Sunday, October 4, 2009

Finding Balance

One of the more difficult things to maintain in a writing life is balance. Balance between writing and not writing. Balance between family and writing and career. Balance in promotion, and groups and conferences. Balance in the story itself in finding the right amount of conflict, description, dialog and action.
I always get caught up in trying too hard. When I hear friends writing 2k words, or 5 pages a day or book after book, I feel like a slacker and so add pages, stories, words. Pretty soon, all I do is write. I burrow into my office chair and spend hours there working on story or pages or whatever. My relationships slip, after all, writing comes first, right? My housekeeping slips...write or die, right? I don't see daylight for weeks on end...don't get dressed, rarely shower(I know you're glad you're not here.) My daughter has to walk in and physically pull me from the computer. After all, I don't have a deadline. Writing more does not make writing better. But...but, I just know this next idea might be my "breakout" book... You know, breakout or not there will always be another book after it. I get caught up in the idea that if I only try harder, write faster, promote more, I'll be able to make it happen.
Um, no. Story comes from life. If you're not living it, then your stories become weak. If you sacrifice relationships then your characters lose depth. Living life in your head you lose so much and so does your writing. Writing too much is as bad as not writing enough.
Think of your writing career as a story. Stories can't be all dialog. They can't be all glorious rich description. They can't be all action. They have to be a good balance of dialog, action and description. True success comes not from trying harder, but from stepping back and figuring out how to live smarter, richer lives. Relationships add to story. Taking care of your health adds to your writing-let's face it you can't write as well if you're sick or in pain or hungry. But, you say if I live my life then there isn't room for story. Or I'll miss a trend or an opportunity. I say, so be it. Participating in 100 groups might garner you 10 sales. But at the sacrifice of real relationships. Are 10 sales worth that? Catching a trend might sell one book, but two, three, four years down the road the trend is gone and you will be scrambling again. At what cost?
So, I say, make a habit of once a month, stepping away from your writing and looking at it for balance. Am I not writing enough to meet my goals? Did I get caught up in promotion at the expense of my writing? Am I taking care of my health, my relationships? When was the last time I went outside and looked up at the night sky? My last sunrise? My last sunset? Visit my good friend and invest some time in life?
Living a life in balance is the hardest thing to do, but I believe your writing will actually benefit from it. Now, I'm off to spend the afternoon with friends. Cheers!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

In my life the chaos becomes the balance, as the balance conintually shifts.

But you hit it - that balance is so hard to maintain. And the promotion steals primarily from the writing, at least in my world.

Ann Victor said...

Nancy, this is so true on many counts! Firstly that all important balance; finding it is all areas of life is never easy. But you've made an even more important point: participation. How can our writing be rich and full if we're so focused on sitting at the computer writing stories (living in our imagination) that we actually forget to participate in life itself? So I agree with you that balance and participation in life may momentarily take us away from life, but ultimately it enriches our writing.

Jessica said...

Great post Nancy. Balance and priorities are things I try to keep at the forefront. I liked how you tied balance into the setup of a novel too.

Ann Victor said...

Sorry - typos galore today! Grrr.

That last line should read:

"...So I agree with you that balance and participation in life may momentarily take us away from WRITING, but ultimately it enriches our writing."

Nancy J. Parra said...

L. Diane, chaos becomes the balance- yes, I can see that. So managing the chaos becomes like herding ducks. :)

Ann, I hate when I have typos in comments, too. But you know, I didn't see the typos because I was agreeing with your point.

Jessica, hi, thanks- to me life is writing. lol- so everything I do relates back to story in so many different ways.

Thanks for the great comments, everyone!

Marilyn Brant said...

Nancy, this is such a huge challenge for me right now... Thanks for your post and helping to remind me to step away from the computer for awhile. Or, as my mom always used to tell me when I was little, "You need to go outside and get some fresh air. Now." :)

Christy said...

So true-often we go about trying to record life through writing or journaling or photographing the milestones. Sometimes we need to stop recording life and truly live it. A great reminder to all of us writers who strap ourselves to our stories. Thanks!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Marilyn, with your book just released, I can imagine how busy you are. I hope you do take some time to go outside and breathe. It will all go by so fast! :)

Hi Christy, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are so right, a day or two off really does help the work.


Linda Kage said...

I think that's one of my big problems in writing. I binge and purge. Write too much until the hubby complains. Then get burnt out and just don't feel like it for a while. Then get sucked into the creativity, leaving the house in shambles, laundry to do, dishes to wash... and the pattern starts all over. I just need to find a nice, happy balance.

Great blog. Thank you for understanding.

~Sia McKye~ said...

If I don't have balance, I'm not a happy camper. My family won't allow me to lock myself into my office. I have to admit it is sometimes easier to retreat to my office when things are tough. But my son comes in and we chat or go for a ride in my new car--of course he wants to drive, lol! I have my niece and her family stopping by regularly. I can never ignore the little grandniece with her Pebbles Flintstone hairdo, saying c'mere Sia and hauling me off to see this or that. Most of my weekend was a family fest. I hardly went near the computer except last night to put up my blog.

You're right. We have to live life to write life realistically.

Good Article Nancy.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Once again you hit the nail on the head - balance is important. There are times I think I shouldn't be 'playing hooky' from writing. But after spending the time with family or friends, I am usually more inspired and productive.

Anita said...

Very nice, balance. Am constantly striving for it...age is making me better at it, I think.

Nancy J. Parra said...

wow- thanks Linda, Sia, Jane and Anita.

Linda, I love the binge and purge metaphor. I'm a big advocate of a page a day- or Mon-Friday. Otherwise you're yo-yo dieting... lol.

Sia- your family sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing them with us.

Jane-I agree you do come back more productive after spending time in the real world.

Anita- age does make you better at it, I think. ;)

Ashley Ladd said...

You sound so much like me.

I'm always worried I don't write enough, that I'm not producing enough. When I'm writing, then I worry that I'm not spending enough time with my kids and my friends or being sociable enough with the other softball moms. When I'm promoting I worry I'm not doing the other two.

Please don't check out my house. Or my lack of exercise. They're currently disasters.

I have to get better balance.

I stayed at the day job till 7 pm tonight. I do that a lot since I've been manager. Maybe not 2 hours late but always a half hour or hour after 5.

A few years ago I decided to work on my health and lose weight. I lost 95 pounds in about a year and a half. That was great. But I hardly wrote. I was always walking and exercising and then too tired to do anything else like writing or promoting. Now that I'm writing and promoting a lot, I've regained a lot of what I lost. :(

I have to figure out all this. I don't write on my lunch hours as I once did as that's my main friend time. I spend my lunch hours with my friends at work.

Jen said...

Wonderful post (wonderful blog, too!). I love that you give yourself permission to stop and look back and analyze mid-project. So many writers emphasize the write-through-it philosophy.

And as for life, balance is invaluable. That's one thing I stress in the yoga classes I teach. Balance. You can't drive a car with four wheels on one side, don't put your eggs in one basket, and so on. Life happens in small moments and those are the ones that are easiest to miss.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Ashley, thanks for stopping by. I understand. I find balance by breaking things down into small easy bits- example on Mondays I vacuum, on Tuesdays I dust...etc. A page a day- A ten minute walk with time left to chat. Still there are times when everything gets away from me. :) Good luck with your balance!

Hi Jen, thanks! I do yoga stretches every day for a bad back. You are right about a car with four wheels on one side. :) For me, it's a wip. Cheers!