Balance is almost impossible to achieve in our culture. In my work with writers, it’s the struggle to find balance that seems to throw the biggest curve ball. Most writers have a goal to complete a book, and then to someday publish. And yet that process can sometimes take years, and even the best of us can start to lose steam, to lose hope.
I work with writers who write prolifically and every day, and yet they don’t have any truly finished pieces to show for it. I work with others who can barely manage to squeeze in an hour or two a week, and their projects loom large, like hungry beasts waiting to be fed. Those in the happy middle place are generally the writers who have figured out that their writing has a rhythm. Perhaps they’ve dabbled with obsessive writing, or not being able to schedule their writing, and they come to a place where they decide they’re ready to make a lifestyle change. Because writing, like eating, presents us with a spectrum: those who obsess and overeat and have an unhealthy relationship with their craft; those who self-deny, and beat themselves up for not creating in the way they want to be creating; and those who find a middle ground and discover a healthy relationship with their writing. The writing feeds them and they feed their writing.
It can take some writers years to find this healthy middle ground. And others (even well-regarded and widely published authors) never figure it out. It only matters that you figure it out if you can’t stand being on the far end of the spectrum, regardless of which side of it you’re on. If you’re writing is suffering, you need to self-assess, and figure out what you can do differently.
The only way to achieve balance in writing is to establish a routine. You have to show up, and you have to be consistent. Here are four ways to get started.
1. Find a writing gym partner. You need someone to be accountable to, whether it’s a friend, a coach, or a writing group.
2. Meditate for 10-15 minutes before you sit down to write, or listen to music that puts you in the mood to write. This will settle you into a creative space and sets the tone for the work you want to get done.
3. Don’t make room for shoulds. It’s tempting to get sucked into believing that you should be doing or creating differently than you do. But the truth is you probably can’t and won’t change the fundamental way you approach your creative process. Let that be okay. Work with what you’ve got.
4. Tried and true—schedule your time. If it’s 9 to 11, sit down and write from 9 to 11. Don’t skip it just because you don’t feel inspired, and don’t think to yourself, If this goes well, I’ll pull another four hours tonight. Yes, I’m suggesting limiting the hours you write. If anytime is writing time, the likelihood that you’ll find yourself feeling inspired to write when you sit down to it is very low. Limiting your writing time can ultimately help you look forward to your writing dates.