Tag Archives: writing life

The Work/Life Imbalance

Let’s be clear.

I’m crazy.

Yup. Off my rocker. Certifiable. Nuts.balancing act

I was raised as part of the generation of women told, “you can have it all” and swallowed the line, hook and sinker.

My last year life in brief:

  • Happily (no really) married for nearly 19 years.
  • Matt and I have two amazing sons, ages 17 and 15.
  • We live on a 5 acre horse farm including two horses, a dog, three cats, a pool, woods and a creek. My dream made real in cooperation with Matt aka “The Hubby.”
  • I’ve been published, am getting ready to self-publish and am finishing an alternate history novel.
  • I’m a staff member for Superstars Writing Seminar.
  • I read slush for an online magazine.
  • I wrote a guest post for Grammar Girl’s podcast!
  • I’m a founding member of this blog.
  • I’ve owned my own law firm, and grew it to the point I had to join another firm.
  • With the help and guidance from the amazing people from EWomen Network, I’m launching a YouTube Channel about legal tips for business in May, 2016.
  • My book on business law for real people is scheduled to release in May, 2016.
  • I speak 6-15 times a year about using the law to protect your solo or small business and help it prosper.
  • I have some amazing strategic alliances that allow me to help mid-sized businesses transition into BIG businesses.
  • I am humbled and honored to call some of the most generous, wonderful and supportive people on the planet my friends.

So, I have it all, right?

Yeah. Truly, I can’t complain about my crazy busy life. Well, sure, I can complain about things – like the orange cat shredding 2015 set 1 132and eating (literally) my papers. But really, this is a trivial problem. I’m a pretty A-type personality. I love being in motion. A week of doing “nothing” is not my idea of fun. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. (Stop laughing, Matt). “Having it all” is a lot of work.

So, here’s the truth about “having it all” and the myth of the “work-life balance:”

You can have “it” all; you just have to decide what “it” actually is.

I took far too long to come to that epiphany. I’ve felt guilty about success in one area of my life, as mommy, wife, writer, lawyer, speaker or farmer, because that success came at the expense (real or perceived) of another area of my life. To “do it all” I’ve had to accept sometimes, being a lawyer meant I couldn’t be a writer right then. I’ve had to let go of one of my favorite sentence stems – “I should be…”

I’ve wrestled with the “I should be…”s and related “I’m a bad…”s all my life. See, my Mom “did it all” too. She worked but she always made us dinner and came to our school events. I called her shortly after my oldest was born and asked Mom how she “did it.” I didn’t remember that she worked part-time until I was too busy with school to come home before 7 pm. All I remembered is she and my Dad had been there when it mattered. I remembered dinner was at 5 pm; learning how to cook in her kitchen; studying Latin with her and math with my Dad; Dad waking up at 4 am and taking me to a horse show; and the hours he and I spent fishing.

Still, that simple and profound lesson took years to sink in:

Others don’t see the things that worry us so very much.

Balance is a myth. No aspect of my life ever balances out in perfect proportions. I don’t spent 1/6th of my time wearing each of my hats and in many years the garden is ruled by weeds. But I accomplish a lot.

My tips for having it all:

  1. Let go and accept.

Sometimes we must prioritize one area of our lives over another for a time. That’s okay. That’s just life. The needs will change and if you’re paying attention over a life time the scales will balance the way you want, even if that’s not totally equally.

  1. Lists. Lots and lots of lists.

I know myself. If a task, appointment or whatever doesn’t hit my to-do list with a deadline it isn’t happening. Because I’ll procrastinate if I can do the task “whenever,” every task has a deadline whether real or Nancy created. I try not to beat myself up when I miss the fake deadlines. Now I just reset them to my next best guess.

  1.  When you can hire people to deal with the administrivia.

Time is best spent on income generating activities (for me, doing legal work or writing a story) or fun (watching movies with my 3 boys) rather than on unproductive tasks like mailing out my invoices. I can pay an admin $15 an hour to handle those necessary distractions. There are things only you can do. Do them and nothing else. Use money to make time when you can.

  1. Focus on what you accomplished rather than what remains to be done.

If your to-do list something even Superman and Wonder Woman would fear? When I focused on the 15 things that weren’t humanly possible to do in the day and I, surprise, didn’t finish, I was a grumpy gal. Now, I try to end the day remembering what I accomplished. I’m less likely to dread the next day.

  1. Sleep is for wimps.

Just kidding. Sleep really isn’t optional.

For me, finding balance meant accepting there are limits to my superhuman strengths (Again, stop laughing Matt or I might revise the “happily married” point). Don’t get me wrong. I still hear the deeply fearful part of me repeating her “not good enough” and “I should be…” mantras, but her voice has grown softer over the years and she’s getting easier to ignore.

Oh yeah, and when getting the work/life balance right, it helps to be downright crazy.

 

Et tu, social life?

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.

Aim For the Stars

Aim for the StarsLet’s face it, most New Year’s resolutions fail. It’s fun to set goals, but it’s hard to establish patterns of success and to maintain enough focused enthusiasm to see those goals to completion.

You may ask, “Does that mean setting goals is a waste of time?”

Not at all. I’m a big fan of setting goals, and I often use the famous SMART method. Make the goals Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely. I’ve accomplished much this way.

Sometimes the SMART method isn’t so smart, though. There are times when we need to leave SMART behind and aim for the stars.

That means to think big, think outside of the box, contemplate breaking free of the ruts we’ve fallen into and set a goal that’s so far out there, it takes your breath away and makes you nervous.

And motivates you like nothing else can.

Those are the goals that inspire, that generate enough enthusiasm to launch beyond inertia and make something happen. If a goal like that fails, it’ll fail in a big way, but might still change the landscape of your life.

Like the saying goes, “Aim for the stars, and you might land on the moon!”

A corollary to that is: “Aim for the mud, and you’re bound to make it.”

Last year I aimed for the stars and decided to launch my writing career in a big way. I’d been writing for almost ten years, with several manuscripts completed, and I was considering jumping into indie publishing with both feet. I’d already self-published one novella, but had lacked the confidence to really launch it. I’d released it under cover of darkness on a moonless night, and of course, it went nowhere. Since then, it’s starting to gather steam, and it’s been well-liked by the few who have found it, but that was not the way to get books published. I needed a different approach.

So I said, “Hey, if I’m going to do this, let’s really do this.”

I set the ridiculously ambitious goal of publishing eight books in eight months. This was no secret goal. I went public with it. I told the world I was going to do it, I created the hashtag for it (#8books8months) and I set to work to make it happen.

I didn’t publish eight books last year.

Not even close.

However, I did publish three books last year. Three major titles, each about 150,000 words, in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. They’re awesome, and they launched pretty big. I got a short story published in an anthology filled with incredible authors, including several other fictorians.

I also created a publishing company and learned all the ins and outs and difficulties associated with indie-publishing novels, and I worked through them. I worked with editors and learned that major rewrites sometimes can’t be completed in two weeks, no matter how fast I type. I worked with cover artists and learned the hard way just how difficult it can be to come up with a great cover. Got some fantastic covers out of the experience, though.

I worked with printers and learned just how long it takes to get proofs and to order print runs. I celebrated book launches, some with more success than others, and learned a ton in the process. I attended two major conventions, participated as a panelist for the first time, and learned how to run a successful convention vendor booth.

I might not have published eight books in eight months, but that goal forced me to change gears and really embrace the intent to indie-publish with my full focus. And I’m on my way to publishing eight books in eighteen months. This year, I plan to release four or five more big titles, plus some shorter work, hopefully launch my existing books as audiobooks, and maybe even produce a teaching guide for at least one novel.

I’m not using this post as an excuse to blow my own horn, even though I’m thrilled with how much I accomplished last year. This is an example of what things can happen when we aim for the stars. By setting a crazy-high goal and committing to making it a reality, I energized myself to get to work, make decisions, and push ahead when I might have otherwise hesitated and delayed.

I learned to be flexible while still keeping my vision fixed on the ultimate goal. When edits to A Stone’s Throw took longer than anticipated, I made the hard decision to push out the hoped-for release date. I didn’t like having to make that decision, but the story required it, and the result is an awesome book that was totally worth the wait.

So set high goals and embrace them. Feed on the energy they produce and use it to drive as close as you can to success, even if ultimately reaching 100% might be a bit out of your reach.

Why not? Even if everything falls apart and you fail, at least you’ve failed spectacularly. And you’re no worse off than if you never tried.

So shoot for the stars, and I’ll see you on the moon.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers alternate history fantasy series, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

Pages of Inspiration: Books for Writers

The creative well runs dry. The heart is as desiccated and desolate as a dusty Old West street, because you’re certain your Work in Progress is utter cowflop. You shout into the endless black void, listening mournfully for a few spurious, uncertain echoes. Where can writers go when they need to pour some fire back into their souls? The same place that got us into writing in the first place: Books.

At various points in your life, you’ll encounter books that are like a blessed bowl of warm chicken soup on a wintry day when your nose is crammed with snot and you ache in every bone. You’ll encounter books like the smooth, sweet burn of good whiskey that warms you from the inside. You’ll encounter books like a smart kick in the buttocks from that hot personal trainer.

Allow me to be so bold as to suggest some books for writers that have made an impact on me.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is a short, sweet blast of poetic inspiration. Bradbury was a consummate master storyteller, and being able play with techniques he’s used to cultivate the creative soul is incredibly valuable. This book is less a nuts-and-bolts how-to than techniques for cultivating the creative soul.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a swift little kick in the pants. Each short chapter puts a finger directly onto the throbbing wounds of all the reasons we do not write, all the reasons we hold ourselves back from achieving our potential. The book provides a useful psychological framework for overcoming all of those excuses.

On Writing Horror by the Horror Writers Association is collection of essays from the luminaries of horror fiction. Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Ramsey Campbell and many others tackle aspects of effective storytelling that go beyond writing horror. Much of this book is simply about writing good fiction, and I still reference various chapters.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is a great companion to Stephen King’s book below. Part how-to manual and part memoir, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, every chapter is spot-on. The chapter on first drafts is worth the cover price alone. In fact, I give that chapter to my English composition students as a lesson in how to get past the psychological blocks common to beginning writers.

Few writers can boast the impact that Stephen King has made on American fiction. On Writing is part memoir, part how-to. There are chapters on specific writing and revision techniques, but it’s also a memoir of his writing life. I found great inspiration in his writing life because he talks about the course of his career. Much of it is incredibly familiar, forming parts of every writer’s path. He had the skill, the drive, the support of a partner, caught a couple of lucky breaks, and his career exploded. And if he could do it, so can I. So can you.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron was a life-changing experience for me. This book is a twelve-week program designed to reignite the sparks of a creative person’s soul, whether the person is a writer, graphic artist, musician, etc. It helps examine and reprogram all the ways our creative impulse is squelched–by our own fears, by our families, by the outside pressure of society. If you work through all twelve weeks of this program faithfully, you will experience a sea change in the way you approach writing, the way you approach life. I had already been writing for two decades when this book was given to me by a friend, and I found it so transformative that a few years later I went through all twelve weeks again. It was fascinating to see how much of it I had internalized. And also how far I still had to go. The Artist’s Way treats a creative life as a spiritual journey, making writing into your art, into a way of life, not something you try to do in between your day job, kids and soccer games, and your next session of World of Warcraft.

I hope someday to discover another gem and be as enlightened, invigorated, and inspired as I was when I discovered these books. Everybody needs a shot in the arm sometimes.

About the Author: Travis Heermann

Heermann-6Spirit_cover_smallTravis Heermann’s latest novel Spirit of the Ronin, was published in June, 2015.

Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, he is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of Death Wind, The Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, and Rogues of the Black Fury, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Perihelion SF, Fiction River, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including content for the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and EVE Online.

He lives in New Zealand with a couple of lovely ladies and a burning desire to claim Hobbiton as his own.

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