By Cait Collins
Have you ever played Jenga? Players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. The removed blocks are placed on top of the structure making a taller but less stable tower. The person who topples the tower loses. It’s really tricky and lots of fun. But there is a point. Keeping the tower upright is a matter of balance.
A writer’s life definitely needs balance. We build a tower one brick at a time and often do not realize how unstable the structure really is. We pile jobs on top of family obligations, add social commitments, kid’s activities, friends, writing assignments, social media, deadlines, editing, new creative, submissions, marketing, and pretty soon the house of cards is endanger of collapse. Every layer is necessary, but how do we manage to maintain balance and sanity?
I say we take a page from traditional housewives’ books. My mother managed get a husband and six kids out of bed each morning, fix breakfast, find lost socks, book bags, and homework, get Dad off to work and kids to school before having a cup of coffee. She made lunch, cleaned house, washed and ironed clothes, fixed dinner, cleaned the kitchen, helped with homework. She was the first one up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. Everything worked. Her trick — planning and time management.
Writers need a plan. A good calendar is a must for keeping track of obligations and deadlines. I prefer a Daytimer, but some of my friends are more comfortable with an electronic organizer. Be sure to note all commitments, and never promise to do something before consulting your “secretary”.
Learn to say no. We get ourselves in trouble when we overbook or take on a project that does not help our work or capture our interest. We regret saying yes, but felt guilty saying no. If no is too difficult, try declining for now and ask for a rain check.
Honor deadlines and promises. Even when it’s difficult to get the job done, failure to keep commitments makes the writer appear unreliable.
Make time for you. A few minutes each day dedicated to yourself clears the head and allows you to be more focused and productive.
Prioritize. If you can put it off until tomorrow, do it. Take care of today, today.
Work hard, but balance work with play. Family and friends miss you when you over do it.
Know when to stop. Creative efforts are not well served when you are exhausted.
Balancing work with everyday life makes a writer more creative and a better all round person. It allows him to focus on the job without sacrificing life.