I’m about to posit a potentially unpopular opinion. Are you ready for it? Brace yourself.
There’s no such thing as a work/life balance for writers. There’s only work, more work and less work. We live in a world that’s either all on or all off. You’re totally in or you’re totally out. And that makes it nigh on impossible to really have anything like a work/life balance, even with a staff. Sure, you might be at your kid’s ballgame, but you’re on your smartphone looking up information for your next article or you’re outlining marketing plans for the future or you’re searching for new clients. The point is that you’re not really all in your real life — your non-writing life.
Instead you’re outlining, you’re world-building, you’re doing anything but living your life. I think this is why the writing life is so difficult for us, and why it ruins relationships and why it fucking kills people. There’s no stopping it, or slowing it down. You’re just always on to the next project. There’s no leeway. if you’re on social media to keep up with real life friends, you’re also there performing for your audience. You’re participating in groups with the hopes that someone will need your services.
Everything. You. Do. Is. A. Lie
Becoming More Present With a Writing Life
Although we tend to go tits-deep with the Writing Life, there’s hope for a work/life balance. I know, I was shocked to learn this, too.
The truth is that the non-stop world of work is a fiction we’ve created for ourselves because we believe the task is so overwhelming it can never stop. The truth is that we can and should take time off, slow down, spend time with our families and friends in real life and get out of the fucking house and get some of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D.
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, and I think — I believe — I have a solution. Or at least some suggestions, so here we go. I believe these tips will help you get a little balance in your life:
Give yourself permission to stop. All of this, I think, starts with the myth that any small business owner needs to be invested in their business all the time, that every moment should be spent working your butt off until you die. So, let’s start with that. It’s fucking wrong. You’re fucking wrong. Do you hear me? You’re fucking wrong. You can run a successful business and still golf three or four times a week, go to your kid’s ballgame without second screening, have a fucking life in between assignments. Give yourself permission to stop. Do it right the fuck now.
Schedule regular and significant vacations. Get out your calendar, bitches. Schedule two things right now. First, pick a week or two every four to eight weeks and schedule them off. Do it now before you fill the rest of your schedule out. Next, schedule a few days for overflow. We all have those days where nothing comes together and we suddenly lose our precious days off to make up for that lack of production. Go ahead and give yourself permission in writing to have both types of days.
Put the computer away. On those days you’ve scheduled off, get the fuck away from the computer. I find myself coming in here and fiddling with my calendar or doing something on my laptop when I should be decompressing. This world is a pressure cooker and the only way you survive it is to go cold turkey. That includes me. Get the fuck away from your computer. Run, don’t walk, on your days off. Don’t even think about opening up productivity programs or looking at your work schedule. I swear I’ll find you and cut you.
Find a non-digital hobby. The way I was raised having a hobby was sort of a secondary or tertiary priority. But the reality is that it’s not, this is something vital to living an enriched life. Whether you’re a woodworker or a gardener or you fly kites or ride mountain bikes, you need time away from the computer. Exercise. Go outside. Do competitive sports with your dog. Anything, just do it in real life, even if you also talk about it online.
Bitches, burnout is a real thing, it’ll crush your heart and soul, it’ll make you feel lost and angry and bored and it’s hard — so hard — to overcome once you’re all in. So, listen to me now when I say you need to get a little more balance in your life. Everything has to balance eventually.
God knows you don’t want to find that balance after a mental breakdown and months of not working.