Friday, March 10, 2017

7 Tips for Balancing Your Writing with the Rest of Life

People are very predictable. They almost all struggle with the same kinds of things and ask the same kinds of questions. I pretty much get the exact same responses every time people discover certain things about me. For instance:

Upon discovering I was homeschooled: "But how did you socialize as a child?"

Upon discovering I like the character Loki: "But isn't he a bad guy?"

And, most importantly:

Upon discovering I'm a writer, college student, and Lymie: "But how do you balance your writing life with all that?"

The first two questions are easy to answer: 1) They're called play dates. 2) Yes, he kind of is. I said I like character, not his decision-making. I'm not a psychopath.

The third question requires a somewhat longer answer.
Hannah Heath: 7 Tips for Balancing Your Writing with the Rest of Life
1. Don't expect this to look pretty. You know all those Instagram pictures of the pretty writing desk with the cozy cup of tea sitting next to a note book? Those are lies. Lies, I tell you. Writing isn't some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your insipid dreams magically come true. So let it go. You can be a writer + [insert your other titles here], but it will be hard and it will get ugly at times. But it's rewarding, so keep at it.

2. Schedule your writing time. Seriously. There's a reason one of my very first blog posts was about how to schedule your writing sessions. It's important. You simply won't get anything done if you don't do this. Don't give me that, "But I just don't have enough time." I find that argument vague and unconvincing. Make time. Sure, your schedule will have to switch up with each life change. For instance, my writing schedule is very different this semester due to my current school and work schedule. It'll probably switch up again during the summer. You just have to find what works for you and hold onto it for dear life. At some point it will fall apart and you'll need to find a new plan. That's okay. Life likes to try to fluster you. Don't give it the satisfaction.

3. Prioritize. While your writing life is important, you need to make a list of things that are more important to you. For instance: Who are you going to take care of first: Your kids or your characters? Your kids. Hopefully. Which is more important: Staying healthy or finishing your book? Let me help you: The answer is staying healthy (check out this post by a brilliant writer friend of mine to get some tips on how to have a healthy lifestyle as a writer). Which is better: Writing your novel or building your platform? Always be a writer over an author. You need to keep yourself anchored. Know what parts of your life should take precedence. For instance, I love writing, but I know that I need to keep my grades up, which sometimes means studying more and writing less. I love reading books to review, but I know that the Bible is the first thing I should open each morning. I love this blog, but I know that writing my book comes first. Find out what is what in your life and allot time for your writing life accordingly.

4. Take care of your mental health. All of this scheduling and piling things onto your plate? It's stressful and a little heartbreaking. As in people-are-trying-to-kill-me-and-I-just-want-to-eat-some-plums stressful and heartbreaking. You need to find little things that keep you happy. For instance: I have what I call a Kaori Jar (points if you understand why).
It's a mason jar full of little strips of paper that have fun 20-30 minute activities written on them. Walk on the beach. Learn some code. Drink some tea. Color. Do a character outline. It's quick, easy, and helps me de-stress. I have a "Happy Calendar" where I write only the fun schedules (all the annoying stuff goes on my computer). These tricks help me keep from being drowned by the overwhelming feeling of, "Crap. So many things to do. HELP!" It's not perfect. Many days I'm a ball of stress masquerading as a writer, college student, employee, blogger, etc. But other days I'm not, and that helps. Go out of your way to find little things you can do each day to keep your mind from going downhill.

5. Be a smart procrastinator. Do you know that you tend to kill a lot of time on Pinterest? Why not spend that time finding, reading, pinning, and tweeting/social media-ing (shhh. That's a word now) helpful writing articles to boost your social media presence? Know you should be either studying your notes for that exam or writing that book but are sick of looking at both of them? Go cook something healthy to eat. Yeah, you're still procrastinating, but you're not wasting time. There is a difference. It will free up a lot of your time because hey, you just did stuff you would (or should) end up doing anyway, so now you have time later on to do other things. Like writing. Or some other high-priority activity.

6. Don't be an idiot and pile on too much. I know it's hard. There are so many things you want to do. Me? I'm a writer, blogger, social media-er (if social media-ing can be a word, this can to), college student, Lyme-fighter, and part-time worker. I really want to start up a Youtube channel, begin a local writer's group, and learn Japanese. But I'm restraining myself because I know that that's just too much for me to do right now. Maybe later, but not now. Know your limits. Be willing to say no to yourself (and others). Understand that you can't do everything and try to be okay with it. Just being you is hard enough. Be proud that you've gotten this far without blowing anything up. Though I guess I shouldn't assume that you've never done that. Gotten this far without killing anyone....? Hopefully I can assume that.

7. Have the Batman Mentality. The what? The Batman Mentality. Come on, people. Get with it. Read this post. Specifically the "Have the 'Because I'm Batman' Mentality" section.

Person-ing (I've come to far to stop now) is hard. Taking on titles like "Parent" and "Employee" and "Student" and "Spouse" and "Sane Person" is a lot. Tacking "Writer" on top of it all is even harder. But it is possible. You'll just have to feel it out. Fall over. Try again. Believe me: You will eventually find a balance.

Take a deep breath. Pat yourself on the back for just being you. Now get out there and work on your sense of balance. You can do this. I have faith in you.

Related articles:
How to Write Even When You Don't Feel Like It
11 Tips for Building a Successful Writer's Platform
10 Ways to Make Your Writing Time More Productive

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  1. Needed this so much right now. Mind reader! What else do you know?? In all seriousness, thanks so much for this post, Hannah!

    1. What else do I know? Hmmmm. I know a lot about Organic Chemistry at the moment (one of my current classes this semester). =D

      I'm so glad this post was what you needed! For what it's worth: I think you're pretty amazing. =D Keep up the epic work!

  2. I love you so much Hannah! This is so great. :) I make up words all the time too. :P I am procrastinating at the moment because person-ing feels really hard, but you just made it a whole lot better and got me re-modivated!! Thanks and good luck at life-ing!!!!!

    1. Ah! A fellow word maker-up-er! Yay! =D

      This comment made me laugh. Thanks for the good luck wishes! I'll keep on life-ing and I'm sure you're doing a brilliant job of person-ing!

  3. This is exactly the kind of post I was stewing up in my brain to use at some point. XD Great minds think alike I guess?
    But you've said all of this very, very well. And you're totally right, it is really difficult to fulfill the tasks filed under each of the titles we've been given. For myself it's writer, reader, equestrian, artist, fiancee, farmhand, photographer...well, my list goes on. XD It's a crazy life but (for me anyway) half the fun is in figuring it out.
    Thanks for a great post!

    1. I love your attitude, Emily! Figuring out how to pull this all off can be fun if you approach it the right way.

      Also: I'd love to read your post on this same topic! It's always fascinating to me to hear about how other writers pull of their lives. =D

  4. I love your jar and Happy Calendar ideas! I might have to borrow them... Seriously, though, this post is relevant for any hobby! Stress is so easy to fall into, and it's so important to let God fill our lives with peace in the midst of inevitable craziness, as well as making and effort to keep things organized (or as organized as possible).
    Thank you for the encouraging post!

    1. YES. Sometimes you just have to stop and pray. Be still and know that He is God.

      Thank you for the great comment, Delilah!

  5. Great post! And really important to remember. It made me think of Anorak in Ready Player One, saying, "That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real."


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