The irony that this post is late, is not lost on me. But I took the time this morning to have brunch with writer friends as prescribed in my Finding Balance blog. So, things got backed up.
The Finding Balance blog showed me that finding time is a difficult thing for writers to do. There are so many other pressing things--family, work, house cleaning, blogging, promo--how do you find the time to write?
I think what really happens is that we get caught up in the idea that it is all or nothing. That writing is not worthwhile unless we spit out at least ten pages at a time. That cleaning house isn't any good unless we move all the furniture and clean from floor to ceiling. That diet and exercise isn't going to work unless we run three hours a day and cut our calories to 900 a day. We have fallen into a binge/purge mentality. We feel as if it's not worth it unless we make it extreme. (TV doesn't help with Extreme Home Makeover, Biggest Loser, etc. In our culture, if it's not extreme then it isn't worth doing.)
I say- Stop the madness! I say- let go of the peer pressure-the pressure from advertisers and television. They have only one purpose in life and that is not to improve yours- they want to sell you something. Stop competing for a moment with Suzy who write 20 pages a day...and with Sally who runs five miles a day...and with George who not only works 12 hours a day but also coaches and does charity fund raisers. It makes your mind spin and you wonder- who has the time?!
How do you find time to have balance? Here are a few tips that work for me--please feel free to leave tips in comments, too. I'm always open to new ideas.
1) Stop. Breathe. Close your eyes and push out the thoughts of what should be and think about what you want to be. Be realistic based on your life- your personality-your preferences-the current market, etc.
2) Make a list of yearly goals: lose ten pounds, write one full book, have a clean house- Don't write sell a book because you have no control over who will buy. List only what you can control-writing a book and sending it out.
3) Break those goals down into small DOABLE daily bits.
4) Give yourself thirty days to get into the habit of meeting these small goals and make them a lifetime thing.
5) Reevaluate every thirty days to see what works and what doesn't. Let's say you can't lose ten pounds no matter how hard you try- perhaps you need to adjust your thinking. Perhaps 5 pounds is enough. ( Ignore the starving plastic photo-shopped women in media. Think about your health instead. If you must lose 30 pounds to lower your blood pressure and help diabetes- think like that. You are making healthy choices- not dieting. It will never be over. You must always take care of yourself because you are the only one who truly can.)
Here are small things I do: A few years ago when my kids were small I felt as if I could not keep up with the housework. So, I broke chores down into days like they did 150 years ago. On Monday I vacuum the whole house-under furniture once a month. This takes about 20 minutes. On Tuesdays I dust the whole house. On Wednesdays I clean the small bathroom. On Thursdays I clean the large bathroom and on Friday I damp mop the kitchen. If someone comes over and the floor is vacuumed but there is dust- well...it's not Tuesday. If it sounds too controlled- relax be flexible when necessary but don't give up. The key is to not give up.
Next, I evaluate my writing goals and review my schedule and my writing style. Then I set up a plan and stick to it as best I can- giving myself leeway for those days when things don't work out...(Notice that I have no housework scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. These are built in catch up days if the week doesn't turn out so well.) Remember a page a day will net you a book a year and a page consists of 250 words on average. If you can't do a page all at once- how can you break down 250 words in your day?
I don't run 5 miles or spin 25 miles any more. Instead I try to take three ten minute walks a day. It's what works best for me right now.
As for promotion-- no one can do it all. There are many wonderful ideas, find two or three that work for you and do them very well and let go of the thought that you have to compete with Sally Promo who spent $30,000 and countless hours on her book promo. Don't let her bully you into thinking you are not good enough just because she is binging.
So, how do you find time? Stop competing. There is always going to be someone writing more than you, promoing more than you, doing more than you with a cleaner better house than you. Let go of the idea you have to keep up. Think small. Think about you--your life and your needs. Think about your process and do a little every day. Forgive yourself when you don't and keep going. I believe that knowing yourself and your process and being realistic about life will help you to write the books you want to write and to build the career you want to have. Finding time to live a life as full as realistically possible for you is the ultimate goal.