. Maybe your husband or your wife supports your writing, or your work, but if that’s all you do then they will feel neglected. Even if they don’t say anything, it doesn’t mean all is a-okay. Make sure to spend time for a family dinner or go out for a movie. Pick up on cues if you are frustrating your family by not being “present”. As writers, we tend to zone out (that’s kind of our job!), but you need to be there 100% for your family. Don’t forget what really matters.
I debated if health or the day job should be priority 2. I think it depends. Most of the time, health should come first. But sometimes, we all will sacrifice sleep or a meal when it’s crunch time. Use your judgment, keep yourself well rested and exercise, even if it’s just 30 minutes at the gym. After all, it’ll be difficult to write if you’re too busy dying from a heart attack.
3. Your Day Job
If you make enough by writing as a sole source of income, or don’t need to work, that’s wonderful! But most of us have other careers that fund our writing addiction. If you’re in the majority, make sure that you’re keeping your job your number 3 priority. This also counts if you are a student.
There aren’t many things more stressful than not having the income to live comfortably and do basic things you want to do. Some studies go so far as to say the financial stress for those that make less than $50,000 per year can double a woman’s risk of heart attack (study done here). While any study can be debated for accuracy and longevity, it still surprised me and is worth mentioning.
Having a stable day job will give you the means to have a comfortable life, and the luxury of writing. As much as some may want to disagree, writing is truly a luxury. Let me give a prominent example. There was a writer who went to college to focus on the literary arts. However once reaching the higher education, was talked into finding a more “reliable” job and began studying law. Realizing that this was not the path for her life, she dropped out and moved to New York with big dreams. However, writing a book, much less publishing one, can take years. Aspiring authors need to eat. This dreamer took up a job as an airline ticket agent to make ends meet.
It was only when a friend took pity on this author turned airline agent that her writing career got a chance to breathe. Her friend gave her an entire years worth of wages, saying: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.”
This gift of a year with the only focus as writing produced To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s debut and only novel that has earned her over 45 million dollars (and counting).
While I believe writing can be squeezed in-between the rest of life, I will recognize that if the day-job could be realistically cut, writing a bestseller is on the table (granted that you already have the motivation and talent to do so).
I like to think that if Lee had concentrated on becoming a lawyer, she would have likewise earned enough money and peace of mind to write during downtime and produced her award winning novel. There’s a difference between working three jobs to struggle to make ends meet, and having a higher income paying job in which you will have periods of time to enjoy other aspirations such as writing.
Ok, now we’re finally at writing! Did you see all the things that came before? How are we supposed to have any time and energy left?! It’s difficult, but it can be done. The best way to accommodate writing is to take it in small doses. Give yourself a realistic goal. Write 1,000 words every day. Or make sure to write one chapter a week. If you keep to that rule, you’ll have a full-length novel of the average size 80,000 words in less than 3 months! Even if you lowered the bar, only writing 500 words a day, you’ll still have an entire novel in half a year. Pretty amazing, huh?
Another thing I like to do is to keep a “muse-book”, as I like to call it. When your muse hits you on the head with a great idea, bring out the notebook and jot it down. When you find you have enough time to write, you’ll already have a nice little gathering of ideas to work with.
I’d like to say the understanding of these priorities came with inherited wisdom, but sadly, they were all learned the hard way! Isn’t that how it usually goes? I hope this article can help you to realize what’s important and help you to balance your writing among the rest of your life. That said, you are an amazing person to be able to “do it all”. Keep it up, and one day you will meet your goals. After all, there are no experts, only beginners that never gave up.