Monday, March 26, 2012

A Tool for Finding Balance

This week on the blog, we're talking about that elusive goal that plagues most writers: BALANCE. Whether it's family, a day job, or a social life, it's often hard to make writing fit into a balanced life.

When I was writing THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, I had a full-time job at my town’s local government. Each day I went to City Hall to work, and then most evenings and weekends (and many lunch breaks), set to work on my “other” job: writing YA.

So how did I fit in the rest of life—friends, family, fun—to this schedule? Ha. I didn’t. Sometimes, it’s just impossible to do everything. So our house got a little cluttered, and (I’m ashamed to say) I wasn’t the most active friend.

Luckily, for me, once my book sold I quit my day job and am now a full-time writer. This certainly makes achieving balance slightly easier, but surprisingly, not as much as you’d think. Publishing is a tricky business. Some weeks there’s all the time in the world to plug away at the manuscript. Other weeks, suddenly everything is urgent. Copyedits due day after tomorrow. Contract that needs to get in the mail ASAP. A Skype author visit. Critiques of others’ work that must be returned. Guest blog post scheduled for today. Phone call with agent. All this, in addition to finding time to actually sit at the desk and produce words vaguely resembling a story!

This is why achieving balance is still hard, even as a full-time writer. The system I’ve come up with to deal with this (through plenty of trial and error, emphasis on the “error”) is borrowed from Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY. Every time I start to feel off balance, I draw a circle in my journal and divide it into six slices. Each slice represents a different part of my life: Work (writing), Family, Friends, Hobbies, Health (including working out), and Spiritual (including being in nature, meditating, etc).

Then I put a dot in each slice based on how good I feel about that aspect of life at the present time. Closer to the edge means recently I’m feeling confident about that aspect, and closer to center means I need to give that section a lot more focus. For example, my balance chart this week might look like this:

As you can see, woefully out of balance. I need to focus on working out more, and also doing horseback riding and other hobbies, which often get shoved to the wayside when things get hectic. But lately I’ve been feeling good about work and the amount of time I’ve been spending with friends & family.

Now it’s your turn…how do YOU find balance?


Megan Shepherd is a young adult writer living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Her debut book, THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, will be published in early 2013 by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins as the first in a three-book Gothic thriller series. She is represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary. Visit Megan at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.


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  2. Such a great topic to address!

    It sounds silly, but I color-coordinate my calendar. If I don't have enough blue, I know I need to visit a friend. No green in sight? Pull out the yoga mat. It's a very visual way to make sure my life is balance. Whether it works or not is another story...

  3. I keep hearing about The Artist's Way and I know I need to read it. Pie chart= great idea. Also Kathryn's color-coded calendar might be something to try.

  4. It's my biggest struggle as a writer - balance.

  5. Oh, this is fantastic, so simple -- I'm grabbing it, thank you.

  6. Oooh, good exercise! Stealing.