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.
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.
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:
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!