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Finding Balance

It's not always easy to balance writing and family.  For a while, life was fairly quiet while my girls were in school, and I had tons of writing time.  I've always loved a challenge, and amazed myself with achievements.  I remember plunging into my first NaNoWriMo last minute in 2006.  It felt incredible to surround myself with others who were all working toward the same goal--50,000 words of a novel.  I started about a week late, and was excited to still make my goal by the end of November.  Each year, I pushed myself harder.  And harder.  One year, I had to go away mid-month, and was determined to make my NaNo goal by then, so I could enjoy the time with my family without being tempted to escape to my hotel room to make more progress. I completed NaNo in 11 days!!!!  And last year, I believe I came up with about 90 new picture book ideas through PiBoIdMo (even though the goal is 30). 

I've been on a bit of a roller coaster this past year.  My older daughter has been doing a wonderful job trying to overcome an eating disorder.  She wasn't ready to go to our local high school though, so she's home with me and our pups, and doing virtual school.  We decided that Lolly and Ruby will be her school mascots -the Massive Mastiff and Regal Beagle.
Lolly and Ruby holding paws
It's great spending all this extra time with my daughter.  But between doctor appointments, bark-fests when my daughter takes a break to play with the pups, and daily interruptions I never used to have, I've been working a lot slower than usual. Taking several weeks or longer to do a round of revisions that I could normally knock out in less than a week was frustrating at first...but I've found that one perk is that I can see my manuscripts in a different light when I have the chance to really dig into them.

I definitely used to spend too much time writing (and doing writing related things). I'm heavily involved in so many things--From the Mixed-Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors, I'm the FL SCBWI Listserv editor, an administrator on Verla Kay's Blueboards, I'm in five critique groups...plus all the time I spend on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. But now I feel like I haven't had enough quality writing time, which makes it scary to participate in challenges (if I say I'm going to do something, I feel beyond awful if I'm not successful).  I've thought about it, and I'm still determined to do NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo in November.  And I really, really hope I complete both!  But this year, I can't put my entire life on hold to do them.  I need to find some balance.  Yes, I'll probably stock up on extra underwear because the laundry mountain tends to get out of control in November.  And I'm sure I'll sneak into my office quite a bit and probably will say no to some events in order to have extra writing time...but I'm not going to shackle myself to my computer.  Helping my daughter through her rough battle with an eating disorder made me appreciate my family and friends even more than before. I'm not sure how I'll find the right balance...but I'm determined to do it!

I have a huge to-do list I'd love to tackle before November 1st.  I just took a plotting workshop with my amazing mentor, Joyce Sweeney, and had a huge 'aha' moment for my MG, so I'd love to finish running the revision through the entire manuscript and have a chance to read through the full in one sitting by then.  And there's another MG I'd love to go through.  Plus, I love the plot clock that Joyce uses, and for the first time, plan to loosely plot out my NaNo novel (I usually have at least a rough idea about the beginning, end, a few events, and character sketches ahead of time...but now I want to make sure I have all 4 acts, the potential inciting incident and binding point, etc. in mind...even though I know it's possible my characters will take me in another direction once I get to know them better.)  I also want to get as many picture books written for the 12 x 12 challenge by then (and hopefully get the rest into rough draft form by the end of the year).  I only wrote 5 out of the 12 drafts this year, and have so many great ideas  from last years' PiBoIdMo begging to be written.  And I have crits to get back to some amazing writers by the end of this month, too.  I have a feeling I won't make all of these goals by Halloween...but I'll do what I can and make sure I tackle the most important ones first.  

The thought of signing up for a challenge and not being able to complete it terrifies me.  But for years, I've told people that they're winners in these challenges, even if they don't make their goal...because they've produced much more than they probably would have without the challenge.  And I totally meant it...for them.  So why is it hard for me to believe that's true for me as well?  I always try my best in everything I do, but if life gets in the way of me completing my challenges this year, I don't want to feel awful about it.  I'll do my best and try to find a good balance between writing, my family, and writing related activities...and see what happens.

How do you balance writing, family, and everything else in your life?   
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Oct. 18th, 2012 03:41 pm (UTC)
Happy birthday, and also good luck! I'm impressed at anyone who successfully completes a Nano novel. The one time I tried for real, I ended up hating the novel and going backwards, so since then I've used it as a way to finish something I've already gotten started. Much better success that way! (By my rules, not theirs.)

I do understand committing to something because you absolutely intend to finish--I try not to make commitments like that unless I'm quite sure I can do them. But I also realize that not everything is possible at the same exact time. You've certainly got a lot of huge things on your plate right now, and I don't think you should feel bad if you have to prioritize and only do some of them! Maybe if you say, I will complete X,Y, and Z, and I will set a goal to do HALF of L,M,N, O, and P, you could still feel like you met your goal, instead of just dropping out midway?
Oct. 22nd, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
Thanks, Rose!

It's great that you learned how to adapt NaNo to your writing style. Are you going to tackle it this year?

I've been really lucky with my NaNo novels so far. Of course, they've all needed tons of revisions, but only one needed major reconstruction. I'm still determined to rip it into tiny pieces and find a way to make it work, but it's not one of my priorities right now. One day, I'll dig back into it though!

I think I'm going to hope for a way to finish my NaNo and PiBoIdMo goals in November...but will try to be flexible if I truly need extra time. Now, if I can just find the time to finish my character sketches and to roughly work my ideas onto a plot clock, I'll be ready to plunge into it on November 1st!
Oct. 22nd, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
I'm going to try to finish a WIP for Nano. But...maybe one reason it doesn't work so well for me is that I can't outline to that level of detail without feeling like I've already told the story. Major scaffolding, okay--but I have to have surprises come out of my fingers when I write or the story fails on an emotional level. I wish I was an outliner! It would make the whole Nano experience less anxiety-filled for sure.

Good luck with your own--I hope you have fun and feel satisfied with whatever you do accomplish.
Oct. 23rd, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
I know what you mean--I'm a pantser, too! I do go into NaNo with a bunch of notes about what I think might happen in the story and some character sketches, but some minor characters just kind of appear as needed (and then they sometimes demand to become important characters that have to be woven throughout the entire manuscript). I just keep notes of all the details I add and any changes I make and have them ready to use on the rest of the manuscript and when I revise.

This year, I'm going to try to use Joyce Sweeney's Plot Clock. It's a fantastic tool for revising a manuscript, and I have a feeling I'll love pre-planning with it, too. But I'm determined to still be flexible, because it's hard to know what should happen in a novel before I get to know the characters well. If a character decides to lead me in another direction, I'll definitely explore it and see where it leads. If I hit a brick wall, I can always move the parts that don't work to the end of the file and go back to using the Plot Clock. I do love all the surprises that pop up, and hope I'll still have some using this method.

Thanks for the luck! I'm sending tons of good luck vibes to you, too. I hope you have fun and end up with a novel that your agent and an editor love. :)


Mindy's head shot
Mindy Alyse Weiss
I write humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books.

I'm an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, the FL SCBWI Newsletter Editor and Critique Group Coordinator, and a proud member of From The Mixed Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors

I've been married for twenty years and have two beautiful daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix pup who was rescued from the Everglades.

I've been published in Highlights three times and placed in the 80th Writer's Digest Competition.

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