Monday, October 10, 2011

Writing, Day Jobs and Life: The Balancing Act

How do you find the time to write? For any of us who work full-time doing something else, that question is the number one challenge to defining ourselves as writers. If, like me, you have a day job that doesn't end when you walk out the door, it's an even greater challenge.

I have a day job that I love. I'm a teacher. Like writing, it's a passion. When I walk out the door of my classroom, my brain is still buzzing with a million and one school-related things. It's hard to turn them off. That's why, for me, writing time has to be in the morning, before school, when I can give myself over to the story. The challenge? I have to be at school at 7:00 AM.

As a teacher, I have the great bonus of summers and other vacation times when I can give myself over to big chunks of writing. But it makes the re-entry into the school year that much harder, when I have to let go of that freedom and limit myself to 20-30 minutes of writing per day. All summer, I can dance between a variety of writing projects, plus engaging in the blogosphere as part of building my digital platform. Then the school year arrives. Something has to be cut back. I feel sad about losing that full immersion in writing.

Finding a balance I can live with is a struggle. I give up the snooze alarm and buy myself an extra 15-30 minutes in the morning to write. I don't wear make-up. My hair doesn't always look it's best. But I get my writing time.

For self-care purposes, I give myself permission to take the occasional day off from writing, as long as it doesn't become a habit. My weekly critique group helps me stay accountable for a certain level of productivity. I block out some time on the weekend.

I let go of non-essential writing-related activities. While school is in session, building my digital platform will have to wait. I might not be able to attend all those conferences. Writing every day and participating in critique groups may be all I can manage. For me, balance means self-care, sustaining my writing muscles, sustaining forward momentum on my highest priority projects, and maintaining connections with other writers.

If you're faced with overload and have to cut back, ask yourself what is essential, what is the lifeblood of your writer identity? What can you let go?


  1. Thank you, Cynthia, for that article. I enjoyed it and I certainly could relate. For decades I worked full-time and dreamed of being able to write full-time. Well I was laid off recently. I finally got my wish. I have no idea how I'm going to pay next month's rent but I don't care. I'm writing like crazy every single day. I hope to remain unemployed forever.

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  2. Lol! I have another friend in a similar position. Since being laid off, she has nearly completed her novel, pitched it, and gotten at least one agent request. Go for it!


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