The Building Blocks of a Balanced Life
By Vickie Miller
A life without boundaries is a life without balance. Draw a firm line and allow no one to cross it. Not even you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that just because you’re a writer, you have time for everyone and everything. You know this isn’t true though. Your book won’t write itself. Neither will that article or that blog post, even that email you need to send to your editor won’t write itself. You have to write. And in order to write, you have to set boundaries.
Imagine for a minute that you have a full, free, glorious day to write. You’re in your special writing spot. All the chores are done. The family is off enjoying their activities. You have a story percolating inside you waiting to be written. Everything is perfect.
And then you get a text…Followed by another one. There is no emergency; your little ones are fine and your partner is doing great. It’s a little thing really. It’ll only take a minute. An old friend needs your attention for something so important to her; could you please just spare a minute?
So you spare that minute. After all, it’s only one minute. She’s a dear friend and she’d have your back if you asked. Before you know it, you’ve helped her out of a jam by answering a question, doing about forty-seven minutes of research on a topic you know nothing about, babysat her children so she could run an errand, and agreed to chauffer said children to her location an hour away from your house just as soon as she’s finished with her impromptu date night.
By the time you’ve completed all of these tasks; your writing day is over. It’s time to make dinner. Afterward laundry needs to be finished and lunches packed for the next day. Your writing day has disappeared and with it that perfect plot idea you had.
Helping a friend isn’t a bad idea, but there’s a point I’m trying to get to here. You can’t take care of others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. In order to have balance, you need boundaries. Here’s how to set them:
- Carve out your writing time. In order to fit writing into your busy life, you need to set aside writing time. Do you write best in the morning? Or are you a night owl? Set aside time to write even when you go on vacation. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time and you may have to sacrifice sleep in order to get it done, but it’ll be worth it, so plan ahead.
- Find your writing place. I mentioned this in a previous article (Born to Write) and it rings true for this lesson as well. As you work on setting boundaries, you may find that writing places present themselves in the most unusual places.
- If you work a day job and you’re carving out your lunch time for writing, you might use your desk (just close down all those work-related windows on the computer –they can be so distracting!). Or you might prefer more solitude and take your pen and paper or laptop to the stairwell where there’s little foot traffic during the noon hour.
- Long commute using public transportation? Those trams, cabs, Ubers, and airplanes make great writing places.
- If you spend a lot of time at home and want to make writing a priority, you might consider claiming a room to yourself or even a portion of the kitchen table if that’s all that you have at your disposal.
- Put up your “do not disturb” sign. This is an essential accessory to every writer’s wardrobe. If you don’t have one of these, I urge you to stop reading, get out your creative supplies, and make one. Whenever you decide to log some writing hours, you need to put up your sign. This is a tangible reminder to anyone who tries to worm their way into your writing time. And the sign is so portable (and stylish, right?) you can take it anywhere your writing space is located.
- Find an accountability partner to help you stop crossing your own boundaries. Sometimes writers draw a hard line between their writing life and their regular life only to spend all their writing time crossing over to their regular life. This results in frustration, lack of stories written, and zero joy as a writer. If you know you’re susceptible to crossing your own boundaries, try these steps to find a partner:
- Check your local writer’s group for possible candidates. I found my accountability partner on 10Minute Novelists’ weekly Buddy Day post. Stephanie and I have been holding each other’s feet to the fire for the last year and a half.
- Let your partner know what you need from him or her. Craft a “Writer Accountability Partner Wanted” personal ad and be sure to list all the details.
- Partner with your accountability partner. This isn’t a one way street where the partner helps you write all the great words. You have to give in this relationship too. Make sure you are giving as much as your partner.
- Mark your writing time on the family/work/social calendar in INK! Don’t let the humdrum duties of life get in the way of your writing time. Yes, buying groceries and cooking food are important, but so is writing. If you’re a writer, your daily writing time is an essential component to writer self care.
- Learn to say no and mean it. There’s really no other way to set a boundary and stick to it than by learning the word “no”. You can say it with grace. You can say it with a smile. You can even say it with a hug. Just as long as you say it. If you don’t say no to the constant interruptions, your writing will cease to exist.
Vickie Miller is a writer with an LPC. Although she no longer works directly with patients, Vickie is passionate about self-care. She is currently working on her MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Arts, and uses her passion to help writers. Vickie plays an active role in the 10Minute Novelists group where she is on the admin team and hosts a weekly chat for members about all things writing related, including self-care. Her first novel Soaring Alone is a women’s lit piece about Rachel James, a woman who discovered she’d been kidnapped at birth and now must decide what family means to her. Born in the Midwest, Vickie lives in remote Alaska with her family and giant puppy, Omar. You can find out more about her developmental editing services and semi-adventurous life on her website: www.authorsinkalaska.com. She’s also on Facebook @AuthorVickieMiller and Twitter @VickieM_author.
Chair & Pen publishes stories on the writing process and the writing life. It is edited and curated by Writing Coach Annalisa Parent. To learn more about how to work with Annalisa, visit www.DateWithTheMuse.com
Think you’ve got a good idea for our e-zine? Click here to send your pitch.
For more solid writing tips, click here.