Being a writer is a process in insanity. Seriously. We mix creativity (which is a monster out of our control), our drive for expression, art, and understanding, with entrepreneurism. We are both introverts and extroverts. We create in the most intimate and vulnerable ways, then turn around and push it out into the world with our armor, shields, and swords.
Basically, never become a writer unless you’re also willing to have a smidge of a personality disorder.
Sometimes this hurts. Like, really, really hurts. The transition isn’t easy. If we have to force it, expect there to be some emotional backlash down the pipe. For example: you’ve just spent three solid weeks writing thousands of words a day. The real world has slipped away and you live more inside your fantasy world than the space you physically inhabit. You’ve stripped away all your defenses in order to feel as your character feels, hurt and hope and your character hurts and hopes.
It’s a raw place.
Not at time to be standing up on your rock proclaiming for all the world to criticize you.
And yet…the publishing schedule does not always allow for those precious moments to heal inside your cocoon and slowly reemerge into the harsh, bright world. Nope. Sometimes you’ve got work to do and that means tying those shoelaces tighter, cinching in your belt, and plummeting headfirst into the Colosseum of life without your Gladiator armor at the ready.
You can do it. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. BUT IT SUCKS! And in the end you are bruised, battered, and probably wondering if you’ll survive the night.
(Hint: You will.)
And despite all your best laid plans to have publishing and marketing time well insulated from your creative time, your schedule will fall apart again one day, and you will be forced to shift your creative gears, grinding as you seek out the right one.
If you are forced to switch from creative mode to entrepreneur mode in the blink of an eye remember that it’s okay to have a freak out afterward. In fact, the one thing you can plan for in a time of no planning, is that you will and should take some time afterward to have an OMFG WHAT DID I JUST DO moment. Take several days. Do not beat yourself up over being overloaded and do not feel less than because you became overwhelmed by the firestorm of the other half of your personality/job.
Having just done this myself, here are a few tips that have helped get me back on me feet faster than ever:
- Admit you are overwhelmed and accept that this is normal
- Talk to your friends. Not just once or twice, but many times. As much as you need to in order to stay tethered to that friendly connection. (And talk about more than the book.)
- Have a person. Someone (a friend, lover, sister, cousin, fellow writer) who knows your personality and your deep doubts and fears. They will hear what worries you most even when you can’t put it into words. Let them reassure you. Accept that they are right and your doubts are wrong.
- Get out of your routine. Go away for the weekend, have an outdoor adventure, visit someone you haven’t seen in a while…do something to put yourself outside of the microcosm of writing and publishing. It will get you away from the notifications, the routine, and help break you out of the little dark hole.
- Speaking of notifications: TURN THEM OFF. There is a time to be on top of book sales, ad views, clicks, and ROI. And then there is the point where you’ve done what you can do and you need to let it go. Close your browser, hide your phone, turn off all the dings, alerts, and shortcuts that let you sneak a quick peek when no one is looking.
- Don’t do social media for at least three days. Call someone. Have lunch or dinner with a friend. Hand write letters. Download Facebook’s group app if you use a lot of groups and want to stay informed but do not open Facebook! All the social medias will still be there in three days.
- Sleep. If you have trouble with all the anxiety, then talk to your doctor about a sleep aide that might be beneficial to you in times of extreme stress. The most important thing is that you actually get some quality sleep.
- Drink water and eat yummy food.
- Have fun again. The best book and marketing ideas come from being out and enjoying your life. Go do something really fun.
I originally wrote the following post for another blog over the summer. I’m not sure it ever ran and in light of my current kitchen predicament and a conversation with my writer friends, I felt it was time to post it here. See the video for my current state of sad affairs and the article below for my thoughts on balance 🙂
We were going to have no choice but to be nudists… when we ran out of clothes because no one had done the laundry in a month. You may be asking, why had no one done the laundry? The simple answer was because things were crazy in our house. My kids were on summer vacation from school, so they were happily existing in little else than basketball shorts and swim trunks. My husband was taking three classes and working two jobs. While I, the writer of the family, was locked in a death grip with my laptop finishing the first draft of my new book.
No one bothered to do the laundry.
When I came out of that first-draft fog and realized the direness of our situation, I also found I had a request from a blogger to do a guest blog post on the balancing act of writer, wife, mother, and all-around fabulous human being.
The timing was beyond perfect. I pretty much looked around at the chaos that was my life and giggled. Most of the time we do a pretty good job balancing everything, but sometimes (like the beginning of this summer) we fail miserably.
And that’s the first thing to keep in mind. You will never, ever, keep everything in balance. Ever. Accept this fact first and you’ll take a lot of pressure off yourself.
A writer’s life is very different from most. We wear a few different hats: artist, philosopher, dreamer, marketing genius, public relations, and editor. Many times all on the same day. And all of that is taking place smack dab in the middle of our houses.
Being the one working from home is difficult. I could easily let writing take a back seat to everything else. No matter how loving or supportive your family is, when things get crazy it’s easy to rely on the person ‘working from home’ to pick up the slack.
You can NOT let this happen.
The biggest thing I have found helpful in keeping the balancing act balanced is boundaries. Just because I’m at home, just because I make my own hours, doesn’t mean I have nothing to do or that my job isn’t just as important as any other member of my family.
It is my responsibility to set my working hours, set my boundaries, and demand that my family respect those boundaries. They know my working hours. We follow the Nora Roberts ‘Blood and Fire Rule’: don’t bother me unless it’s blood or fire. They are all perfectly capable human beings who do not need mom/wife during working hours unless it is dire. Phone calls and text messages get answered at the end of my ‘day’. If I haven’t hit my word count or answered emails, I do that at night before bed.
All of this works because of respect. We practice this as a family. We each have goals and needs and we work together to meet these expectations. We band together when one of us is behind… and that includes in the laundry department.
It took a week and all of us working together, but the laundry got back on track. My first draft got through revisions, the kids had fun on vacation, and my husband survived his classes. The backed-up laundry didn’t hurt anyone and it certainly wasn’t worth worrying over.
Being a writer is most definitely a delicate balancing act. But with a lot of boundaries and respect, we seem to be making it work. Sometimes that means our house looks… interesting (I think that is the kind way to say our house looks like the cast of the Rugrats and the Muppets had a party and didn’t clean it up). Sometimes that means we are in danger of becoming nudists. But as long as we work together, I think my kids are growing up in a house of love and creativity, and I’m living my lifelong dream of being a full-time writer, which is really, really cool.