Write. Life. Blend.
Taking areas of life as a blended approach allows a much more holistic – and realistic viewpoint of life, and an easier route to obtaining those big goals over a year. Sometimes something may slip over a day or week – but looking at it all from a longer term perspective offers a clearer view of just what can be achieved in a blended life.
That’s not to get away with managing those goals, and assessing where we can alter our work to achieve what we overall want – life management skills are always necessary. But the blend approach makes this feel much more relaxed.
How was I blending whilst still insisting I needed lots of alone time / no distractions from domestic or other issues? I hadn’t really analysed this before but here’s how I personally blend my writing with life. Each of us will be different.
1. Set aside regular writing time with defined goals, tasks and project management
For me, I write in my mornings from 8:00am to 12 noon, normally. Weekdays. Others may set aside a half hour / hour every day. There are many proponents of a daily regime of writing.
2. Make this dedicated writing work time distraction free from other life points, but be flexible.
I sometimes have appointments that can’t be put off, and other commitments. And despite my tendency to not write in the weekends, I often do so because that’s when the muse or flow finds me. But I also say no to a lot of things that encroach on my dedicated writing or family hours.
3. Communicate and Negotiate with family and friends. Involve community in your writing. To blend life into your writing work.
Family members on-board with work will understand if you need some alone time with your writing and when they can interrupt. My ten year old daughter feels involved because I write or do some writing tasks in the afternoons after school, and share my study with her while she does her homework. We sit and do it all together.
Many writers build outside writing communities for their writing support also – writing groups, online communities, writing critique partners, beta readers, blog writing friends. Communicating with them over your own writing times, when not to approach you, and reciprocation of support – it all helps to maintain the blend.
4. Use technology to write elsewhere, anywhere, anytime. To blend work into your life.
Even though, as an introverted writer, my nature needs me to “retire” away from people to re-energise and write, I still do lots of writing tasks in crowds:–
while on school pickup waits, I use my mobile Twitter app to catch up on my twitter stream or Facebook pages; I take my iPad with me to shopping centres, waiting rooms or sports grounds and use it for outlining, note-taking for writing projects, reading blog posts or books via e-book apps or the Pocket app; I listen to books (on Audible) while cleaning; and I catch up on emails and reading blogs on my iPad in bed at night (when I’m not too tired). And of course, psychical books go with me too.
Technology enables writers to build platform and community, record ideas on the spot, and work writing tasks while away from the computer. It’s also a great way to let the close family get a look at your work. They can see the patterns of work, rather than the full detail, and often that’s enough.
Am I fully focused on my daughter’s softball or partner’s soccer games when my head is ducking up and down from my tablet?
Writing outside the home isn’t the ideal focus-area for me. I am easily distracted, and my attention flies to the sports field more times than not. Group activities also make me, by nature, extremely tired. And I’m quite competitive so NOT watching my family’s team sports performances is sometimes the better option to take.
My productivity in such places in life isn’t something I count on, it’s something that is a bonus to me. And – such places and life events can be inspiring!
5. Be adaptable and flexible. Accept that Things will Change.
This is where I went wrong previously, with the whole “work, life, balance” approach.
When I suddenly found life (health issues, unexpected events, holidays, or simply a re-prioritisation) intruding on writing, or writing (commitments, new ideas, the writing flow or simply a re-prioritisation) intruding on life, I started feeling guilty for the unbalanced side.
I tried making up for my guilt at different times. I added in more writing hours and forgot that I actually accomplish a lot of writing or associated tasks all through my day, and anywhere. I added in more life hours I was meant to spend with family, and then found I lost track of a fantastic idea I had for my writing, and hadn’t recorded it for later.
If I went a long time without writing – I tried it on a long holiday once – my family tended to forget I was writing, and worse – I found I started to question my identity and happiness – writing is part of me, not something I can just turn off.
Many writing tutors cover this unbalanced guilt problem, perhaps in different terms. Hillary Rettig, author of “The 7 Secrets of the Prolific” discusses perfectionism (and fear of failure) in writers. In a workshop based on her book, she says this: –
Perfectionism is also the voice that responds, when you point out the existence of a real problem that’s inhibiting your productivity (i.e., that you are sick, stressed, have conflicting responsibilities or priorities, or insufficient resources), “It doesn’t matter! You should still be able to write and produce at the maximum level!”
Perfectionism, fear of failure, fear that we are unbalancing our lives – it’s part of what makes society tick, and are habits easily fallen back into when allowing ourselves to compare with others (which I just did recently, *ducks head in shame*).
Finally, I worked out that provided I’m accomplishing my goals in all aspects of my life, and supporting my family in their own, then ultimately, it all pans out in the end. With the normal caveat – as with all of life’s lessons, this one is hard to learn – one that needs relearning and relearning. The best laid plans and all that…
6. Look after yourself (and others)
This is where the whole life blend comes in. If we don’t prioritise our fitness and health – both mental and physical, this will affect our ability to work (write) and live.
Looking after myself includes keeping fit, watching and attending to certain health problems, gifting myself with creative projects which also help in motivation, rewards and inspiration for my writing, gifting myself with further learning courses (I’m a dedicated lifetime learner), and learning more about what drives me.
Looking after others – reciprocating writer’s gifts to me, blogging and sharing my discoveries in writing, supporting my daughter as she grows, her friends and community; and supporting my partner.
Others may have different priorities, but the importance is in knowing yourself and what works for you in life – it will also work for you in writing, surely?
All blend into a happy and beneficial life.
It’s an Easy Blend when your work is something you’re passionate about.
None of this is hard, when “work” is something you’re passionate about. It happens almost by osmosis, as you accept technology and the help it can provide. Life blends with work, and for writers – those who write out of a passion for writing, and work on other aspects of life which help to maintain that passion – work blends into life. As the Copyblogger infographic snippet on Page 1 suggests:
“Remember, When you’re a creative thinker, play and work are the same thing”.
Some who read this, and hold down full time jobs “outside” of writing may well be saying to themselves – “Yeah, it’s alright for her to say all this, she sits at home all day and doesn’t have an eight, no, ten hour job to go to.”
Which is definitely a fair statement to make. One that each of us has always had to conquer or resolve if we’ve made the decision that we want to be a creative, or a writer, to follow any dream.
When I worked full-time, I managed to include as much of my passion for writing (and creating) into my everyday as possible – solely to keep myself motivated and happy at work. It was a technical and extremely political (ie. stressful) position, so I wrote a lot of technical documents and templates – some are still used to this day by those who came after me. I did a lot of workshops and courses for trainees under me, I created powerpoints, setup wikis and websites, and lots of writing in various formats. I created and wrote and read during my breaks. I did whatever possible to keep myself “playing” within my passion, because I knew it was important for my mental health, and a balanced life.
After, when working a part-time local job, I couldn’t really write. The best I could do with my creativity was the occasional poster or art-project, shared with kids. Most of the time we had to stand out shivering in the cold, supervising play for 30 kids. Being watchful for hours, and responsible for the health and safety of a large bunch of kids is mind-numbing. The job became sheer drudgery. As an antithesis to it, I began to write in earnest in my spare time – entire novels which were collected into drawers, my practice of almost a million words. I blogged a lot, too. Ahem.
I figure most of us, as writers, are doing something similar in incorporating our passion and play, no matter where we find ourselves during the everyday. If we do this wisely, then we can make our everyday jobs into something we can be passionate about too.
The blended approach makes for a much more relaxed living approach.
Here’s how I know this, but your evidence may differ: –
I am rarely rushed; I don’t resent him when my partner suddenly is pulled to another meeting, or rings up because he’s needed later at work (not nearly as much as I previously did) and needs me to cover something he was going to do – because I know he’ll do the same for me soon; my partner and I communicate much more openly with how we want to spend our time together – and away from each other; everyone knows my routine, and the evidence of when I’m in writing mode; I eat well and healthily, and don’t mind taking time out from writing to walk, exercise or simply think or create – it’s actually considered part of my writing (life) process; I network as I please, and to suit my own personality requirements (although I admittedly still fall into a sink-hole of social compare sometimes); and I know how to say No (although I’m still learning that one also).
My Three Legs to Blend
I am finishing this piece with my selection of three legs of my blended life. These will be different according to life circumstances for every reader of this post. But mine are (in no order) –
- Writing (Work & passion)
- Family / Community
- Play (or Creativity with Life in General)
I don’t really subjugate other categories out of all of this, nor do I really care if there’s more or less categories – as the goals for each tend to blend into each other. [Which is the whole point].
Blend examples – Health and fitness are important because they let me write, attend my family, and play. Friends are part of community. I try to give back to the community whenever possible. Financial is part of work, a necessity of life and survival. I consider work for both myself and my partner, as we must share these tasks and responsibilities across our joint lives. Faith is part of play and creativity. Creativity and play are important to writing. So’s family – yes, even pets.
It all blends and circles each other in a big brew of life.
What key areas of life are you concentrating on? Are you blending, or trying to balance? What problems can you see in this blending concept for your own life, and what might be applicable?
I created an infographic of the key points, using a blend of coffee as a metaphor (because many writers like coffee).
Feel free to share this as you please.
I’m posting the infographic as a thumbnail here, and as a full sized graphic for you on the supplementary post. You can also click on this thumbnail, to be taken to the infographic on my Pinterest boards.