Writer Life Balance: A Semi-Anchoress’ Take
On Wednesday, the question came up about how does one manage to balance out the life of a writer and everything else that we need to do. I’m probably better suited to be the horrible warning than the good example, because I am the one who once locked herself in her apartment for six weeks to study for exams, emerging three times a week to 1) get food, 2) have lunch with German speakers, and 3) attend worship services. And I was quite happy to do this. Most people would start having serious problems with the lack of social contact.
But how do you keep your family from dragging you out of the office, your employer from providing you with far more writing time than your budget wanted, and your health from deteriorating?
I must have a routine. When Day Job and Life permit, I write in the afternoons, Tuesday – Saturday. Monday is for Day Job work, and Sunday is for Day Job or writing or family things. Evenings are for family or outside activities (usually music centered). Weekday mornings belong to Day Job.
This time of year, I exercise in the evenings as well. I go walking after sunset, or go to the gym. Saturday mornings are gym, from 0730 – 0830 if possible. I do both cardio and weights. Come summer, I shift to walking before sunrise (or at the gym) because sunset is so late and it is so warm out in the evenings.
From August to May, Day Job has priority and everything shifts to make room for Day Job. Day Job pays most of the bills. That is starting to change, but for now, writing is second place.
Because I do not have a spouse or young-to-medium children, I can carve writing time out of family time, but I try not to do that. And I suspect over the next years, family will take more and more time as parents age. If you have a spouse and children, they come first. Carve out writing time when you can, but please don’t neglect your family for the muse. She’s a muse, not a siren! My family is very understanding that I work two jobs, and they give me space for that. Athena T. Cat, however… When the keyboard sounds stop, petting had best commence. 🙂
And once or twice a year, I just leave. I go spend time with friends, or on the road, just get away from books, keyboard, Day Job, everything. It helps.
So, my priorities in terms of hours allotted are: 1. Sleep, 2. Day Job, 3. Family, 4. Writing, 5. Exercise, 6. Outside activities. Sleep? At least nine hours a day. I’m one of those poor sods who cannot function on less than seven hours of sleep.
Some day, I want to flip the writing and the Day Job hours, but not now. Day Job forces me to be aware of the world around me, which is probably good for my sanity. I can get so immersed in the worlds inside of my head that reality fades. This happened when I was a teen as a protective mechanism, but it is not healthy in the long run.
Tl;dr. I have a regimented schedule, as much as life permits. This works for me and my family. You may have to experiment, and always allow space for random Life Rolls.