And now, Christina Dymock:
Utah Writers Need To Forget About Balance
From the moment you wake up in the morning to the second your head hits the pillow at night, there are hundreds of demands on your time. Family, friends, church service, writing, editing, marketing, volunteer work, cleaning, team commitments, laundry, work, paying bills, balancing the checkbook, updating social media, blogging, and cooking are just a few of the items on a writer’s everyday to-do list. It’s no wonder we wish for more hours in the day.
Since we can’t slow down the sun, we agree to settle for balance. Being able to accomplish enough of the items on our list that we feel accomplished instead of strained. Perhaps you’ve attended a writer’s conference or read a blog and wonder how other people seem to handle all these demands with confidence and class. We mistakenly believe that balance exists when in fact, it is a myth created by watching other people look like they can do it all.
Myth: A made up story that describes a natural phenomenon.
In this case, the natural phenomenon is another writer’s ability to do everything and do it well without stress. You too can have that appearance. It’s an appearance and not an actual ability because no one goes through life without stress. It just doesn’t happen. Here are three ideas to help you drop the need for balance, feel more satisfied with what you do each day, and therefore have a higher level of success as a writer.
1. Stop Comparing
My biggest beef with comparisons is that we are never fair to ourselves when we pull out the measuring stick. We automatically compare someone’s best to our worst. That’s messed up.
For example, let’s say you join a critique group to improve your writing. After everyone exchanges chapters you start to feel bad. Sally can describe a scene so well you feel like you are there. Trevor wrote dialogue that has you cracking up. And, you care about Becca’s characters with every molecule in your body. You wonder if you’ll ever be as good as the rest of the writing world. When we compare our shortcoming with one glimpse of someone else’s supposedly perfect abilities, we will always come up short.
Instead of comparing your faults to another writer’s strengths, make a list of your good qualities. Take some time to celebrate those abilities that come naturally or that you’ve developed through hard work. Then list your weaknesses. Read and research authors who are good at things you are not, Instead of using their work to put yourself or your writing down, use it to improve your writing. Draw upon their strengths until they become your own.
2. Set Your Priorities
One of the reasons we feel dissonance at the end of a day is that we look at the things on our list and realize important tasks are left undone. “Where did the day go?” we wonder. Then we think back and realize that hour spent browsing Pinterest cut into our editing time.
When you get up in the morning, and after you’ve eaten your Wheaties, make a list of things you need to do that day and things you’d like to do that day. Then rank them by priority. Reading with your five year old may be high on the list while folding the laundry could go down a few notches. Work through the list in order of importance and you’ll find that your dissonance disappears.
You can also take a few minutes and look at the big picture. I have a dear friend who is a gifted writer. She is continually working on her manuscripts and always looking for ways to improve her craft. However, she has made a commitment to be 100% mom while her kids are living at home. For her, writing is manageable right now, but publishing is not. She is well aware that she can have it all, she just doesn’t have to have it all right now. I’m sure that when her youngest moves out, she’ll have half a dozen ready-to-publish manuscripts on her hard drive and take the book world by storm.
3. Accept Your Best
Have you ever met a writer who thought their book was done? It doesn’t happen. They may have thought their book was ready to submit to agents and editors, but they are never done. The reason behind this inability to really finish a book is that we are never really finished learning.
On one hand, this is a good thing. When a writer is constantly working to improve, they learn new skills. These skills (hopefully) make each new book better than the last.
On the other hand, constantly reminding yourself of what you do wrong can be detrimental to your development. Learning to accept that your current efforts are good enough can be difficult. However, there is no more freeing thought than, “I did my best.” Once you can recognize your best efforts and allow yourself to feel satisfaction, your confidence in your abilities will grow. That confidence will transfer into your writing and into your pitches.
When it comes down to it, a balanced life is impractical. There is no way you can give equal time to writing, your family, and your extracurricular activities. You have to make choices. Some things are going to be more important or demand more of your time. Those who appear to have it all together are flexible enough to give the proper amount of attention to those items on their to-do list that will bring them the most fulfillment and let go of the rest.