Why You Can’t Balance Your Writing Life

One of the biggest mistakes writers make is their ongoing search for balance in their writing life.

Balance doesn’t exist, not in the sense that we need it to. You see, balance requires control. We humans cannot control anything externally, much less internally, and when we try, bad things happen. Dr. Claire Lewicki nailed it when she told off hotshot Cole Trickle in this scene from Days of Thunder:

 

 

 

Balance is on par with control, writers. You’re searching for something you will never have.

If that doesn’t convince you, let’s look at balance as being on par with perfectionism. When you’re seeking balance, you’re essentially seeking perfectionism.

Trying to find balance in your writing life? Read this post to learn why you should forget about balance and start creating opportunities instead

And we all know the truth about perfection.

 

Here is another way to look at it.

Visualize seagulls flying above the beach on a breezy day. Everything’s looking great from their viewpoint, smooth sailing until a crosswind comes along and bumps and jostles them around.

What happens next? Do they fall to the earth, wings to eyes in utter defeat? Do they squawk in protest? Do they maintain their original course in stubborn rebellion?

No. They adjust their velocity, angle, direction, swoop up or left or whatever. Basically, they take the hit, switch things up a little, and fly on.

For a seagull, balance equates to making an adjustment.

Trying to find balance in your writing life? Read this post to learn why you should forget about balance and start creating opportunities instead

 

You need to channel your inner seagull. Look at the challenges you’re facing and instead of seeking “balance” in your life, make adjustments to CREATE OPPORTUNITY.

 

If you take “balance” out of consideration, it will be easier for you to say as you go into your day, “I’m going to create an opportunity with that free hour this afternoon” rather than “I need to balance my schedule.”

The former statement allows for choice and power. The latter statement essentially boils down to “How will I figure out how to fit in my writing along with taking my mom to the doctor and getting my kids to soccer practice and making dinner?” There’s more of a fight there, you see? It sounds self-defeating before you even get started.

Everyone has 3 Big Forces operating in their real-world life:

 

SPIRITUAL

EMOTIONAL

PHYSICAL

 

My stance is that when you connect all three forces in a healthy way, then you are establishing a system ripe for CREATING OPPORTUNITY. The forces can work together to help you find creative success. This is better than “seeking balance” because healthy human beings are naturally inclined to make things happen.

How can you use the 3 Big Forces to create opportunity?

 

SPIRITUAL—I’m not referring to organized religion, unless that is exactly where you find your spiritual force. I’m referring to a power bigger than the world, something that guides you. Maybe it’s your conscience or the universe or nature. I do think you need to believe in something, and it doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as you have something to lean on, always.

The spiritual force is essentially magnetic. Ever hear of the Law of Attraction? Well, I would like to make the case that as long as you’re generating positive self-talk and energy, then the things you want in your life will show up all around you—you’re creating opportunities.

For a writer, this means approaching your writing with positive energy and believing in yourself. In turn, your mind and body will respond to carry the momentum.

Meditation, journaling, art, music, absorbing nature, helping others—these are a few examples of activities that have beneficial effects on your spiritual force.

EMOTIONAL—Banish your automatic negative thoughts and feelings to help you stay focused on your goals. You will then see opportunity when it arises.

When we listen to the dream-killing thoughts, we are then open to distractions that interfere with our pursuit of our dreams, for example, social media. Distracting activities swoop in when we’re at our most vulnerable and opportunity goes bye-bye.

The minute you have a dream-killing thought, counter it with evidence to the contrary. Journaling this out is extremely helpful because logic steps in and sets us straight. Clear, logical, positive thoughts and emotions are like Petri dishes for creating opportunity.

PHYSICAL—This is the primary force I neglect, and I have suffered the consequences with chronic neck pain and interrupted sleep cycles and borderline diabetes. The physical ailments negatively affect my writing stamina.

Worse, when I’m not at 110% physically, then depressing moods and thoughts sneak in (emotional). When I’m depressed, I’m less inclined to value myself as a writer, mom, wildlife activist, or friend, and I check out (spiritual).

Is that a scenario where I’d be capable of creating opportunity? Heck, no.

I’m trying to be better about my physical health with an improved diet and increased exercise. Already, my sleep cycles are sorting themselves out, and I feel rested for my 4am wake-up call.

Keep a food and exercise log and then run it by your doctor. This a great action step that will help you figure out where you need to make adjustments.

A FINAL TIP: Look at your days on an individual basis and treat them as 24-hour spaces of opportunity rather than a fight to complete everything on your day’s to-do list.

This approach is less about control or balance and more about living creatively.

Use positive-based challenges to move through your day such as:

When will I write today?

I will plan to interview Mr. Celebrity this afternoon.

Tonight, I’ll let the kids have an extra cookie if they do the dishes so I can have an extra 30 minutes of writing time.

 

You can shape the time and space according to your needs and wants of the moment. The next day will present different challenges, and therefore you will treat the new challenges with a different mind-set and different action steps. This is another reason why “balance” in our writing lives is an illusion. You simply can’t maintain status-quo, which is really what balance signifies.

Possibility + Action = Opportunity

 

What are your thoughts on balance? Are you in tune with your 3 Big Forces? What have you noticed about them and how they affect your writing?

Have a writerly day!

 

 

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44 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Balance Your Writing Life

  1. I’m still figuring out balance, but a few years ago it dawned on me that I didn’t need balance – I needed focus. I needed to figure out what the essentials really were and most everything else should drop off my to-do list. Essentials: I have to run and eat well, pray and meditate, so I can be a good mother and wife, and have the energy and inspiration to write. When I write out my schedule every single day, I can find small pockets of time to write – sometimes big pockets, too! We women would do better by “dropping by the ball” more often and focus on just a few essentials rather than trying to do it all. My two cents 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Focus is something I struggle with, too. When I am alone, working, it isn’t a problem. But weekends and nights are tough because I’m no longer in control of my time or space. And then when the house quiets down by 9 I am too tired to work! I try to give myself one goal per category every day, and I can usually accomplish those plus bonus goals, and that feels like I’ve been productive.

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  2. Love your final tip. Looking at each day as a 24 hour opportunity is an excellent concept. Today I actually took the opportunity to make a medical appointment which is long overdue. Monday, I will be making another appointment with the optometrist; also long overdue. It’s all too easy to neglect physical health, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you for taking charge of your self care! I have to agree — I neglect physical health, too. I think part of my problem is that you have to go to so many different practitioners for all your body parts, so it means making a dozen (usually more) appointments per year, not to mention follow up appointments! I find that my general practitioner is just a gatekeeper to all the other specialized doctors, and it seems like they have to know less and less and are able to answer fewer and fewer questions.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly what I have dealt with, Lisa. I prefer the holistic approach across the board, not just creativity, and I find that when one “force” is neglected, the other two falter.

      Good on you for embracing your inner seagull! Let me know how it goes for you!!

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  3. I think for me it’s about making writing a priority… I am struggling with putting something I want ahead of doing for others…definitely out of balance…I am thinking of signing up for Nano again just so I will have something structured to get me back on track.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Making writing a priority is tough, Denise. I feel your struggle. I think NaNo might be a great motivator for you to write again. There is certainly the support system that can encourage you each day, which many writers need.

      For some of us, writing tends to be pushed aside because of our guilt–we feel guilty for indulging in something that seems trivial. Make sure you give yourself permission to write, to tend to and cultivate your creativity (essentially your inner child). It needs your real-world self to give it the okay! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I heard a speaker Thursday night who had been ignoring her calling to “be a writer” and call herself one for years. Then when she finally decided to jump feet first, everything changed. It was really encouraging and scary. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s the same thing that happened to me! It was such a powerful moment in my life that I created a pledge (and I offer it to all writers who are interested) which recognizes my identity as a writer and what I’m going to do to protect that identity. I signed it and posted it on a wall in my study. Whenever I feel low, I look at that pledge and remind myself what I must do. 🙂

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  4. Great information here, Kate. I find this spot-on: “The next day will present different challenges, and therefore you will treat the new challenges with a different mind-set and different action steps.” We can’t really set expectations. Instead we can set fluid goals and know that each day may require their shifting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Carrie. I am a planner by nature, and I used to get so stressed out by interrupted days that I couldn’t get anything accomplished. Once I made some adjustments to how I typically react/respond, I’ve fared a lot better. I am more stressed when I fight to achieve goals I set days or weeks in advance, rather than looking at each day right when it begins and asking myself how I can be productive and creative in this time frame.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I love the idea of taking balance out of the equation. Replace it with a thought about creating opportunity. Great advice! And what Carrie highlighted also resonated with me. I immediately thought of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (LOL) when you started talking about balance really being a series of adjustments. I read that book so long ago that I don’t recall if it had anything to do with the theme of this post. Have you read it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I see so many posts about “finding your balance” that I used to feel something was wrong with me because no matter what tips I tried, I could never find that darn balance!!

      No, I haven’t read it, but now you’ve sparked my curiosity!!

      Thanks for reading, Jilanne!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have just taken up the full mantle on the Law of Attraction (see Pam Grout, WordPress and Facebook). I believe in it fully and you don’t need to know what’s coming next. You have decided the direction you are heading the the outcome(s) you want along the way…All you need. Now, flow and let the universe run things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, I’m a big believer in Law of Attraction, and I try to apply it in my daily life. I listened to a podcast with Deepak Chopra, and he has wonderful insight on how the universe works. Live the life you want. It really can be that basic. It’s hard though, if you’ve got a long history of limiting beliefs. You have to do a lot of work to empty your mind/heart/soul of those, but it can be done.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Ally, I think living day to day is a great way to decrease our stress levels. The world is so complex now, and far too many things we are supposed to know and do and expect. It’s no wonder we’re suffering from overwhelm and why balance is really, truly impossible in life management.

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  7. I really need to watch the video and truly take in the messages here. For I’m freaking out about my second book and for some reason trying to impose deadlines on myself. (Such as signing up to NaNoWriMo.) Then again, I worry that if I don’t ‘force’ myself to complete the research by the end of October and write the first draft in November it will never happen.

    Going to follow this thread with very great interest!

    Well done, and thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Paul! If you haven’t seen the movie Days of Thunder, you should. It’s really quite good. Robert Duvall cracks me up.

      Have you ever tried reward/consequence with your deadlines or goal-setting? Sometimes, a deadline in and of itself won’t work because your subconscious knows that you can move the deadline out, in all reality. Unless you have an editor breathing down your neck threatening your job, you can hack deadlines.

      However, if you reward yourself for meeting a deadline, or punish yourself for not meeting a deadline (consequence), then that deadline is an actual turning point in your overall goal. Essentially, you become that dreaded editor breathing down your own neck, threatening your own job!

      For example:
      you plan to write 20,000 words over the next 3 weeks=deadline (goal)
      if you reach that goal, then you can go to the movies with your lovely wife (reward)
      if you do not reach that goal, then you miss out on the movies, but she has to still go without you (consequence)

      This is just an example. You have to pick the goal, reward, and consequence that is personal (and therefore most effective) to you. For this to work, you have to make the reward/consequence valuable enough that it will make a difference. Pick something that you would consider a very special treat, something you normally wouldn’t get to do because it is too expensive or you don’t have enough time, or whatever.

      If you try this, please let me know how it goes!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Andrea,

      It’s a wonderful world when we can see things from different perspectives in a way that will help us through the struggle. I would love to hear more about your views on balance being opposite to perfectionism sometime! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hello Kate, I have been struggling of late. Your post addresses some of my issues. I struggle constantly with balance, pitting what I need to do with what I decide to do.
    Today I said “no” twice. I found my big girl underpants and spent the afternoon upstairs in my writing room. As always, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nancy! I’m so sorry that you’ve been struggling. You’re supposed to call or email me when the writing isn’t going well, girl!

      Sounds like you haven’t truly made writing a priority, and all that really starts with is setting aside a wedge of time every day to honor your creativity. Sit down in that wonderful writing space of yours and give your writing the attention it deserves! Start with 15 minutes. I KNOW you can do that!!

      Regardless–I’m soooo glad that you found your big girl pants and wrote yesterday afternoon. I bet it felt really good. 🙂

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  9. I think this post is absolutely brilliant, Kate. Early in my mornings I always watch the birds fly, soar, adjust their balance not to have a perfect route but to have a beautiful gliding almost angelic flight to wherever they’re going. And one of the neat things about birds is that sometimes it doesn’t look like they’re really going anywhere. They’re just soaring. That’s what I aspire to. Just soar and let my writing wings take my words to where the characters want to take them. To not judge myself, but to believe in myself and my writing. I’m going to print out your post to inspire me every day and to share with some of my creative writing students! Thanks 💙

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Pam! Some days, it is really difficult to go with the flow, especially when we have goals and plans and dreams. But I do feel that the more we fight the current, the longer it takes us to get to our destinations. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing!!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting article, I suppose it depends on how you choose to look at balancing the various parts of your life. I think what people mean when they say they want to balance their life is that they want more time to do the things they want to do, in our case, write. So is that really balancing, or even creating opportunity? Maybe it’s just prioritising based on what we want for ourselves?

    You are absolutely right about the health aspect, if that takes a nose dive, you are good for nothing. I’ve got Rheumatoid Arthritis and struggle most days, but if I don’t get enough sleep, don’t do my physio, or eat badly for a few days I really start to suffer and then my productivity goes out the window.

    I worry that people see making more time for writings as a monumental task where something else must suffer. If that is the case, I can see how they would become disgruntled with the whole ‘balance’ thing and like the idea of creating opportunity instead. Although at its core, it is most likely the same thing in my opinion. I ‘balance’ my time by developing opportunities to express my creativity. Sure, there are times when my day job or other things get in the way of what I would really like to do (write), but that will always be the case, even if I am a full time writer. Say for instance I’ve managed to ditch the day job, the indie writing job will take its place. That will bring its own set of things that will get in the way of writing, such as marketing, developing ad campaigns, doing taxes and calculating ROIs, interacting with readers etc. Things that will make me think, ‘I don’t have any balance, I spend more time doing the admin work for my writing business than actual writing!’ So then I’d have to sit back, evaluate and re-prioritise with a different set of criteria, maybe hire a PA or VA if I was making enough money, or delegate certain tasks to sub-contractors, like design work. In other words, make new opportunities to bring things back into a balance that is comfortable for me.

    I think it is all interconnected and I am a big believer in synchronicity, and perhaps even a universal consciousness. I meditate frequently, which helps me see problems of balance or let’s say lack of opportunity from a number of different perspectives. Overall, life is wonderful, a vibrant, undulating thing that sweeps us along. Sometimes we have to stick an oar in and use it as a rudder. I enjoyed reading your post, thank you for making me think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Katia!

      I like your positive perspective on balance. You could be right, that balance and creating opportunity are the same thing. I like what you say here, “In other words, make new opportunities to bring things back into a balance that is comfortable for me.” Opportunity leads to balance. That is an interesting outlook.

      My fear, though, is that very few of us can sustain balance indefinitely. The universe seems to shift without warning, and often, and I have to adjust my rhythm accordingly. To me, this means I’m shifting out of balance in order to find a new balance. It’s a mad scramble. There are many periods where I am going day by day, just getting by with doing the absolute necessities. Sustaining balance, to me, can be like juggling fireballs.

      However, there are people, and you seem to be one of them, who have a strong sense of self as well as are confident with their role in this world. I think that sense of self-assurance is a huge help to finding and sustaining balance in our lives.

      Unfortunately, I do think that if we want to write more, something else will suffer because of the demands being made on writers these days. For this reason, finding balance feels inactive/passive to me as opposed to creating opportunity–because that is language that puts me in the driver’s seat. No matter what I have to face each day or week or month–if I can create opportunities to free up an hour here or an hour there, then I feel proactive.

      I guess I feel that “finding balance” or “seeking balance” has become one of those buzz phrases that doesn’t really mean anything concrete anymore. But I find your thoughts rejuvenating, makes me long for the old-fashioned idea of what balance used to mean to me. 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by and your thoughtful comment.

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  11. I fully see your point about creative opportunity being proactive, rather than the wishy-washy ‘finding balance’ stance. And you are right, it is about being in control, if you make your own decisions and schedule, it is far easier to cope with problems that come along because you know exactly what is expected of you. If you are trying to work to someone or something else’s agenda, there is often miscommunication and that just sets off a whole new pile of issues. The other thing is (and I see it as a positive rather than a negative), if things don’t work out right or as expected, there is no-one to blame but yourself. It’s a challenge and a forced learning curve I find exciting. I’m pleased you are proactive, it means you are passionate about what you do, you make things happen rather than just let things happen to you. Happy writing!

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