26 January 2007

Friday Discussion Question

A quickie question from me today, and one related to the fact I have a playgroup coming over in a few minutes. How do you balance the demands of family, outside work commitments, and writing? With regard to balancing the demands of family, outside work commitments, and writing, what techniques do you use to muddle through How do you keep your muse from shriveling up under the demands of the outside world?


Marjorie Jones said...

Personally, I'm looking forward to ALL of the answers on this one, because if there is a secret, no fair not sharing. I'm constantly behind the eight-ball, either with business, family, or writing. I try to put my family first, but when the site needs updating or a book needs releasing or an author needs PAYING, I have to work, right? Just like everyone else, right? I'm inevitably feeling guilty about something or someone. If I'm hanging out with the kids watching American Idol, I should be writing, or doing laundry, or mopping the kitchen. If I'm out playing with my husband, even going for a quiet drive or something, I feel like I should be writing. If I'm writing, I feel like I should be doing all or any of the above. Sometimes, I wish I didn't have the 'writing bug' becuase then I could be a better wife and mother, but there it is. I have to write. If I don't write, I become miserable. And when I write I feel guilty because it's not paying the bills quite yet. So then I feel guilty. HELP!!!!!

Kim Iverson Headlee said...

For me the balancing-act varies depending on which "alligators" are snapping at my heels -- or higher up!

When it's time to pay bills, balance accounts, do the taxes or other administrative tasks, then I usually drop everything to plow through.

When I have some sort of writing deadline -- like, when my editor gave me less than a week to turn around galley edits -- then I dropped everything and muddled through.

Are we sensing a pattern here?

I count myself fortunate that we are in a position, financially, where I don't have to work at a job outside the home these days, so at least that part of the balancing-act has changed for me.

But even when I was working full time, with a 90+ minute commute, I still managed to carve out time to write when I had to...quite often when everyone else was asleep. I find I do better in producing "virgin" prose when the house is either empty or otherwise quiet. Of course this means less sleep, but the Muse sees me through!

DDB said...

I no longer have small children, but I do have aging, ill parents along with my chronic illnesses. I have trouble carving out time.

However, I'm a proponent of FLY Lady. So, I'm going to set my timer for 15 minutes and write. If I can go longer great, if not I've done 15 minutes.

To find out about FLY Lady go to www.flylady.com

Delia DeLeest said...

Currently, my muse has packed up and gone on an extended vacation - which is really stupid of her since I live in Hawaii, vacation capital of the USA. She never had to go anywhere. But every muse has its stupid moments, I guess. She tends to fly the coop when my husband and kids are all in residence and at full volume. Which, come to think of it, isn't so stupid after all. I just wish she'd take me with her once in a while.

When the muse is in residence, I've discovered that I'm incredibly guilt-free and have no compunctions about serving mac and cheese for supper while I"m pounding out the adventures of my latest victims, er, I mean hero and heroine.

Morag McKendrick Pippin said...

Delia, I believe our muses are amusing themselves in Tahiti. I've been bribing mine with a new story and she seems to be loosening her hold down south. She's been quite tempermental lately.
As Kim said, my schedule depends on the most pressing engagement. Thank goodness my husband manages the bills and taxes. He knows I'm on a roll if he comes home from work and gets stuck with a Cheerio casserole for dinner.
I work best alone and in the quiet and that's usually overnight. However, hubby requests I learn to write during the day because he's tired of sleeping alone when I'm working on a book.
The hardest part of writing for me is completing the first draft. It's really dirty work. Re writing I love!

Karen Mercury said...

In the name of Jehoshaphat, I was a HORRIBLE wife for YEARS. I was on deadline nonstop for 3 years and worked 18-20 hours 7 days a week. I used to cry, and scream, and throw things across the room. A lot of mini-breakdowns prevented me from having one huge one.

I didn't mind so much having given up 100% of all hobbies or friends--we bought new leather couches and I didn't have one second in 6 months to sit on them--it was July and I still had a Christmas tablecloth on my dining table--it was missing out on my (now) 3 y.o. niece growing up. I had no say No to every social engagement.

And I don't even have any kids! I don't know how women with kids do it, I really don't.

Now nonstop stress/work has made me really ill so I'm forced to ease up a little. I had to stop reading/posting on a lot of boards. Now I'm a huge Grey's Anatomy fan--my first TV show in ten years--and I think Betty and Henry from Accounting are the Hot New Couple. I adore them. DUMP WALTER! :) I take the hugest thrill in the smallest thing, like planting a plant in my garden. And yes, I babysit my niece.

I'd say the "solution" is, if you really insist on being on deadline :) be realistic with your estimating of how long it'll take. Ask for more time if you have to. I know we're forced more and more to produce more books, more often. One a year, they used to say. It's probably more now.

Oh, and hire a housecleaner.

Michelle Styles said...

Dedication, determination, desire and discipline.

It is not a matter of having your muse shrivel up -- it is a matter of wanting to write a story more than anything, and making the time to do it.

Bad pages are easier to fix than blank ones.

I use the cleaning the house time as white noise thinking for my story.

I get up an hour earlier than the rest of my family so I can write/take care of PR stuff before they wake.

It is a matter of setting priorities and accepting that it is a juggling act and no one is perfect. And I know when I am writing, I am easier to live with as I put the drama into my writing, rather than into my life.

I also try to get things off my desk and on to someone else's asap. Otherwise the things get buried.

Vicki Gaia said...

It's just me and my husband living under one roof, so my life isn't too complicated. But, I do have a tendency to take too much on. I write full time when I'm writing, but also have my 'artist' muse that screams for attention. It's hard to do both. I took an abstract painting workshop in Jamaica last week. I didn't write one creative sentence(did edtis) but instead, breathed in paints for seven days straight, and loved it. How to fit it studio time when I'm writing? I haven't figured that one out yet. This is one of my 2007 goals.

Bonnie Vanak said...

Wow, great question. For me, balance is like walking a tightrope while wearing high heels. I usually fall off in one direction or another. I work nearly FT hours in the day job for a charity, travel for the day job (I'll be in Jamaica next week touring slums) and this year I have three books due! Plus I have a book out in March, and I'll be doing booksignings and working at my chapter's conference in February.

My CP asked, "How are you going to do it, Bonnie?"

What helps me is multi-tasking, using household tasks to think about the WIP, using the Alpha Smart to write when we're driving somewhere (when DH drives, NOT me, lol!) and fit in fun activities around it all. I do a lot of writing on weekends while DH shops or busies himself with his hobbies, which helps.

When my muse leaves, I use that time to research instead of trying to force myself to write. I might plot out scenes, or think about my characters' motivations.

I'm lucky in that I can write out of sequence, which really helps. Last week on the way to the county fair for a fun outing, I took the Alpha Smart and wrote 6 pages. It was a one hour drive, and I got a lot accomplished.

Now if I could only get the dogs to learn to wash dishes, I'd be set!

carrie_lofty said...

I'm checking in as a member of the insane mommy writers club, an unofficial group of crazy-ass females who manage to raise little ones while attempting a writing career -- but barely. My girls are 3- and 4-yos, and they'll start school in the autumn. I've been home with them now, fulltime, since Oct '02. But did I write like a maniac back when I didn't have kids, or when they took two naps a day? Nope, I piddled. Idiot.

Then, this past summer, my husband left us in Wisconsin for a 3-month stint of work in Virginia. Naturally, THAT'S when I decide to get serious about my career. Doh!

During the day, I take care of the kids, do mundane things like housework, manage e-mails, and finish occassional light edits if I have print outs. Maybe a crit for my reading group. Writing is reserved for PM only. The girls are in bed by 7:30, and I can generally work until midnight before exhaustion sets in. It's like the girls are my day job and writing is my night class.

To manage this, I don't watch TV except "House," and I ignore housework until my husband notices -- which, being that he's a non-military male, tends to be rather forgiving. I used to read, and I ADORE movies. Using my blog history, I figured that from January to July of last year (pre career-focused) I consumed 50 movies, five operas, 21 books, and seven Shakespearian plays. In the seven months since then, I've only managed one opera (a date night), four books, and 16 movies. And SHakesperare who? I figure one day I'll get around to it, but right now, writing is my priority. It works because I make it work.

Eliza said...

I'm a Flybaby, too! My morning routine (a staple of the FlyLady crew) goes something like this:

5:30 AM--Get up, shower, dress to the shoes.
6:00 AM--Head downstairs, start the laundry. Make an egg-based breakfast (I've noticeed I get more done when I get protein rather than sugar first thing, imagine that). Drink water, eat brakfast. Read RSS messages (I use Vienna rather than bloglines).
6:30 AM--Make coffee. Write.
8:30 AM--Bill collectors start to call. I start to curse.
9:00 AM--Hubby gets up; start to wind down. Hopefully have about 1500 words done.
10:00 AM--laundry to dryer, get the baby up, breakfast for baby, unload dishwasher.

So all my daily stuff is pretty much done before everybody gets in "my space". If I don't have my mornings to myself, I'm cranky all day long.

When my daughter goes down for her nap, I sit down and do all my other work. I never work on my non-fiction in the morning (unless I've got a deadline in the next 24 hours).

No matter what, Mon-Fri, I drag my lazy butt out of bed long before my beloveds do and I get a thousand words closer to a finish. Don't know how it'll work when my daughter's school aged, or if we have more kids, but...yeah.

Also, my editor often tosses me an email and says something along the lines of, "I need 900 words on (fill in the blank) by Friday." Still, I try to focus on my fiction in the mornings.

And take time to refill the well. Read, watch favorite shows, experience life away from home at least once a week.

Also, everything Michelle said. What matters is that you are faithful to your art. It will make you a happy mom. And every kid and hubby likes a happy mom.

Tess said...

Yeah, I know I'm late, but this is the first chance I've had to visit here since Thursday!

We weren't able to have children, so I have it easier than many of you. Nor do I hold an outside job. By now you all want to launch rotten fruit at me. BUT, I do bookkeeping for our small company and run most of the errands as my hubby works an early, early shift (he's at work by 3:15 am). Even so, I do have a bad habit of procrastinating (because I have the time to do it), so I just force myself to open my current story and just read it over. No pressure - generally within a few minutes I'm lost in it.

A friend of mine who has three kids (11, 3 and 1) snatches time whenever she can - usually in the evenings. She has a wonderful hubby who is fully supportive of her drive to be a writer. For her, writing is a priority and she simply makes the time for it.

Not sure if this helps. Hmmm.