Maintaining a work/life balance for me as an author is very different than a lot of folks. Up until recently, I served on active duty in the Army as a space operations officer. Military service is a 24/7/365 thing. Even when weekends and holidays arrive, there’s always the chance that something will happen and I would have to tug my boots on and get back to work. Now that I’m in the process of retiring, that constant pressure has lessened, but my work/life balance as a writer remains pretty much unchanged.
Why? Several years ago, when writing the book that became Runs In The Family, I established a pretty decent routine of writing 2,000 words a night after our only daughter (at the time) went to bed. I kept that up for about four years until our second little one came along. With two in the house, I found writing any amount of words difficult for about a year, but I still kept to a schedule of writing at night and getting 500-1,000 words down when I could. It was a struggle, but the novel than became Sleeper Protocol came from this routine, as did the rough drafts of two other books and a couple dozen short stories.
Routine matters. What has taken up the slack for my routine is that my social time is very limited. Granted, this happens with small children and probably won’t ease up until they are in high school or college, but the reality is that I still write at night and I’ve had to limit the evening social times I’ve enjoyed with writer friends a lot over the past year to get the writing done. I’ve eased off a bit on those limits recently, mainly because it’s important to get out and be social with fellow writers, but I still am writing every day.
My retirement situation has left me in the search for another full-time job, so I have considerable time during the week to get new words down. I’m taking that opportunity now and shifting my schedule around to compensate. When I get back into a work situation, I’ll likely go right back to tucking our kids in bed, sharing a glass of wine with my wife, and sitting down at the writing desk to knock out 2,000 words.
The routine of sitting down to write on a schedule is a critical part of a work/life balance. Everyone talks about the self-discipline needed to be a writer, but the true self-discipline is not writing the words. That comes pretty easy for most of us. The real challenge is getting those words in around work, kids, dirty laundry, yard work, and a host of other things that get in our way. By setting aside a time and getting the words down, you train yourself to be creative at that time and what starts as a difficult slog becomes easier as time goes by. I have a great many friends who get up extra early to write before going to their jobs – and they’ve done this for years. They’ve trained themselves to do it.
The simple reality here is that you can, too. Your writing time is as important as your job and your family and your social life. Most likely, you’re like me and cannot pass up the first two. Will I miss having a beer and super nachos with good friends every now and then? Absolutely! But, I also know that if I can get the words down, edited, and submitted, that’s a victory I can celebrate. One night out isn’t going to hurt me because I already have a plan for the next night, and the one following that one.
You should, too.