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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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Lynda Shoup
Oct. 18th, 2012 09:34 pm (UTC)
I remember being at a Kid Lit event and the speaker (can't remember who) started off with "Balance? What's that?" Her premise was that balance is irrelevant. You write when you can. It made us all laugh. It struck a chord in so many of us.

Life with family is busy. Like you, this is a year that I should not be signing up for NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo. And yet, I am. In fact, I'm doing a crazy thing...I'm hosting NaNoWriMo for my students. I invited all 475 of them to join me. I told them all that my word count is 50,000 words. I promised them prizes. It doesn't make much sense, does it?

Wait a minute. When you are overwhelmed by the magnitude of taking care of your family. When taking care of that family takes more time, not less, than it used to. When there are new questions and situations to deal with and things to worry about and where are the clean socks, anyway? That is exactly the time that I find I need to find a way to fill myself up. If I don't do something to light the flame inside of me those people who depend on me - my family, my students, my colleagues and the cashier at Whole Foods who depends on my weekly foray to keep her position viable - don't get what they need. The sparkling me. The vibrant me. The me that still knows how to use a credit card.

NaNoWriMo and my crazy story. PiBoIdMo and the need to find an idea by the end of the day - I'm going to find one during our dinner conversation tonight, you just see if I won't. These challenges have little to do with the difficult in life. They are deadlines I can ignore if I need to. They aren't life or death. I can get the answer wrong and not loose my place in line. These challenges do demand a lot to finish them strong. My goal this year is different than in the past. I don't need to finish with the most ideas or the highest word count. I need to finish them with a gleam in my eye and the knowledge that I am still a writer. Sometimes in the midst of family it's easy to forget that. Sometimes if I can't find time for writing for...well, I don't even want to admit how many days have gone by this year without a single word on paper....sometimes I have felt like I'm not a writer anymore. That's why I am signing up despite the call of reason that tells me that I cannot finish. I may not win the sprint, but I want to know that I'm still on the field.

So I'm throwing balance to the wind and embracing all the joy that I can. I hope you can find a better, more balanced, way.

Happy Birthday.
Oct. 22nd, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)
Wow--it's wonderful that you invited all your students to join you with NaNoWriMo this year. I wish a teacher did the same for me when I was younger. I can't wait to hear how it goes for all of you!

You're so right, Lynda. I've found that I feel so much stronger when I write every day. It helps me deal with everything that has been going on in my life.

I'm sorry that you've had days when you've felt that you weren't a writer anymore. Maybe during busy times like that, you can time yourself for a short period of time and write (even 10 minutes a day can add up quickly--especially if you can find 10 free minutes a few times each day). It's much harder for me to write in short spurts...but it's better than completely missing a day.

I'm sending tons of good vibes and hope that you make all your goals and have an amazing month!


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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