We all want to know the secret, as we hear cries from the next room of “what’s for dinner?” Or take a quick break and pass the unavoidable pile of laundry that seems to be multiplying in the baskets like rabbits in the spring. We can find blogs that offer top five tips for family balance or three smart strategies to become an author and keep balance at home . . . but the secret is . . . there will not be balance.
Sure, we tell ourselves we can set aside time, but we know it doesn’t just turn on and off that easily. We feel that our spouse is being supportive — and hopefully they are — but it doesn’t mean that they like the limited time for each other in today’s busy life being reduced and funneled into your laptop. Or, you might say you’re going to take a weekend and really crank things out so it doesn’t interfere with the real life of running the house, or your full time job, or dealing with soccer games and hockey practice or homework time . . . but when do you really have a weekend you can carve out for yourself?
No, the answer really is this is not a 50/50 balancing act. This is not finding that perfect in-the-air-balance on a seesaw with a friend, and there are going to be some cries for your attention. And what are you going to do? Pick your battles. Yes, I am being brutally honest here — pick your battles, and pick them well. If you are on a roll or in a complex scene in your book when you hear the call for food from one of your offspring . . . hell, leftovers work. Or breakfast for dinner is always a hit. If you are are knee deep in closing a big chapter and you’re working out a kink in the plot when your wife reminds you the grass needs cutting — guess what, well, okay maybe walking away here might help and it will all make sense after the lawn is cleaned up. But if not – then plow through that plot kink and cut the grass tomorrow.
I was working full time when I was writing my first two novels. I would write on weekends, or after the kids went to bed, but sometimes I’d have an idea during the day and I would come in the door, drop my coat and go write. Dinner might have to be pizza those nights. There were also long periods I was too busy, not in the mood, or had hit a wall where I didn’t write and those times I was as present as possible with my kids and explained so they understood the ebbs and flows of writing. We all fell into a happy, healthy, rhythm of no rhythm!
Now, if your family starts surviving on cereal or your house takes on that overgrown and abandoned look then you’ve gone too far. The important thing is to be upfront with your family. Do not promise nothing is going to change – be honest with yourself and know that it will. Balance is a range – it not taking on something as massive as writing a book without having a few disruptions or blips along the way. The important thing to remember is to not beat yourself up if a few things slip. The creative process is not always an easy thing to harness, therefore, you may not be able to control your time as you predict. Acknowledge it – and your family – and just do the best you can to finish your book!