Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This juggling life ...

How does one juggle writing and life?

Do the great writers set aside their pens without complaint whenever life intervenes? Or do they shut out the world and allow nothing to come between them and their writing?

Since I made a pact with myself to (mostly) treat my writing as if it were my real, proper, paid job, and to write every day, I have become a lot more ruthless in protecting my writing time. There are a couple of things that are now non-negotiable when it comes to my writing:

1. No one enters my study, under pain of death. I’ve made it known to all and sundry in my house that when the study door is shut, no one may enter unless they’re bleeding, or on fire, or a crazy combination of both.

2. I also screen my calls. For me to get any writing done, this is an absolute must. I think I am right in believing that writers are not only good observers of human behaviour, but are also good listeners – which is great, and feeds the writing, but can also be a major time suck if it gets out of control. So, when the phone rings I let the answering machine take the call and only pick up if it’s an emergency. Thankfully, there hasn’t ever been one of them yet.

But then life comes along and makes it hard to stick to these habits. I’m thinking of this because me and the tribe are off for a three day break this week, and I’m torn by the want – the need – to take the laptop and keep up with my writing - knowing there’s a risk I’ll lose my way in my revisions if I don’t - while at the same time wanting to be totally “there” with the husband and kids.

I’m feeling guilty, basically.

Do you? How do you protect your writing time in the face of obligations to family, friends?

How do you find that elusive balance?


  1. Rach- I think many of us are familiar with that guilt/ struggle- I know I am. I currently have my toddler planted in front of an hour of Play School so that I can get some time to write a few new scenes that are burning up my brain cells, and it's difficult to concentrate on both things at once.

    I think the key is to give your full attention to whatever you're doing at any given time- if you're writing, close that study door and give it your all (just like you already do). If you're with the kids, don't regret the time you're spending not writing- just let yourself enjoy it (and yeah, I'm including the joys of things like cleaning up vomit and sorting out fights in that).

    Lastly- Julianne Douglas had a brilliant interview on her Writing the Renaissance blog on this exact topic a couple of days ago, from writer Anna Elliott, who was talking about juggling writing with parenting one- and three-year-old kids. It's here:

  2. I think Claire's right - as long as you are dividing your time, and not ignoring the family altogether, then letting guilt win out is just as dangerous as saying things like 'well, today was so busy I didn't have time to write; I'll catch up later' - and before you know it it's been days without new words... If I can spend time on Facebook I can sure as heck make time for what's more important [g]