Choosing writing as a career provides one of the most important keys to achieving work-life balance: flexibility. For the most part, writers decide when to write, what to write, where to write, and how much to write. Though we may work the same amount of hours as those in traditional office/commute/matchy suit/lunch break jobs, we have much more flexibility.
Yes and no. We still need to get our work done. And if you chose writing because it’s a great job for working mothers—like I have—then you know it’s not always so simple. Because of deadlines. And sick kids. And the constant and burning desire to get back in front of your computer and express yourself creatively because—besides ice-cream and cheese—it lights you up and makes you happy and fulfilled more than almost anything else.
This guest post is by Susie Orman Schnall, who is a writer and author who lives in New York with her husband and three young boys. Her award-winning debut novel On Grace (SparkPress 2014) is about fidelity, friendship, and finding yourself at 40. Her second novel, The Balance Project: A Novel (SparkPress 2015), is about work-life balance and is inspired by her popular interview series The Balance Project. Visit Susie’s website for more information.
So while our lifestyle is prime for achieving work-life balance, we still have to work at it. Over the past year, I’ve been interviewing women for The Balance Project—an interview series on my website where I ask working women to be honest about their struggles with work-life balance. No supermom posturing. No burnishing some ideal image of the perfect woman who does it all. Just authentic voices telling it how it is. The interviews were the inspiration for my second novel THE BALANCE PROJECT: A NOVEL which explores the issue from the perspectives of a single 25-year-old and her highly successful, married, mother-of-two boss.
I’ve learned a lot from those interviews and from writing the book. Here, some thoughts on achieving work-life balance as a writer:
1. Make a time-map.
This is a brilliant concept from Julie Morgenstern’s Time Management from the Inside Out. Put simply, schedule your non-negotiables (childcare, housecare, sleep, exercise, bills, cooking) on your calendar. Then schedule your writing time. It will be very clear when your work hours are.
2. Minimize social media.
I realize that as writers, we have to build (cue the spirit fingers) a platform. Social media is part of our job. And we want to see what our peers are up to and support them. But it’s a time-suck. And it has a way of making you feel badly about yourself at times. So schedule in your social media time and stick to it.
3. Take care of yourself.
Yes, I realize you’ve heard it before. It can’t be stressed enough. Neglecting yourself does not make you a better writer, mother, spouse, friend, or volunteer. It just makes you tired, unwell, and cranky. And it’s hard to write well—or do anything well—when you’re tired, unwell, and cranky.
4. Own your decisions.
Everyone is making sacrifices. No one is doing it all. That author who you’re envious of who seems so prolific and sells all those books and has such a pretty website and posts adorable photos of her kids? She’s not doing it all. Either someone is helping her or something (Her marriage? Her health? Her reality television watching time?) is falling through the cracks. Decide what you are willing to sacrifice and then live your life in the way that works for you—with the writing hours that fit into your desired schedule and lifestyle even if they’re not all the writing hours you have in your dream life. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Figure out what your personal “all” is and then have it. Because you can.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.