Tag Archives: Work-Life Balance

Balancing Life and Ambition

A Guest Post by RJ Terrell

Balance is a state that most of the human population strives to achieve, in some way or another. And there are different types of balance, such as with the body, the mind, career, etc. In this world that we live in, finding the right balance in any part of life is a challenge. We have so many things that call, or rather, demand, our attention.

Balancing life and career, is a particular challenge that I can confidently say an overwhelming majority of the population faces. We must earn enough income to make a living, while carving out enough time to enjoy our lives, the fruits of our labors, as well as the important people in our lives.

Since I was a child, my dad would often say to me, “you have some kind of ability to make things difficult.” Of course, he had no idea at the time what my career choices would be, but to an extent, it was right on the money. Since I was a child, I’d wanted to be an actor, and early into adulthood I realized that I was also a writer.

You may be gritting your teeth by now. Yes, I’m called to be an actor as well as an author, while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Making a living is difficult when you are working to become a fulltime working actor. Ask any actor out there, and the will agree. They may even sigh while agreeing. Making a living while working to become a fulltime author is not quite as difficult, as you can hold down a fulltime job and write in whatever spare time you can allot, but that does not diminish the difficulty. Building any career while working a job is not easy.

I wake up in the morning with the story I’m writing on my mind, almost from the start. Then whatever is happening in film industry at the moment, or what I need to do in terms of filming a scene to send to my agent, a script I need to prepare for class or an audition or a show that day, etc. At the moment (even as I type this) I’m thinking about whether I have received all the necessary forms so that I can submit my taxes.

I sign books and meet fans of the shows I’ve worked on at various comicons throughout the US, which takes me away from home at least four days per show. When I’m not on set, I spend an entire work day writing. It’s a constant seesaw battle between both professions as they demand my attention. Then there’s exercise, the passive hobbies of video games (which has become a rare enjoyment) and reading. And then there’s my poor wife.

I’ll not pretend that I’ve got it perfect. In building two careers at the same time, you begin to understand how life works from an interesting perspective. I can literally compare the progress I make from either endeavor based on how much energy I put into either. With acting, more factors are out of my control in landing an audition and booking the role. All I can do is continue to train as much as possible, put things on tape to send to my agent, and repeat the process until I’m called for an audition. As a writer, I have a bit more control. I can write, edit and revise, and mail the manuscript out to a prospective publisher, or publish it myself. (this is a gross over-simplification of the process, but I figure you’re not interested in all that, and I don’t have enough space here in any case) The odds are a little easier, as when you submit to a publisher, good work stands out like a blinking ‘Eat At Joe’s’ sign.

So for me, I must fight the temptation to spend all of my time writing and none of my time training with fellow actors for when an audition does come my way. This is a difficult thing when with one, you can see the results of your efforts in a relatively short period of time, versus with the other, where you can put in the effort for weeks, months, or in some cases, years, without seeing results for your efforts. It’s a tough thing to do.

And there have been more than a few occasions when my lovely wife reminds me, (sometimes gently, sometimes with more force) that it would be nice to see me, or spend time with me.

So how do I manage all this? Well, it’s an interesting dance, but being that I’m an introspective person, I tend to think a lot. Often too much. But one benefit to this is I can remind myself of what is most important in my life, what I want most out of it, and what I need to achieve it. Splitting my energy between two careers at the same time is a challenge I’ve not yet mastered, but when I am building my career as an author at the expense of my acting career, I pull back and shift things. I may have to shave an hour out of my writing time to go over a scene and play with a character, or dialogue.

I can say that there has never been a reverse situation. It would take a great effort for me to ignore my writing at the expense of acting, because unless I am a fulltime working actor on a show, I need only chip out an hour or two a day to stay on top of things.

And for my personal life, I often remind myself that I should feel quite fortunate that there is someone who wants to spend time in my presence. I’m incredibly lucky to be married to the woman I am married to, who understands and supports what I am trying to do. I owe her my time, and much more. Not to mention the fact that I love spending time with my wife. The trap, for me, is being in the mindset of working to create the life my wife deserves to have, so that we can live a comfortable life devoid of financial struggle. But all of that is meaningless if we have no life together.

Everyone is different, but for me, balancing life and career(s) is a matter of communicating with my wife if I’m under a deadline, or must concentrate hard on a scene I may be filming or auditioning for. When I’m not working on set, we drive together to her work, and I do my writing nearby so that we can meet on her lunch break. She goes back to work, I go back to writing, then we drive home together.

When we get home, we may sometimes workout together, but oftentimes, if I’m under a deadline or have a scene to work on, we’re in separate rooms until an hour or so before it’s time for sleep.

Balancing career against career? It’s one-sided. I constantly remind myself to pull out some scenes and work on them, continue to exercise my acting muscle, keep the instrument working. Writing is easier, because I simply sit down and do it, whereas with acting, you get the best out of your work with another actor to bounce the scene off of. So for me, that is the biggest challenge.

So I haven’t mastered this dance. I’m still working to create that rhythm that I might sink into so that this becomes second nature. Until then, I remind myself when I am neglecting a part of my life that needs attention.

Working hard toward goals is a good thing, but keeping life in perspective helps me to keep in mind what is most important in my life.

RJ Terrell:

Ramon Terrell is an actor and author who instantly fell in love with fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s: The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow.

As an actor, he has appeared in the hit television shows Supernatural, izombie, Arrow, and Minority Report, as well as the hit comedy web series Single and Dating in Vancouver. He also appears as one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Once Upon a Time, as well as an Ark Guard on the hit TV show The 100. When not writing, or acting on set, he enjoys reading, video games, hiking, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.
Connect with him at:
R J Terrell on facebook
RJTerrell on twitter
R. J. Terrell on Goodreads

Slave to Your Work

A Guest Post by Holly Roberds

The problem with self-directed work, whether you are a writer, freelancer, or artist trying to make living or even just a mark, is you never know whether or not you are doing the things to put you on the path to life you want. You try to measure your progress, write more stories, submit more work, but sometimes your efforts never feel like they are enough.  While working on your writing career can be a joy, it can also turn you into its slave.

I came upon this revelation after working a twelve hour day at a temp job. Up at five am, I managed an hour’s worth of editing time. Then at lunch, I squeezed in an hour of freelance work, and snuck in more editing throughout the day until I rounded up the edits at thirty pages for the day. I have never accomplished so much in one little day. Thirty pages of edits is an amazing accomplishment for me on days I didn’t have other obligations, so this was monumentally awesome!

Except, it wasn’t. Instead of feeling proud of my uber-productive day, I was absolutely miserable. Not because I felt overworked. Oh no. I was miserable because I internally bemoaned, “I didn’t do enough today! Maybe I should stay up a couple more hours and try to pack in more writing and edits.”

This is when I recognized something was very wrong. I could no longer hang out with friends, family members, or even take the time to sit down and watch a movie without the wormy guilt incessantly tugging me back to work. The ugly and demanding voice, I’d grown used to, chided that if I could get so much done on a busy day then my output should be triple on my days off. Then again, I looked over at my boyfriend who thoughtfully chewed dinner and patiently listened to my struggles. I’d rather not dump kerosene on my relationship with him or the rest my friends and family before switching on the flamethrower.

Something was broken inside me.

My off-button.

I had graduated beyond the initial stages of waffling, enough to finish stories that were of palatable quality. I was shooting short stories into the dark, unforgiving abyss of pro-markets, and gaining massive ground on my novel. Heck, I’d even scored my first publication. It was a good year for me! So why did I feel like no matter what I did, it wasn’t even close to being good enough? So what if I could fit in six hours of writing a week? Twelve hours was better, thirty would be ideal! As a freelancer, with almost total dominion over my schedule, this should be easy right?

Wrong. The more I worked, the more I wrote, the hungrier I got. Eventually I started to feel like a starving wolf, ribs poking out, maw dripping with saliva, so hungry I might start gnawing on my own legs.

I decided to handle this problem like any writer attacks a problem. I researched the ba-geezus out how to feel satisfied with the work I was doing. Most articles target writers who have trouble starting and continuing writing, I couldn’t find any that said to cool my jets. I decided to start to reading books on mindfulness, gratitude, and anything to help me enjoy life and my journey to becoming a better more productive writer without killing myself.

I spoke with friends about my problem. It helped me stay accountable. They were also more likely to notice that glazed look of panic in my eye when I wasn’t working before giving me a sound smack. Thankfully, my friends are supportive and encouraging. They shared they thought I worked harder than most people they knew. That they were already proud of my accomplishments and dedication, so I should be too. Also, they ordered me to (for the love of god!) relax.

The biggest wake-up call occurred during a conversation with a friend who was a freelancer as well as a professional writer.

With a sigh I explained, “Every second of every day, I am scrutinizing if I’m doing enough. Am I putting my energy in the right place? The place that is going to get me closer to my concrete goals?”

Namely that big beautiful publishing deal complete with a novel on the shelf and my name on it.

I paused, then asked him, “Do you know what I’m talking about?”

With a deep, tired sigh, he said, “Yes. Yes, I do. I’ve felt that way.”

Under the assumption this was all just a phase I had to get through, I asked, hopeful, “Really? How long did you feel it?”

“I feel it now, and I have felt exactly what you are describing every day since I started writing and freelancing. The ‘I should be doing more,’ ‘the things I’m doing aren’t enough,’ even if I am loaded up.”

Alarm flooded my brain and body. Sixteen years. He had been writing and freelancing for sixteen years, enduring this soul crushing guilt of never feeling he was doing enough.

No! My internal voice cried. We are not doing this! That is far too long to feel bad. My writing is a pleasure of my life, not my master.

As a writer You are completely self-directed and that is a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. The pressure can suck the enjoyment out of writing, and even life. Don’t let it.

I have had to take several steps back and deliberately make goals with a cut-off point. For example, I would endeavor to write two hours on a given day, but found I was sometimes only able to fit in one hour. Normally, this would send me into a dark cloud of regret, and I’d turn on myself like a punching bag. I’d have to do better the next day to make up for it.

Now, I will put as much deliberate effort into congratulating myself for taking one more step on my journey. I will even say it aloud. “I am doing enough.” “I have done good work today.” Because, personally, I love drilling new age hoo-doo affirmations in my brain, but I’m sure you can find your own style for self-congratulations.

Where I used to pour all my time into constructing plans and concrete writing goals, I now spend equal time planning my ‘do nothing time,’ to free myself of the eternal ‘I could be writing right now’ syndrome. There are times in the week or day where no work is allowed.

Disclaimer: this advice is not for the so called writers who never actually write anything. This is for the people who make progress, whether slow or at careening speeds who can identify with the lack of satisfaction shared here. I invoke the popular adage, “Slow progress is still progress.” Even when we writers get on a role, we can still feel the exact (if not exaggerated) despair and frustration as someone who is doing nothing.

As writers, we know what we have to do. Write more and submit more. So I made a writing/editing plan and I still make concrete goals for writing every month, but the difference is I have decided to put all my faith into the process I built. Sometimes I overshoot word count goals, and there are weeks where my process stands stock-still. Either way, when I’m supposed to be in relax mode I consciously divert my attention from the demons who demand more from me to stay in the moment as much as possible.

Don’t let your writing aspirations dig a bottomless hole in your soul at the expense of the rest of your life and happiness. So if you have written today, submitted something, or devised a grand plot idea on a napkin, let me just tell you, “You are doing a good job!” Better yet. Get in the habit of telling yourself.


Holly Roberds:

Holly Roberds lives a strange bohemian lifestyle in Broomfield, CO. She holds down five jobs at any one time which include working for a private investigator, as a freelance writer, writing coach, as well as numerous other alternating positions. Since she is her own boss, Holly has gobbled up countless books, articles, and studies on self-discipline, and effective work strategies. Holly writes science fiction romance, some occasional bizarro short stories, and co-authored the Writers of the Future’s ongoing blog on the craft of writing.

The Writer’s Cave

A Guest Post by K.D. Julicher

I work from home, forty hours a week. I write – almost always at home – another twenty or more hours. I do chores around the house, tend my child around the house… and for the last seven months, it’s been a pretty small house.  Most of my waking hours are spent at my big work desk, ten feet away from my kitchen and five feet from the couch where I spend a lot of the rest of my time.

One of my biggest challenges is switching out of job mode and into another area of my life. I can shut off the computer and walk away, but getting my brain to realize that we are done now and I can go work on my creative projects is something else. It’s probably the biggest hamper on my productivity right now.  I find myself dawdling, or surfing the internet, instead of getting to my writing. Or there will be some chore that wasn’t important enough to interrupt my day-job for, but now absolutely must be done. Or my child is being dreadfully neglected, or there’s some exotic ingredient I must have for dinner…

So I have coping mechanisms. First, I try to do mental prep-work in the half hour leading up to quitting time. I assess whether I’ve got dinner under control, and if not, make a plan. I organize my thoughts and figure out what I’m going to do when I get done with work. Maybe I think about the scene I’m writing, or the plot problem I’ll be addressing.

Then I get done with work. I stand up from my desk, I stretch, I get a new drink, and I relocate. I have an awesome work desk with a super comfortable chair and a huge monitor and a keyboard I love. But if I try to write there, I’ll get nothing done. I need a change of setting after 9 hours in the same spot.

I walk back to the spare room, where in one corner, away from the massive quantities of Lego and the storage tubs that wouldn’t fit anywhere else, I have a wooden desk. Or half of one, depending on how much of the Lego array has migrated. I’ve got a keyboard and a pair of headphones, and I bring in my laptop, plug it in, crack my soda, sit down on the less comfortable office chair, and bring up my project file.

Human brains are amazingly strange things. Everyone’s experienced that moment where you get up to look for something in another room, and then you can’t remember what it was. Turns out that the act of leaving one location and entering another serves as a cue for your brain to dump whatever it was remembering. That’s annoying when you are trying to remember what you were looking for in the kitchen, but really useful when you’re trying to shift from one mode to another. By training my brain that the spare room is for writing, I can leave the day job behind relatively easily.

We’re going to buy a house soon, and I know that my writing space will have to be planned from the start. It’s very effective for me to have a place I can go to and draft. By the same token, that isn’t my editing spot. I edit curled up on a comfortable chair, usually while my husband reads the draft on his ipad so we can go scene-by-scene, line-by-line through the story.  Trying to edit in my writing spot would make me crazy. The subconscious cues I have to tell me to “just sit down and write” would make trying to take time and actually edit impossible.

The writing spot is going to be different for everyone. An ergonomic setup is best for your body, but that can mean a fancy chair, a squat ball, even a walking desk.  Maybe you write on a netbook. Maybe you have a 32-inch monitor.  Have you spent time thinking about your surroundings? Take some time now. Try something new. A different computer, or a typewriter or a new notebook. A different chair. Maybe your chair is too comfortable, and you get all relaxed and can’t produce! Perhaps you need headphones to shut out the outside world, or a nice set of speakers so you can play music and still hear the doorbell, or you have to work in absolute silence. Maybe there’s a door that you can close, or a window that needs to be open.

If your writing process is stalling out at any stage, take a look at your physical environment. Is the rest of your life intruding on you? Are you trying to write next to a pile of unfolded laundry? Are you editing in a tiny closet with no way to look outside? Are you trying to brainstorm on the treadmill, even though you know your best inspirations come when you’re in the shower or hiking?

I’m not saying your surroundings have to be perfect. If writers could only produce when seated at 19th century desks in a New England garret, bookstore shelves would be empty. But for those of us who struggle to keep up our productivity around all the other demands of life can help ourselves by taking a few steps back and thinking about where we write instead of just what we write.

K.D. Julicher:

K. D. Julicher writes from the mountains of Nevada, where she and her husband collaborate on novels and raising a daughter. Her day job involves keeping trains from running into each other. She won the 2014 Baen Fantasy Award and will be published with this year’s winners of the Writers of the Future contest. Links to published works and infrequent news can be found at www.kdjulicher.com.

The Truth of Work/Life Balance through Life’s Storms

A Guest Post by Kate Corcino

Point A: We’ve all heard them—those pithy sayings meant to get us through the rough patches. “When it rains, it pours” and the like.

Point B: As writers, we’ve all heard the impossible counterpoints, too. “Write every day. EVERY. DAY.”

What happens when Point A wipes out Point B? I’m not talking about feeling swamped. I’m talking about a tidal wave of life events that crashes over you and those you love with a destructive force that leaves you sobbing as you pick over the detritus. Whether it is one huge event, or a series of smaller events that just keep coming, you are utterly overwhelmed.

How do you manage work/life balance when that happens?

You don’t.

And that’s okay.

But how can I be a writer if I’m not writing?

Because you’re learning.

Neither life nor writing happen in a vacuum. The things that you are learning when you’re in coping mode enrich both your person and your writing. I have so many writing friends forcing themselves to work through upheaval simply because they think that’s what writers do. They push themselves into exhaustion and beyond. They agonize over every moment spent away from their manuscript.

The bear of it is, sometimes you can’t help it.

In 2005, at seven months pregnant, I tripped while unloading groceries (they don’t call me “Grace” for nothin’). The impact caused a placental abruption. Our son was born at 27 weeks. The next three months were a blur of hospital corridors, medical forms, two-steps-forward-three-steps-back terror, and gratitude. Later, when I had time to reflect and not simply ride the daily waves, I recognized all of the lessons learned during that time that inform my writing and my life as a writer. Foremost among them was perspective. No matter how terrifying my tiny son’s odyssey was, the spectre of loss that left me breathless with fear was very real to other parents in the NICU. My son survived, then thrived. He came home. Other precious lives were lived in their entirety in that unit.

In 2008, when I was barely five months pregnant, my water broke early. The team at the hospital informed me that they had no choice but to deliver my still “unviable” daughter. We refused. They quoted a 90% fetal mortality rate in ruptures before 22 weeks, but we were steadfast. We were dismissed, sent home with antibiotics to keep infection at bay, instructions for total bed rest, and informed that I should drink at least 120 ounces of water per day. IF we made it to 24 weeks, they’d hospitalize us then, when there was a chance of saving her. When we went back three weeks later for the ultrasound, an eternity of tears and fears having passed in those weeks, my membranes had resealed. Our daughter wasn’t just viable, she was perfect. Lessons learned? Belief in myself, in my instincts, in my right to say no to experts determined to tell me they know better.

In 2011, my husband suffered a heart attack in the middle of the night. A day and half later, he underwent a quintuple bypass. Four and half days post-surgery, as I sat by his bedside, I received a series of calls that makes my heart ache to this day—our 15-year-old son had been in a horse riding accident. He was taken to a different hospital because he required the highest level of trauma care. Two days and a full craniotomy later, I stood by my son’s bedside at midnight as he came out of his anesthesia, disoriented, terrified, and in pain. He begged me with slurring words to hold his hand, to sing him his baby song, to stay with him. I stood leaning into the metal bars of his bed in the PICU until dawn, holding his hand and singing “You Are My Sunshine” until my voice failed and all I could do was hum. At dawn, he finally fell asleep. My day, to be spent managing my loves in two hospitals and at home, was just beginning.

Lesson learned? I am mighty. There is nothing that cannot be handled, so long as you keep your focus on the moment you are in right then. Do not look up. Do not allow yourself to be overtaken by what-ifs and possibilities. All that matters is one moment. If you can do that, you can do anything.

2015 was meant to be a great year. I had that work/life thing on cruise control. My first book, Spark Rising, and its related collection of stories had been released at the end of 2014 and the response to the novel exceeded my expectations by miles and miles. It won awards while I was deep in writing its follow-up. At the same time, I balanced managing the household, homeschooling my two youngest children, cheering on my oldest (who’d recently flown the nest to begin his adult life across the country), and nurturing a handful of animals. But I didn’t merely balance. I didn’t manage. I excelled.

And then our household crashed, again. My chronic health condition (also nicely managed) decided it was done cooperating. I was hospitalized for a week that summer. And then again. And then again. Even as teams of doctors surrounded my bedside and told us gravely that we were done managing and I risked death if they didn’t intervene surgically, I still managed.

I finished two sets of revisions on the manuscript and scheduled both edits and my surgery for early Fall. I co-wrote a short story. I made arrangements for the kids, the animals, the household. And then I was hospitalized again, and the surgeon moved up my surgery. It couldn’t wait.

Unfortunately, it would have to.

A week before I was supposed to return for elective resectioning of my innards, an inattentive driver swerved in front my husband on his way to work. His motorcycle went down, and it took all my careful management skills with it. We began an odyssey that would span gross malpractice, finding another doctor, another hospital, and two surgeries to repair him. The morning of my birthday, I kissed my husband and went to wait in a waiting room while they replaced his shoulder. Five weeks later, he leaned over to kiss me and wait while they wheeled me in for my own surgery.

During our recoveries, I did not write. I did not think of my once-looming deadline, now postponed. I did not work in spare, stolen moments. I allowed myself to heal, for him, for our children, for me.

Because sometimes work/life balance means putting everything you have on one end of the scale because that is the side that matters most.

The miracle of it is that when you turn back to the scale, somehow both sides are still hovering, somehow still balancing. How can that be?

That’s the most important lesson I’ve learned. As writers, we are so much more than butt in chair, fingers on keyboard output. We watch, we synthesize, we learn, and we dream, even through the nightmare times. And every experience, every moment away from our manuscripts and our internal worlds, returns again to us two-fold in wisdom, and depth of character, and fullness of experience that allows our writing to grow.

Work/life balance? I’m here to tell you, my friend, that if you’re alive, you’re balanced. When the storms stop thundering and the water recedes, when you have time to rebuild and breathe again, the words will be there. And they will be so much richer because of where you’ve been.



Kate Corcino is a reformed shy girl who found her voice (and uses it…a lot). She believes in magic, coffee, Starburst candies, genre fiction, and descriptive profanity. A former legal videographer, teacher, and law student, she believes in chasing dreams and the transformative power of screwing up and second chances.
She is currently preparing for the imminent release of Spark Awakening, the second book in the Progenitor Saga, a futuristic fantasy series with romance, science, magic, and plenty of action.

She lives in her beloved desert in the southwestern United States with her husband, several children, three dogs, and two cats.

Find Kate at…
Website/Blog: http://www.KateCorcino.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateCorcino
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KateCorcino
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8381085.Kate_Corcino