The Writing Life and Having a Life

Jill Jaynes

There are lots of words for it- time management, multi-tasking, work-life balance.

Some people think writers sit at keyboards all day long and write book after book- undisturbed, undistracted. Safely hidden away in beautifully decorated offices, maybe with pipe smoke wreathing their heads. And maybe there are a few like that, but I haven’t met any. And I’ve met a lot of writers.

In my experience, writers are some of the most creative time managers in the world. Many of them juggle an unbelievable spectrum of competing priorities- careers, children (extra points for toddlers and teenagers), spouses, in-laws, home maintenance, other creative passions like crafts or music, and the fabled “me time.” And yet make time to write.

It’s really all about priorities.

Sometimes your priorities are your own, sometimes it feels like your priorities own you. But really, they are your own.

One of my favorite authors Susan Squires (who I am fortunate to know), said that turning point in her career from wanna-be writer to serious writer came when she asked herself the question- “How bad do I want this?”- “this” meaning getting published. She answer? Pretty bad.

She didn’t quit her day job- she was an attorney at the time and loved her day job. She didn’t stop having a family. She didn’t stop having a life. But she knew what she wanted and that want made priorities fall into new lines. Writing became a priority she pursued like an elusive lover. Twenty or so books later, I’d say her strategy was pretty successful.

But a single priority, no matter how attractive, how satisfying, can’t be everything. Just like that elusive lover can’t provide the “best-friend-forever” fix we need from time to time. We need to refresh, refill, recharge. We need multi-tasking, and relationships. We think we balance them, but its more like they balance us.

Another author I heard speak recently shared how after writing dozens of books, surprise! She hit a wall, burned out. The well was dry. Why was the well dry? She didn’t refill it. Her editor prescribed a regimen of reading. Only reading. No writing. For six months. She hadn’t read a book in years- spent all her time writing them, and that greedy, selfish lover sucked her dry.

Feeling she had nothing to lose by trying, she picked up a book. Then another, then another. She remembered why she loved books and stories and imagination. She remembered why she wrote. To her surprise, ideas suddenly flowed and bubbled and demanded to become stories.

So, I’m offering this simple phrase, as Christmas falls upon us once more- take a tip from writers; don’t forget to enjoy this season. Refill, recharge and enjoy the wonderful things there are to experience.

You need it.

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