5 Ways to Balance Writing With Life and Not Feel Guilty

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One of my readers, Colin Mobey, who goes by Mobewan posited a thought that we indie writers think about all the time: guilt about sacrificing family time for writing.

This is a difficult problem which I completely understand because I have four awesome kids and a wife who loves me very much and who is also quadruply awesome.  (Is “quadruply” a word?  Spell check is saying ok.)

I decided to help the old Mobester out and post these five things that I have worked into my life in order to insure that I don’t feel so bad when I “neglect” my family for a few hours a day to blog, to work on the next WIP, to social network and do other things that my part time writing career (that feels like a full time career) demands of me.

  1. Be An Involved Parent – If you have kids and you are not involved in everything they are doing, then you are not a parent.  You are a satellite that spins in the heavens that your children never see.  I am completely involved in the lives of my children, and what I mean by that is that I am interested in their interests, guide them to good choices, help them when they need help and encourage them in all things positive.  If you have a loving, authoritative relationship with your children, then they will know you well enough that being in a room by yourself for a couple of hours a day won’t be too much of a burden on that relationship.  My kids encourage me to write, and are an active part in the process.  I don’t feel guilty at all because they want me to succeed as badly as I want them to surpass me.
  2. Delegate – In my house everyone has a job.  The problem with most families (and why they don’t function well as far as housework goes) is that the housework is not delegated out properly.  This is just a suggestion, but if you have children it is a good idea to give them significant tasks around the house.  Mine do their own laundry at age 7, are assigned a section of the house to keep tidy.  My 8 year old can tell me to put my shoes away if I forget and leave them in her “area”.  Unfortunately there are too many parents doing all of the work in their homes, and this eats into the time that we have to write.  Giving children significant tasks around the home makes them feel like they belong there and that they have a part in the day to day operations of the household.  This frees up time for everyone to do the things they want to do (like writing that novel) because when everyone shares the load, everyone wins.
  3. The Job Comes First – We would all love to be the best selling writer who stays at home or has a home office and who writes novel after novel, but most of us are workaday folks who have day jobs.  I recently received my teacher evaluation at the high school where I work and was given a miraculous “Highly Effective” rating in every category.  96% of my students scored proficient and above in English III (my subject) on last year’s end of instruction tests.  I can’t count the times when I’ve wanted to sit down and crank out a few chapters on the new novel but the job has stood in the way.  I never let my job slip, because that is where my bread is buttered.  This is simply a sacrifice that cannot be made.  Sometimes I might feel like the quote often said by Wolverine: “I’m the best at what I do, and what I do ain’t pretty”, but I do my best at my job and that way when I want to take a personal day to crank out a few chapters I don’t feel guilty because I’ve done a great job otherwise.
  4. Down Time – If there is one thing that every indie writer needs it is the ability to have down time with the family or with friends and not feel guilty that we are not writing.  I need to go see a good action or science fiction movie with my friends every two weeks.  It keeps me real and also keeps my creative juices flowing to have those relationships.  My kids love movies, too, and I take them every chance I get.  My son is collecting quite an airsoft gun collection and we often go to the woods near our house to create fake bloodbaths (that still sting).  There is a sense among writers that if we don’t sit at our writing desk, chained there, we will never finish the novel.  Well, if we don’t get out and experience life we won’t be very good novelists, either.  Some of the worst writing conundrums that appear as I’m writing a text are shattered more often by getting my mind off of it than any writer’s workshop or course.
  5. The Great Reward – The most important of these five tips would have to be the reward I give myself after finishing a goal.  I hit the comic book store, pop over to Hasting’s for some pop culture infusion into my soul, or I play a role playing game with my son.  Most of these don’t cost anything (I rarely buy comics, and only love browsing) and in the end I feel the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing yet another book or another difficult passage.

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2 thoughts on “5 Ways to Balance Writing With Life and Not Feel Guilty

  1. A cracking list Mr C. A lot of it is so simple and obvious but so easy to lose sight of in the chaos of life. Luckily, my wife, Claire, is pretty good at telling me to shut up, get over it and get on with things when I am wallowing about (she doesn’t put it so politely though… :-))

    Of everything, your 3rd point really clicked with me. I have a tough day job that for years and years I poured my heart and soul into. Some of that has been massively worthwhile (I have made some great friends, I have made a difference to the company I’ve worked for and at the end of the day I’ve taken huge amounts of pride in what we’ve accomplished), but things change and people change and suffice to say I’ve become quite disillusioned with it. Made even more of a problem due to ‘finding’ writing at the same time.

    I found last year I was starting to resent the day job. My performance was declining and my team was suffering as I wasn’t pulling my weight (on the plus side my team are awesome, and had my back covered). Claire and I have worked through a lot of things over the last few weeks, uppermost being a practical way to balance writing with work. I get up at 5am now every weekday (a time I was often going to work at), I then write until 6:30 at which point I go off to work. Having spoken to my boss I make sure I’m out by 5pm most days and work in the evening once the kids are down and Claire and I have spent some time together. Despite being knackered, I’ve found my attention at work has been so much greater because I’ve kind of scratched my writing itch for the day. I’d love to do more, but just having this small amount of routine has allowed me to get my mind in the right place. But key to it has been being honest with myself, honest with Claire and (probably the hardest part for various reasons) honest with work.

    Could talk about this stuff so much, but I’m grabbing a quick lunch and I need to get my head back in the game 😉

    Thanks again Roger, really appreciate the shout and you taking time away from your life to share this. If we ever happen to be on the same continent we should totally catch an action movie together. My shout 🙂

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