Friday, January 31, 2014

The Balancing Act

One of the things I love most about the Writers Alley is that we are all doing this together. Published, pre-published, novice, seasoned, single, married… we all come from different places but we all share a common goal... or LOVE. Creating stories.

While we hope to inspire, encourage, and even teach on occasion, sometimes we just want to bond over what we share. Dreams. Struggles. Successes. Rejections.

Since the grind is so universal, it was my intention this week to come up with strategies for balancing the general craziness of life—whether yours includes any combination of marriage, parenting, dating, working, ministry, school, ect—AND finding time to not only WRITE, but build a platform, work your social media muscles, blog, edit, critique, and for the love of books… READ!

How do you do it all? Wear all of those hats and somehow managed to do even some of those things well? At some point we all get scattered. Too many pieces to juggle and eventually you will drop the ball. Maybe just one. Maybe the whole lot.

Where is that groove? That sweet spot? How will I know if I get there? And even I somehow manage to have a successful day spinning all those plates, how do I keep it up without burning out?

Man, I wish I had some magic formula! Some swear keeping a schedule is the best course. Even planning their day down to the hour. Social media for one hour in the morning. Check. Email correspondence from nine to eleven. Break for lunch. Noon to four, write your fingers to the nub. Check, check, check. Get the kids off the bus. Make dinner. Have some family time. Tuck in the little terrors. Compose a witty and brilliant blog post before it’s late. Write some more until your eyelids collapse. Check, check, check. Day over. Wake up. Rinse and repeat.

How many of you know it’s not always that simple. Schedules are great, but they meet an undeniable force that sadly holds no regard for your best intentions. Life. The unexpected. Change. Shifting the pieces to accommodate the puzzle you’ve constructed doesn’t always work.

Others claim you should wait for inspiration to strike. Then, you ride the wave, forsaking all else until it ebbs back out to sea. Not very predictable but full of passion and productivity for a time.

None of this to say that the writing life is a drag. It’s one of the most amazing things you can do with your mind. Create! What a gift!

But as I have been flailing the past few weeks, struggling to get my groove back (if indeed I’d ever had one) I realized there is no one size fits all. So instead of feeding you some bollocks about how you can be efficient and stress free like me (HA!) I thought I’d opt for a discussion.

Lets chat Alley Cats and Friends! What works for you? What tactics do you employ to help you stay afloat that actually work? What time management techniques have failed you miserably? What is your best advice for being a spouse, a parent, a friend, a co-worker, a crit partner, a minister, a constant student, AND a hopeless dreamer---AKA a writer? J

Amy Leigh Simpson writes Romantic Suspense that is heavy on the romance, unapologetically honest, laced with sass and humor, and full of the unfathomable Grace of God. She is the completely sleep deprived mama to two little tow-headed mischief makers and wife to her very own swoon-worthy hero. Represented by the oh-so-wise and dashing Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary Inc.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I have no advice - but I can't wait to hear what everyone else says!

I haven't done so well with the juggling act in the last couple of years. Definitely dropped a few plates after bub #3 arrived. It's taken me a while, but I'm learning to be ok with that. It's just a season.

Casey said...

Now, Ames, I was ALL ready for a magic pill from a mom of two little boys and another munchkin on the way who writes murder suspense to tell me how this great be thing works. And I'm sooo disappointed in you. ;-)

But on the a serious note, I think it's a matter of finding the little minutes to work on something and being willing to be okay (like Karen said) when something doesn't get done, like our writing, because life is more important. :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Thanks for your transparency, Amy. I am the last one to say I've got it all together! Sooooo glad I'm not the only one who struggles with this.

Wise Beth Vogt shared with me early on that sometimes real life trumps writing life. I've learned to be okay with that.

I have seasons where I fit writing in every day, and seasons where it's very difficult to do this.

I am one who loves (LOVES) her schedule. I try to get to bed early enough to get up very early in the morning to write. I'm not always good at going to bed early, so I can't always get up early.

I'm learning that when writing is a priority, I'll do what I need to to create time for it. Like get to bed early so I can write before the beginning of a busy day. Again, sometimes writing can't be my priority. :)

I've started using a daily planner to put writing time in. Today is a snow day for my guys. I plan to set them up with playing so I can have some uninterrupted time to write.

I don't know if this helps anyone but me, but it's a little of what I do to have some writing time most days. :)

I'm looking forward to hearing what others do!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Ha! Karen, I feel the same way. I'm interested to know what works for others. Balancing family and a writing career is a constant struggle. Even when I feel I've fallen into a rhythum with a certain story, the next time around the rules seem to change. Time has a way of keeping us on our toes, huh?

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Oh Casey... sorry I shattered your hopes. ;) I thought about spoon feeding out some canned answer but I'd rather get to the root of the issue. What works... what doesn't? How do others look like they're not even breaking a sweat while some of us are folding under the pressure daily?

I wish I could have offered some grand, life-changing nugget of wisedom. But well, I got nothin'! ;) Working on it. One day at a time. It's the best I can do for now.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Great ideas, Jeanne!! I agree it's smart to schedule in time to write, becuase too often life sweeps in and like you said, trumps writing. I always start out with good intentions but perhaps I need to put down--in writing--one or two evenings a week when I absolutely plan to write. Hopefully half of the time I will succeed. Gotta start somewhere! Thanks for sharing. We love you!!!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

I'm laughing to myself here, the wise woman with semi-grown children, thinking, Amy, of how your world is going to change in a few months. No point in getting too attached to a schedule right now. Best to snatch moments when you can, I think.

I started writing when my youngest was about 4yrs old and then I didn't even own a computer (Hubby had dibs on our only one). I started scratching out words in a small spiral-bound notebook and would type the pages up whenever hubby didn't need the computer. Luckily my little guy was very good at playing on his own with his cars and I could sit with him in the living room and scribble. (Don't know what my daughter would be doing at this point, being 3 years older. Probably playing Barbies).

Anyway, to get to my point - life is constantly changing - and schedules are constantly changing. We have to learn to go with it - if writing is something we really want to do.

And everyone's ways will be different. Some people (God bless them!) get up at 4 am and write. Some stay up until 4 am and write! Find what works for you - but be prepared for change!

How's that for advice!

Sue :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Haha! It's true Sue, change is the only constant. I have survived different seasons with newborns and toddlers up to this point. I'm sure I will work it out but man, if it isn't difficult! There are days when I ache to write and by the time I get a moment to myself when everyone is in bed I can barely keep my eyes open... though these days a big part of that is pregnancy. ;)

Thanks for weighing in, Sue!

Ashley Clark said...

I'm with the other girls-- I have done such a bad job with this lately and want to get into a better routine in 2014. Something that really helps me is to give myself certain page goals per week. That way, I can stay focused on getting those pages done, but I still have some leeway if one particular day I'm not feeling it.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Hmm, I've never heard of page goals... word count maybe, but somehow that seems stressful--grasping in a way. Good idea! I might just try that!!!!

I'm really glad I'm not alone in this :)

Pepper said...

Loved this post, Ames!
Love YOU too!
How do you we do it?

Well, sometimes the ONLY answer for me is The Grace of GOD!

But I also think there are days it boils down to two very simple things:

I'm not as consistent as I'd like to be (I fail with my grandiose plans all of the happens)- but writing is such a part of my overall schedule (of life) that I do write, or think about writing, or compose scenes in my head while I drive, or scribble in my notebook in carline.... writing is on constant rotation in my brain.

Love - It's SUPER hard to find writing time. Especially with the 'changing' schedule you mentioned. Good grief, there are days when I really do NOT want to open my novel and look at what I need to edit!!
But deep down inside of my heart, right in that place where God's placed a sweet calling, I know I'll write more...or edit...or create. I feel the nudge of creativity urging me to open the door to another story. It's a TOTAL God-thing!

How do we make it fit?
Shrug...well, just do! right :-)

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Love those words, Pepper!! Have I ever mentioned that you're my hero?? (Well maybe just a FEW times...haha!) You are seriously amazing!!

And Ames, my last pregnancy really threw me too. That's when the wheels fell off the writing wagon. Insomnia and constant exhaustion just didn't go well with 5am writing mornings. Pregnancy is hard enough without all the extra health stresses and feeling lousy that you've had to deal with! Be kind to yourself, love.

I seem to remember though that you once wrote a novel in 6 weeks, with a toddler and a newborn? Well, just goes to show that you are capable of superhuman feats! If anyone can conquer the SAHM-writer combo, it's gotta be you. :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Oh Pep! Such perfect words here! I should have consulted you on this post... Your answer (especially since you actually had one) was so much better than mine!!! And you are right, big surprise there! Consistency and love! Perfect!!!

Pepper said...

Karen and Ames,
You guys are so sweet -but I'm definitely no hero :-)
And funny you should say you took a break after baby 3. That's what happened to me. I had my two boys (4 yrs, 2 yrs) and when my daughter came...well, I took a 2 year break from writing.
Adjusting to going back to work AND having 3 preschool-aged kids, was enough to keep me juggling one clear thought to the next.

However, when I did start back, I began in earnest because I'd kept my creativity on hold and it was bursting for freedom :-) 2004 I entered my first writing contest.