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Friday, November 7, 2014

Balancing home life with the writing life

It starts with a blank page
How to find time to stay organized

During the conversation I had with my friend, where he asked about the writing process, he followed up with the question, "How long does it usually (my emphasis) take you to write a novel?" My short answer was this: It took me seven years to put my original story, Circles, onto paper. Then another year of edits and revisions before it was finally ready to publish. My novella, A Demon Born, took seven months to complete. My newest work, Under a Mango Moon won't be ready until later next year, but that has more to do with the amount of research I am doing.

"Usually" is relative to many factors when it comes to finishing a work; one is on how I am feeling. Procrastination is a creative's biggest enemy, but at times is can be useful. What determines my time spent writing is the everyday-ness of life. Just because I "work from home" doesn't mean I actually sit down at my computer and pound out novels for eight hours every day. I still have to market my work, I have freelance jobs that I have to complete for other people, and I have my little side business of running an online bookstore (and it's in desperate need of a marketing overhaul).

My husband is big on "metrics." Being a mechanical engineer, that isn't a surprise. My mind does not work with metrics, or anything math related for that matter. But he has helped me organize my writing life so that it doesn't interfere with my home life. I don't follow my project management to the letter, but I do get things done. And I can see my results, or lack of them if I fall off the wagon.

I write every day. I set aside time to write first thing in the morning every day except weekends. I write at night before I go to bed at least once a week, maybe on a weekend. This writing doesn't have to relate to anything I am working on. It can be something that I'm thinking about, a problem I'm trying to work through, or a list of things I don't want to forget. I write to loosen up my mind so that when I write the things I do have to finish, I'm ready. The night writing is so that I don't go to bed and stay awake thinking.

I follow a morning, afternoon, and evening routine. I have a lovely home organizing tool called Cozi. It puts my to-do lists, shopping lists, meal plans, and personal calendar all in one place. I don't always follow my meal planning, and it never fails that I forget something at the grocery store, despite the shopping list, but one of my to-do lists is connected to a website called Fly Lady. This site gives me a daily routine to follow that I can tailor to my needs and also provides a cleaning schedule for every room in your home. I don't always follow these lists to the letter, but if I stay on top of them I won't stay in pajamas all day plastered to the computer and won't be embarrassed when I have unexpected company over.

I have a separate calendar and note app for writing. Coming up with steady blog posts and being able to write at least a chapter a day is easier when I impose a deadline for each of them. This calendar comes with it's own to-do list for each project that I am working on. The other hurdle is coming up with things to talk about. So I have Evernote on both my computer and my phone so that I can quickly jot down ideas when I'm out or if I'm working on a blog post and think up a great idea for some other project.

If I could just write my stories, I'd be pushing out two novels a year, and throwing in a short story or two in the process. But life doesn't let me do that. I don't have "people" that do my marketing, selling, and housework on top. But I don't mind. I am dedicated to writing the best stories that I can, and I am committed to getting my work out to readers. But I don't feel like I have to stay committed every day. If I have to, I'll walk away from writing and marketing for an hour or two and watch t.v. or read a book. I'll hold off on the errands and housecleaning long enough to go outside and enjoy time with my family.

My home may not be Better Homes worthy, and it may take me longer to get my stories out to readers, but it is important to me that both my home life and my writing life are in balance and neither one nor the other is taking over. I never want to feel like a slave to chores, and I definitely never want to feel like writing is a burden. So, write every day and live every day. Keep the two in balance and how long it takes you to do something won't matter.

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