Finding a good work-life balance is tricky for just about everyone. That often goes double for writers, as our writing can fall into its own category that’s not quite work…and not quite personal.
Unless we’re writing full-time and treating it as a full-time job, we might think our writing doesn’t “count” as work—especially if we’re not earning decent money from our writing. Yet if we want to treat writing as more than a hobby, we likely don’t want to count it as personal either, as that can imply “me” time, which wouldn’t allow us enough opportunities to write.
In addition, many writers fit in writing time around a day job, which means our writing can eat into our limited family or personal time. We might feel guilty for taking time to do something for ourselves if we’re not bringing in enough money yet to justify the time as a job. At the same time, when family, life, or personal obligations overwhelm us, we can feel guilty—like we’re not prioritizing our writing “enough” for days, weeks, or months at a time.
In other words, finding the “right” balance for writing in our lives is a constant and never-ending struggle. Despite the difficulty, we need to pursue our life vs. writing vs. work balance, or we can suffer in multiple ways.
The Many Types of Imbalances
We experience an imbalance if we have to spend too much time, attention, and/or focus on one aspect of our lives. Whatever our circumstances, we’re likely to experience each one of these imbalances at some point.
Too Much Work…
Just about everyone can fall into the trap of spending too much time focusing on work. Our work is an expert at making us feel guilty for not doing enough. After all, work is what pays us and allows us to eat.
Our day job can demand so much time that there’s not much left for writing or life or personal time. In fact, if we’re not careful, we can let work take up all our focus and attention.
We’ve all heard the risks of burnout, and this type of imbalance is most likely to create a sense of burnout. Focusing too much on work can make us burned out to the point that we can’t write, we have no energy for personal life, and we dread work. Not good.
Too Many Life Obligations…
Obligations outside of our work can take up too much time and attention as well, and family-related obligations are also quick to provoke guilty feelings. Even if we don’t have a day job, this type of imbalance can interfere with our ability to write.
Maybe we have family obligations, like caring for an elderly parent or young child. Maybe we’re organizing big personal projects, like a home remodel, family vacation, or earning a degree. Or maybe we have a chronic illness or disability that takes up most of our energy.
Whatever the circumstances, we risk burn out with this type of imbalance as well. Whatever the cause, burnout makes it difficult to function, much less write.
Too Much Writing?
Yes, it’s possible to have an imbalance of too much time, focus, and attention on our writing. *smile*
In the struggle for balance in our life, is it possible to focus too much on writing? Click To TweetAsk those who participate in NaNoWriMo, and we’ll hear stories of writers who “won” NaNo—and then had to take the next month (or more) off writing due to burnout, needing to catch up on life, issues from long hours at the computer (including wrist/hand pain, strained eyes, shoulder/neck/back soreness), etc.
We love to get into the writing groove and feel the words flow through our fingers, but the rest of our obligations don’t cease to exist when it happens. Many a writer has forgotten to eat, sleep, shower, or even go to the bathroom when our focus is single mindedly on writing. With too much of a focus on writing, we might even get sick of our story.
If this narrow focus is limited in time, such as during a planned writing session, we won’t suffer too much. But like with the month of NaNo, a longer-termed writing focus can start to cause problems similar to the other imbalance categories.
The Risks of an Imbalance
When it comes to risks likely to crop up when we’re lacking a healthy balance, we’ve already mentioned the biggie: burnout. As I’ve written about before, we can burn out on our story, to-do lists, goals, publishing schedule, obligations, creativity, or expectations of what we “should” do.
But there are plenty of other issues we can run into with imbalances in our lives as well:
- A lack of downtime can cause physical issues, such as sleep interference, aches and pains, etc.
- Too much writing output doesn’t allow us time to replenish the well of creativity, and our ideas can dry up.
- Not enough time for writing due to work or life can interrupt our good habits of squeezing in writing, or it could make our writing “muscles” feel weak and flabby from disuse.
- Feelings of guilt (from any source) can twist our goals and priorities or can prevent us from making the right choices for our situation.
- Impostor syndrome can crop up if we feel like we’re not being serious enough about writing to deserve the title.
- Etc., etc.
My Struggles with Balance
I’ve mentioned for years that I’ve been struggling with burnout. Health issues, life issues, publishing issues, writing issues, and you-name-it issues have all added up to too much for me to shrug off.
Where does writing fit in our work-life balance, and how can we find a healthier mix? Click To TweetThe problem is exacerbated every time life and other obligations create an imbalance. For the past few weeks, family stuff has kept me so busy that I haven’t had time for anything else.
My overstuffed email inbox no longer even pretends that I check it regularly. I haven’t written anything but blog posts for longer than I can remember. And I haven’t had time read any writing or publishing stories to get ideas for future blog articles, so each post I write is like pulling teeth, adding to the unhealthy feeling.
How Can We Work Toward Balance?
Step #1: Is It a Chronic Issue?
For chronic issues, we have to make bigger changes in our lives to fix the cause and not just address a symptom. In my case, I’ll be shortening my Thursday posts, much as I did for last summer:
Starting next week—and continuing at least for June, July, and August—my blogging schedule will be as follows:
- Tuesdays: New blog content like usual.
- Thursdays: Sharing other content:
- guest posts,
- rerunning older posts,
- favorite post I discovered online that week,
- linking to all the writing-related posts I tweeted about that week,
- etc., etc.
(I made that schedule work only half the time last year, so we’ll see how I do this time around. *smile*)
In addition, I see a light at the end of the tunnel for the overwhelming family obligations that have eaten up my past month. So I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get back to my usual slightly-less-off-balance life soon. *grin*
Step #2: Identify the Imbalance
For non-chronic issues, we need to first identify the type of imbalance. When we feel off balance or we feel the first edges of burnout, we want to ask ourselves…
- What’s eating up our time? What’s taking up our attention and focus?
- Does that match our priorities?
- Is there a specific reason (deadline, etc.) that it’s taking up more time than usual?
- Do we expect things to go back to “normal” soon? If so, when? (With an end date, we might feel better, or we might set a reminder to check back with ourselves later to ensure the issue has resolved itself.)
- Is the reason for the imbalance in or out of our control? (Remember that while we can’t control others, we can control our reaction to them.)
Step 3: Brainstorm Ways to Fix the Imbalance
Once we know what’s off kilter, we can brainstorm ways to fix the issue:
- Can we reset others’ expectations?
- Can we get an extension on a deadline?
- Do our priorities need adjustment?
- Should we try scheduling our time for a better balance?
- Should we let go of guilt getting in our way?
We might be able to change our focus, or we might just need to do a little self-care to feel less off balance. For a few ideas, we can try…
- 12 tips to recover from burnout
- match our focus to our priorities
- give ourselves downtime
- ensure our goals are set up for us to win
- ask for help
- practice self-care
- reconnect with our writing passions
- find the right style of advice for us, especially when it comes to feeling guilty due to our writing expectations
Whatever the type of imbalance, we won’t be functioning on our best level until we can find a better balance. When we’re in balance, we feel productive and fulfilled, and that’s a healthier place to work and live. *smile*
How much do you struggle with finding a healthy balance? What types of imbalances do you tend to experience? What causes your imbalances? What’s helped you resolve your imbalances? Do you have any insights to add?Pin It