Friday, June 4, 2010

A Writer's Balance: How to help your family not hate your writing

Frozen Pizza for the 15th time in a month.
Chinese takeout for the 14th time in a month.
Kids/Spouse/Self wearing dirty clothes for the 4th week in a row.Moldy bread that could cure the world's deceases.A kitchen floor that looks chocolate-brown even though it's supposed to be white.

What do all these things have in common?

They are all symptoms of a writer's life out of balance. Although, for you male writers, the list might look more like: Trash overflowing, sleeping on the couch, being able to make a maze out of the front lawn, and children looking at you and asking, "Mom, what's that guys name again?"

Please don't get me wrong. I'm a big believer that writing, for most of us, is more than a hobby. It's a future second job. (I think of this pre-published time like college and then when we are agented, looking for an editor... like interviewing for jobs!)

Whereas our families are super important, we do have to make sacrifices in order to pursue our writing if we are serious. In my own family, my husband and kids understand that Mommy needs writing time. They ask me about my writing, they smile when I get off on some tangent about how my character is acting. They may not understand it, but they love and support me.

But there is a point where we go too far. Where our family turns from supporting us (or for some with less than supportive families... tolerating us) on this journey to despising the journey because of what it's doing to them.

I have to be honest. I teeter on this balance point waaayyyyyyy too often. I work full-time, have 3 kiddos and baby Annabelle on the way, and have a husband who works most every evening and Saturday. I struggle daily to know where the balance is.

But, I have found a few tips that are helpful, and thought I'd share them with you.
  • Know the signs. They say the first thing to getting better is knowing there is a problem. The signs above are a little silly, but in moderation, they are good indicators. A sulking, irritable spouse, kids who are fighting too much or back talking, or taking a good look at the ol' budget and seeing how much you've spent on "out to eat" activities are good things to keep an eye on. Not to mention the size of the to-be-cleaned laundry pile.
  • Scheduling. This one is hard for me because I don't have much time to schedule, but plot out time that is for "writing" only and let your family know it. Ask them to respect your time, but then make sure you return the favor and put writing aside when it is family time.
  • Advance Warning. If you are coming up against a deadline or even a weekend you want to "marathon" to get a chunk done, let your family know ahead of time. I'm a firm believer that people can handle things better if they know about it ahead of time.
  • Date Night. Not only with your spouse, but with your kids as well. Scott and I schedule "dates" with each of the kids. It's time alone with each kid separately to focus just on them. We might go see a movie, go to the mall, or go play putt-putt. Sometimes it's just going to get ice-cream and walking around Target and letting them show me the things they want for an upcoming birthday. But regardless of the activity, it's time for them to feel special, and to know that they are so much more important than work, writing, or social networking.
  • Enlist Help. SHhhhhhh... don't tell anyone this, but I've come to the realization that I can't do everything. I know, earth-shattering huh! I'm NOT Super Wonder Woman, even though I like to pretend or try to be sometimes! So, delegate. It is good for kids to have a few chores. It's good for hubby to be responsible for dinner a few times a week. It won't kill them, I PROMISE!
  • Be choosy. There are a ton of things we could get busy and involved in. Church ministries, children's school activities, as well as writing groups and social networking areas. Be picky about what you join or participate in. As I said above, you aren't super wonder woman. You can't do everything, even though you may want to. Prayerfully ask God what activities He wants you to be a part of, and don't let anyone guilt you into doing something that God hasn't led you to do. I'm a firm believer that writing IS a ministry ... even though some may not see it as that until we have the big "P" in front of our title. Remember, we live to please God, not man.
My most important tip is this:


1.) God
2.) Family
3.) Writing

Although, I say God is #1, but really, He is 1, 2, 3, to infinity. I firmly believe He doesn't just hold one place in a priority list, but should be an integral factor in each and every priority, as I seek God to be Lord over my family, my writing, my relationships, my church, my hobbys, my day job, the list goes on and on.

So what about you? How is your writing/life balance lately? Any tips that have worked for you?


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

lolol...when did you come to my house and take pictures!!!! lololol

Oh Krista, you are sooooo spot on. In fact, with the end of school craziness, I have let EVERYTHING go...around the house, with my family, with my house. It is bad.

Today is my first day off and I have been planning out my grocery list, am going to clean like a maniac, and whittle down my laundry mountain. That way, I can do the BIC (butt in chair) and edit and write the summer away.

It seems that when our priorities are out of order, then life gets so out of order, we can't function properly. Thanks for the reminder and the clear steps to getting back on track!

Unknown said...

As a husband and father who is on this writer's journey, I can totally relate. In our house, laundry and dinner are affected by me too (we split them more than it being just one person).

Scheduling and being choosy have been the two biggest keys for me. I write at night (I'm nocturnal anyways) so it doesn't impact family time as much. Also, since I've committed to posting every single day, I've eliminated all other activities that don't support that goal. I know it's extreme, but for me that is the path that I feel led to take.

Great post!

Casey said...

LOL, great post Krista! One of the things I have learned and I pretty much do writing related things full time is it is amazing how fast you can squeeze in 100 words and 100 words add up REALLY fast.

Love those photos, hope they aren't real. :P

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

David!!! So how late do you stay up at night to get in your writing?

Mary Vee Writer said...

Krista, This is a great post to print and post in our writing nooks.
Food for thought.
Like everyone else, we can get our priorities mixed up. Sometimes a kind wake up call, like your post, puts us back on track. Thanks :)

Unknown said...


I keep my computer in the front room so that I can monitor Twitter, Facebook, and email for networking purposes. Those I do intermittently through the day.

As far as hardcore writing, I usually start around 9:30 to 10:30 (after the girls have gone to bed). I try and dedicate between 2 and 5 hours a night which means that some nights I make it in bed around midnight and others (like Wednesday night) I get to bed around 3 in the morning. And yes, I do have a corporate job so I'm usually at my desk no later than 8am after a 45 minute drive.

I know not a lot of people could not make that kind of commitment (especially since I live on 3 hours a sleep some nights). For me, I want to hone my skills and to make this a viable option for a business and income. My biggest goal is to make enough money that my wife and I can both work from home and be with our kids. I guess that motivation is why I'm willing to kill myself in the short term. Ha!

Also, while I spend a few hours writing, I'm also working on the business side of the craft. I'm trying to create some information products so that I can gain credibility in my niche (lifestyle design, marketing, and blogging). I feel like one of the ways I'm going to stand out is to just crush it and give it everything I've got.

Not going to lie though, it's a huge sacrifice and some nights is just plain hard. If I had not made a public commitment to my readers to post daily, I'd probably slack on those deadlines. LOL

Unknown said...

I also want to add that I wouldn't have made it the first month even if it had not been for the support of my amazing wife!!!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow, David, I am impressed. There is NOOOO way I could go on that little sleep. I'm too old, plus my cranky pants peek out of the closet wanting to be worn when I am sleep deprived. I totally understand and admire your jumping in full throttle to realize your dream. It is people like you who will make their dreams come true!

Krista Phillips said...

Wow.. I'm working and missing all the great converstion! Almost done with lunch, so thought I'd pop in real quick.

Sherrinda... GREAT idea to take a day or so to get caught up, then launch into writing! Just be cautious and not let it pile right back up... which is SO SO SO something I would do!

David... I used a similar "write at night" method at first. My first book was written mostly when kids were in bed, sometimes me staying up to where I only got a couple hours of sleep. I couldn't keep that pace up beyond the first book though. I, like Sherrinda, need sleep WAY too much, and it ended up affecting my family time because I was WAY too cranky! Now, i write for a little bit after kids go to bed, but I also squeeze in some on lunch breaks, a lot of weekends while kids are playing, or even on weekday nights when kids are otherwise occupied.

Casey... you are SO right. Those 100 words at a time do add up!!!

Mary... priorities are so hard sometimes. There is a HUGE difference between what we "should" be doing and what we "want" to do... oh how I know this to be true!

Karen Lange said...

This is excellent. Loved the initial signs - what, frozen pizza that many times in a month is wrong? :) Loved, too, the steps to balance things out. Thanks for sharing.

Pepper said...

so sorry I'm late, Krista, but I love this post. Wonderful!!
And so true.
I love the idea of date night with the kids. I don't how I'd fit it in, but it's a wonderful idea.
My pastor-hubby has an erratic schedule, so 'schedules' can sometimes be thrown out the window.
Reading the signs is so important. I remind myself often - my kids are only kids for a short period of time.Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I didn't work on novel writing when my family was young, but I did work on short stories. I rewarded my kids with a portion of my short story sales when they gave me writing time. They could really see the cause and effect. We were both earning a reward.

Later when I began novel writing and they were older (high school), I paid them a per page fee to edit for me.

These ideas really helped us all feel the pride of a project completed.

Heather Sunseri said...

I like to mix it up a little too. My kids like frozen chicken tenders and mac-n-cheese. Ha! This was a great post, Krista! I also have always looked at this pre-publishing time as going back to college to learn new skills for another career. I always remind my husband to look on the bright side. This particular college is flexible - I can change class times if I need to - AND I don't have to pay for the classes.

The biggest help to me in finding balance, besides praying, is relying on my family for help and not trying to do it all.