How does a writer balance all the parts of life and keep writing and publishing goals on track?
When you hear the word balance, specific images come to mind. Maybe it’s a teetering seesaw, or a tightrope walker, or a blue heron standing on one foot. For each of these examples, adjustments are made to achieve a balanced state.
Our lives and publishing careers often conflict, sending hapless writers into a tangle. Given that confusion, I ordered my priorities, with the most important coming first: family, church, day job, writing, friends, promotion, volunteering, and housework.
Did you notice where writing came in? Number four. Three other things take priority. I’m lucky to get ten to twenty hours a week for writing and promotion. Once I understood what was reasonable given my “load,” I wasn’t frustrated about the hours I wasn’t writing.
In addition, I take time for myself, wasted time, if you will. This time, while not directly productive, relaxes my mind and body. The healthful benefits spill over into every segment of my life.
How do you do it?
I know writers who carve writing time out of sleep time or out of lunch time; neither of those works for me. My optimum writing time is right after breakfast. Armed with that knowledge, I hoard that time for writing my first draft.
I set reasonable word count goals per week and later, chapter edits per week. I accept that life interferes, and I won’t get all my mornings to write. And I also know that some days I’ll have an extra chunk of time, and I’ll exceed my weekly writing goals. Those are very good weeks.
Respecting the time when I am most productive keeps my momentum going in my work in progress. I record my progress by day so that at the end of the week, I see how realistic my goals were. If I’m constantly missing the mark high or low, I make adjustments to the next goal. That keeps my expectations in line and gives me a visible endpoint.
I also have a writing friend that I report my goals and results to on a weekly basis, she does the same for me. There’s no judging of performance, just lots of positive reinforcement for moving forward. And having that accountability keeps me on task.
Playtime is important. My play activities include yoga, music, time spent outdoors, pampering myself, and reading. Of these, yoga is the most important to me.
Can you offer suggestions to keep the mind clear in order to write and set priorities and stick to them (most of the time)?
Prioritize your responsibilities. Know your writing mindset. Accept the time limitations to your writing schedule. Guard that writing time like a precious jewel. Hold yourself accountable to your goals.
Take time for yourself, time that relaxes and rejuvenates you. Find a way to release tension. Yoga is a huge part of my wellness plan, along with meditation. Discern what gives you that “ahhhh” moment and incorporate that into your weekly life, if not daily life.
For me, writing fiction is like stepping into another world. While one part of my mind loves marketing and promotion, they become addictions and take over. How do you balance promotion and writing to keep the present and future?
The first step is to recognize you are writing for publication and not solely for yourself. Authors who publish with small presses, as I do, assume a large part of the burden of promotion.
When a book releases, I restructure my priorities so that promotion comes on par with my day job. I consider it that important.
There are a few weeks before and after the release when my ten to twenty hours of writing time goes exclusively to promotion. Again, I view this as necessary to generate awareness of the product. But once that initial push goes by, I ramp back to splitting promotion and writing time, with the writing time percentage inching up with each week that passes.
My study of yoga comes into play here as well. Acceptance of who I am at each stage in this process (I am writer; I am a promoter) helps affirm my choice and keeps me grounded.
Thank you for reminding me that the answer is “more yoga.”
Listening to my mind and body helps me balance writing and promotion. I gain perspective of the bigger picture, the world in which my family and friends live. I want to exist in both worlds, so I divide my time accordingly.
Finding that perfect blend, that unique, balanced mix of life and writing is my ongoing goal.
With the holidays coming up many writers are going to be manic and discouraged. What tips can you offer?
Each holiday season I struggle with balance because there is so much extra to do (gifts, cards, parties, visits) in an already busy schedule.
Here’s how I cope. I need to have “down” time, to be apart from the festivities. I decorate the house for the holidays, but I don’t get insane about it as I once did. I keep the level of effort reasonable, and I guard my writing time to the best of my abilities.
Even though there are more activities during the holidays, take time for pampering. Soak in the tub with a good book instead of watching the news one night. Schedule a facial or other body treatment. Sample holiday foods in moderation.
What is your latest release?
My cozy golf mystery titled IN FOR A PENNY. In the book, accountant Cleopatra Jones wishes she’d gone to work instead of golfing when her wild approach shot lands on a dead banker. The police believe her best friend did the deed. Of course she didn’t so Cleo sets out to prove her innocence. There’s sizzling romance from the sexy golf pro along with family gymnastics with two teenage girls, an ex-husband, and Mama. How could anyone forget the woman who thinks up menus like Spickle Fish Lasagna? And let’s not forget the dog co-star, Madonna, who is the spitting image of my short haired St. Bernard granddog.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a romantic suspense. Realtor Roxie Whitaker and security expert Sloan Harding meet when a tree falls on his house. While Roxie struggles to stabilize her business, Sloan searches for his missing inheritance. Sparks fly, but his wild past and her determination to establish a museum in a building his father is accused of torching, put them at odds. Someone else wants that lost fortune, someone who will stop at nothing. This work is tentatively titled Tempest in a Teapot.
Thanks Maggie for being my guest on Wordshaping and your wise advice for writers and just about everybody else.
A scientist by training, a romanticist at heart, loves to solve puzzles. Whether it’s the puzzle of a relationship or a who-dun-it, she tackles them all with equal aplomb and wonder. Maggie’s cozy mystery from Five Star, IN FOR A PENNY, is about a terrible golfer trying to save her best friend from a murder rap. Her three other published works are romantic suspense books, one of which won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. Her day jobs include freelancing for a weekly paper and leading a yoga class. Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com.Maggie Toussaint
Contest question: Rafe Golden, the golfer in the book was styled in the vein of which international professional golfer? Here’s a huge hint: in golfing circles he’s known as “The Big Easy.”
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