Yesterday in church we spent some time talking about living a balanced life. It was a timely lesson, since I feel like I’ve been in a dead sprint for the last few weeks. I’ve been working on the Advice for Beginners book, and then putting together the Indiegogo campaign that I started on it (here’s the link, if you missed it), and trying to finish Blood and Ebony (ugh, STILL trying) while outlining my April Camp NaNoWriMo project. All of this on top of my increasingly ignored personal life. (Shocking, right? Jill has a personal life? Not anymore!)
But that isn’t healthy. Staying up until two in the morning several nights in a row isn’t healthy. Skipping meals so I can keep working on a scene isn’t healthy. Ignoring my children because I need to format some files (that I ultimately ended up redoing anyway) isn’t healthy. Getting irritated with my family because they want to spend time with me isn’t healthy. Basically, living the way I have for the last few weeks isn’t healthy.
Beyond being unhealthy, it’s also ineffective and kills creativity. It makes me a poorer writer and a poorer person. And I just get angry. Nobody enjoys being an angry person, or being around one.
So what’s a neurotic writer with too many projects and not enough time to do? Prioritize and cut back.
Prioritizing means assessing what’s most important and putting it at the top of the to-do list. Preparing meals (aka keeping children alive)? Pretty high on the list. Watching a SciShow episode about starvation? That can probably take a back seat. It won’t always be clear cut, but assigning tasks a relative importance can help you see what has to be done, and what can be put off for another few days.
Cutting back means recognizing your limitations and culling your project list accordingly. Those things that can be put off? Put them off. (This is probably why my laundry pile is as large as it is.) Take care of the vital things first and allow yourself to slide on the things that don’t matter quite so much. Work more efficiently, doubling up tasks that can happen together. (Can you brainstorm setting ideas while washing the dishes? You are fantastic.) And if there simply isn’t time? Simply don’t do it.
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we should be doing that we forget to look at it through the lens of what we can be doing. Often, there just isn’t enough time for everything on the list, and that’s okay. The funny thing about to-do lists is that they’re never finished. It’s not like a graduation and now you’re done and you have a fancy piece of cardstock to show interviewers. Even if you check everything off today, there will be another list tomorrow. Sprinting out the gate is no way to win a marathon. Learn your pace and don’t go above it (save for emergencies).
A final note: One thing to not scratch out too ferociously? Leisure. Take a little time to do something just for fun every now and then, even if it means another supposedly more important thing gets set aside until tomorrow. If you never take time to recharge your batteries, you end up with dead batteries.
Happy writing! And don’t forget to support the Advice for Beginners campaign! Parents need a chuckle, too.