Tag Archive for: balance

Most jobs have defined parameters: go to work, perform specific tasks at work, go home. Even jobs performed from home or that require overtime still fall into similar routines. There can be a start and stop time—an on/off switch, if you will—work defined by tasks or time, and there is always an end.

With writing? Not so much.

A cluster of hanging lightbulbs, all of them on because the writer on/off switch is also on and full of inspiration.

Photo by Diz Play on Unsplash

Writing has a habit of encroaching on everything. You’re in the shower, lathering in shampoo and—BAM—you have the solution to a plot hole. You’re making dinner, sautéing veggies and—WHAM—you finally have inspiration for your title. You’re trying to fall asleep, letting all your thoughts empty out of your head and—POP—the perfect line of dialogue appears. No matter what you’re doing, writing is happening in some corner of your brain and it’s going to jump up and demand attention when you’re least prepared.

But the opposite is true, too, isn’t it? When we sit down to write, our real life comes in to distract us. That could be in the form of remembering unfinished tasks on our to-do lists and things we need to do or buy or clean, or in the form of our loved ones poking their heads into our writing time with well-meaning interruptions that still derail our train of thought.

Writing doesn’t come with an on/off switch, and it can be difficult to switch in and out of writing mode to maintain a healthy work/life balance. (I doubt I’m the only freelancer who experiences this problem related to other work as well since sometimes those shower thoughts are about the manuscript I’m editing or the email I need to send or how to revamp my Patreon.)

Working from home doesn’t help this situation either because there is literally no separation between my workspace and my home space. They’re the same space!

I was at the end of my rope about this problem, so this month I tried to create some separation by utilizing a vacation home I occasionally have access to. I got to have a routine, a short commute, and a quiet, uncluttered workspace that has nothing to do with my home life! And when I went home at the end of my workday, I didn’t feel nearly as much pressure to keep working. I also felt less anxiety related to “you didn’t do enough” because I’d had more success getting things done during regular work hours.

Since the on/off switch for writers is mostly broken, writers have to try harder to create boundaries around work life and home life. A room of one’s own is a great way to do that, but not everyone has access to a vacation home (and I don’t even have access to it all the time). There are other boundaries that can be set—a schedule, a special place to write (even if that’s just moving from one side of the desk to the other), and other routines (a special snack, a lit candle, noise-cancelling headphones).

I’m trying to keep all those tricks in mind as I transition back to mostly working from home. I feel like this month has been a good reminder of the importance of separating work from home, and I’ll be looking for more opportunities to get out of the house and actually separate work from home.

Speaking of, anyone want to join me at a coffee shop to write?



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July began with a desperate plea for help reprioritizing my life. Thankfully, my friend Jennie Jarvis stepped in to provide some structure to my internal flailing and give me a very simple method to prioritize my time and projects: does it make money or not?

I have a generous, but ultimately unhealthy habit of volunteering my time and energy in many unpaid ways. I love helping other writers—and some volunteer opportunities just sound like so much fun—so I’m not surprised I volunteer over and over and over. But when I’ve done that too often, or overlapped projects too much, I end up stretched thin, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Even though I’ve been working to say “yes” less and to only volunteer when I honestly have extra time and energy, I’m still spending more time on unpaid activities than on paid activities and badly bungling my time.

Which, uh, is a problem.

So, Jennie’s earth-shattering reprioritization system is as simple as categorizing projects as to whether or not I’m getting paid for my work, and then making sure I schedule my day to spend more time on paid projects than unpaid projects. Her strategy also allows for projects that are not currently making money but should in the future, such as developing websites, podcasts, workshops, and writer tools.

Writing time on personal projects (which would be projects unrelated to paid work) is kind of a third category, since all short stories, novels, and anything else we write for traditional publication is kind of a question mark as to whether or not (or when) it will sell. I’ve been regularly dedicating an hour and a half daily to writing, so I kept that time set aside (and still sneak in five-minute chunks here and there as time and ideas allow).

Honestly, this whole process is so easy to figure out I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself. (I mean, I do. It’s something about missing the forest for the trees.)

I’ve been using this new system to restructure my time and reprioritize my projects for the last month, and while I had some difficulty adjusting (and had to make some tweaks for real-world application), I’d say overall I feel more confident in my ability to keep up with my workload and more balanced in the choices I’m making. For someone who struggles so much with mental health, getting my schedule under control has been a HUGE help. So, thanks, Jennie!

If you are struggling with your projects, responsibilities, and how to prioritize your time, I recommend taking a look at your list to see if anything I’ve described here might help get your life under control.



For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.