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August 5, 2011
I hear it from writers almost on a daily basis. “I can’t find time or energy to write!” Or “If I take time to write, everything else falls apart!”
The idea of living balanced lives is popping up everywhere. It’s definitely a sign of the times and indicative that many feel out of balance. There are articles online for specific people (finding balance as a lawyer) and even websites for finding balance for your dog!
Take Time to Ponder
For your weekend reading pleasure and inspiration, here are some additional ideas and resources for rebalancing your life. [I'm not endorsing all these websites where I found the articles. Some are good, but some are not my cup of tea. The articles have merit though.]
- How to Live a Balanced Life has some good tips. I tried his “Five Golden Minutes” idea and found it very useful for something so simple.
- What is a Balanced Life? will make you think. I thought the teeter-totter example was good here (although we each must choose what to have at the center, or fulcrum, of our lives).
- When You Have No Margin Left: the Pathway to Burnout–the title tells it all!
- Balanced Lives at “Family Fountain” has some good reminders and tips, especially for people with children at home.
- Living with Less: the Importance of Margin gives the four areas where margin is critical.
- 5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance has some good strategies! Tip #5 is a winner you can start today.
- Balanced Life website articles include ten articles on various aspects of living a balanced life. There’s even a 12-week e-course you can take for $25.
- Living in the Margin (Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3) is one woman’s experience of living on both sides of the fence and the radical changes in her life by adding margins. She’s a homeschool mom.
Enjoy the articles. Just remember, though, that nothing will change unless we actually put into practice the suggestions and ideas. Start small. Choose one idea and put it into practice for a week or a month. Then add another one.
Even if you only add one new small balancing habit per month, that would give you a dozen new “balanced living habits” in a year. That’s bound to make a difference!
August 1, 2011
In the Margin book, Richard Swenson, M.D. talked about the tug-of-war in our everyday lives and the challenge of finding balance.
The Balancing Act
I don’t know about you, but I feel a constant tug-of-war between choices. Should I work now, or relax a bit? Should I take action, or should I think about it more? Should I take the lead in this decision, or be a good follower? Should I speak up, or just listen? Should I keep studying and researching and learning, or is it time to apply what I know? Should I judge and confront, or should I give grace here? Should I say yes to this gathering, or retire in much-needed solitude?
It’s no wonder we have difficulty finding balance!
There are so many decisions to make, minute by minute sometimes. Added to that, we know that life requires both. We need to both work and rest. Sometimes we need to speak up, but sometimes we need to listen. We need to both study and apply what we know. We need the company of other people, but writers also require a lot of solitude.
These are not either/or questions. “Balance has always been necessary and will always be necessary. It is just becoming more difficult,” says the author of Margin.
Balance or Excellence?
I believe in high standards. I believe in doing things in an excellent way. In many ways, especially in the past, I’ve gone overboard into perfectionism.
“Much is made today of the virtues of excellence. But what does this mean? Often the excellence described is only in one narrow corridor of life,” says Swenson. He talks of musicians who are virtuosos, executives who live at the office, and other passionate high achievers. Many are not so successful in the rest of their lives though.
Many writers – including myself – have dreamed of the day when they would have time to be passionately high achieving writers. While my children were smaller and I was also teaching, I dreamed of the day when I would have the hours to be one of those high achieving writers I read about. I have met a few of them at conferences, and I admire them a great deal. But each time, when talking to them, I discovered something that I knew I didn’t want in my own life. I didn’t want to ignore my community, give up my ministry at church, lose close contact with grandchildren, or be unhealthy and out of shape. I wanted it all!
“While undivided devotion to one cause can bring great success and vault a person into prominence, such a priority structure often leaves the rest of that person’s life in a state of disorder,” says Swenson. You might excel at your career – like the famous surgeon or performer – yet fail as a parent or neglect personal health in order to achieve it.
I have found this to be true in my own life. I can push through when deadlines demand it. I can do it for months on end if necessary. But to my frustration, something always breaks down. Headaches get bad. I find that I’m out of touch with grown children or grandchildren. Or I put on five pounds because I stopped walking and feel like a slug.
What’s the Answer?
“Doing our best has limits,” says Swenson. “Our rush toward excellence in one quadrant of life must not be permitted to cause destruction in another.” Those who go “all out” for success in one area – even writing – risk failure in other important areas of life.
So what’s the answer? Come back Wednesday, and I’ll give you four tips for restoring balance in your life.
July 25, 2011
Do you have any margins left in your life?
Or is your life marginless?
For a long time, I’ve known that something was wrong. People everywhere, of all ages and walks of life, are frazzled. People are anxious and depressed.
And why is that especially important to writers? Because tired, frazzled, anxious, depressed writers don’t write. Or when they do write, they can’t write well.
This weekend I read a book that spoke to me on every page. It came out several years ago, so many of you have probably already read it. It’s Margin, by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. In this book he talks about the fact that most of us live marginless lives now.
What’s “margin”? Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Margin is having something held in reserve for unexpected situations.
Bring It On!
Instead, most of us live overloaded lives. The cost of overload is seen in health problems, financial debt, family and friendships going by the wayside, and having very little or no time for solitude and renewal.
Because of exponential progress in technology and other areas, things in our culture are changing faster and faster. We have more and more choices. Along with all the progress comes increasing stress, change, complexity, speed, intensity, and overload.
However, despite all this speed and change, human beings have relatively fixed limits. We have physical limits, mental limits, emotional limits, and financial limits. Once the threshold of these limits is exceeded, overload displaces margin.
The book details how many conditions we have at play today that are different than at any other time in history. We have run out of room to breathe. We have run out of time to sit and think. And I think this overload – this living beyond our limits – makes writing extremely difficult.
Can anything be done about this? You can’t stop progress, can you? Maybe not, and maybe we don’t want to, but can we regain our emotional health and physical health and relational health? Is it possible to redirect our over-extended lives? Yes, it is, according to this author.
How About You?
I read this book with great excitement, and in the next several blogs, I will share some ideas with you. Does the description above ring any bells with you?
In the coming days, we will talk about some ways to regain margin so that you have more emotional energy, more physical energy, and more time-when you can write, if you choose to. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
May 30, 2011
I’ve been thinking about these questions this week as I’ve journaled and worked through the book Writing For Emotional Balance: A Guided Journal To Help You Manage Overwhelming Emotions. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, but I was astounded at the relief (and practical help) I found simply through journaling.
I use the Life Journal software, password protected, and I found it so helpful, coupled with the exercises in the book. Writing means a lot to me for many reasons: a way to heal, a way to make a living, a way to connect with readers, and a lot of fun.
So I have this question for you:
What does writing mean to you?
To kickstart your thinking, here are some famous writers’ opinions. Ray Bradbury is quoted as saying: “Writing is survival… Not to write, for many of us, is to die. I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.”
What does writing mean to you?
Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, said: “Writing is a matter of necessity and that you write to save your life is really true and so far it’s been a very sturdy ladder out of the pit.” She sees writing as a safe and strong and dependable way out of a pit.
Again: What does writing mean to you?
May 25, 2011
One of my health goals is to stop taking so much aspirin and other painkillers. It causes more problems than it helps. This has been an ongoing goal for years, and recently I found something amazingly simple that is really helping!
The Painful Side of Writing
When I started writing, I don’t recall ever reading anything about health problems associated with writing. But sitting for hours, especially at a computer, takes a toll on your neck, back, wrists, and hands. The associated headaches and back pain keep many writers on painkillers of one sort or another.
Then my daughter suggested that I get some yoga DVDs. My initial reaction was negative. My mental image of yoga was of some spaced-out chanting person twisted into an inhuman pretzel. Not for me!
Yoga for Writers (and other stiff people)
I quickly learned that my ideas were outdated. From my library, I checked out “Healing Yoga for Aches & Pains,” which was as soothing as a massage (and got rid of my headache!) I have yet to try “Yoga for Inflexible People.” My favorite DVD so far is Yoga: Sitting Fit Anytime, which has nine separate 3-5 minute segments addressing individual needs of people who sit at computers for hours.
It’s easy to follow, you do it sitting, and it targets neck and shoulder tension, lower back pain, upper back pain, tight hamstrings, headaches, and carpal tunnel problems. There was even a segment for stiff hands and fingers. There was no chanting. (FYI: I skip the New Agey intro–not for me! Just want the stretches.)
Preventive and Restorative
If you don’t have aches and pains from writing, thank heaven. But also consider doing some routine stretching to prevent developing such problems. If you already suffer from head, back and/or arm pain, consider yoga as a drug-free solution. Your body–AND creative mind–will thank you.
[P.S. If you long-time faithful readers thought this sounded like a repeat, you're right. Had a ripping headache today that I finally got rid of with the DVD stretches! Thought you all might need the same reminder I did.]
May 18, 2011
I heard a sermon recently about life being filled with “fillers” and “drainers.” The pastor was talking about people, of course.
Fillers are people who know how to encourage you and build you up. Drainers are in your life because they need encouragement and help; however, they don’t have time for you if you need something in return. (You know the type. They think a “give and take” relationship means, “You give, and I take.”)
A rare person is both a filler and a drainer in your life, and you’re blessed if you have a person or two like that in your family or circle of friends.
If we narrow the “fillers and drainers” idea down to writers, I think you will find the idea holds true there as well. You will meet filler writers who are great encouragers for you, who help keep your self-esteem intact through the tough times of rejection, writer’s block, poor sales and negative reviews.
And you’ll meet drainer writers, those who nail you in the restroom at the writer’s conference and want you to give a free critique, then introduce them to your agent or editor.
Occasionally you will meet a treasure: a writer who is both filler and drainer. When you do, treat this priceless person well, and do all you can to sustain the relationship(s).
It’s Your Choice
What kind of writer are you? You may not know other writers yet, so you might not be sure. But you’ll eventually meet writers at conferences, retreats, local writer gatherings or book store signings and readings. In the writing relationships you enter, strive to be a filler as well as a drainer.
If you’re unpublished or newly published, you might think you have nothing to offer. Not true! You don’t have to be published to be an encourager, an uplifter, or a good listening ear. Publishing advice isn’t the only thing other writers need. In fact, I would guess (from my experience) that it’s not even near the top of the list. (That’s why my blog is focused on the emotional issues of writing rather than how to plot or build characters or write a winning query.)
Do a Self-Check
After you attend your next writing event (large or small) ask yourself: “Was I filler or a drainer today?” Did you make encouraging comments as well as ask for help? Did you give as well as take? If you can find that kind of balance, you’ll be able to build writing relationships that will last a lifetime.
May 11, 2011
Women are givers. Women writers are some of the most giving people I know.
We tend to have stronger relationships because of it–with babies, grown children, friends, and extended family.
But unless you learn how to balance all this giving with replenishment, you’ll find it nearly impossible to write.
Gift from the Sea
It has been a particularly busy family time the last six weeks, with little sleep and even less time to write. I wouldn’t go back and change any of it either–very rewarding times. But there comes a time when you realize you’re close to being drained. Pay attention to those times, or you’ll pay for it later (in your health, in your lack of writing, and in lack of patience with those around you).
This morning I was reading a bit in one of my favorite little books, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book, Gift from the Sea. I re-read it at least once a year. Here are a few snippets that might speak to you giving women:
- What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It leads …to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul.
- Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim.
- Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.
- One must lose one’s life to find it. Woman can best refind herself by losing herself in some kind of creative activity of her own.
Is That You?
If you find yourself feeling fragmented and agitated today, find a way to steal away from everyone for even ten minutes of total solitude (and if possible, silence). Breathe deeply. Bring the energy spilled on everyone else back inside for a few minutes. Re-focus. Relax.
If you have a couple hours, get a copy of Gift from the Sea and read straight through it. You’ll love it!
And if you have a couple extra minutes, leave a comment and tell us your favorite way to find solitude–whether for a day or just a few minutes. We all need suggestions for this!
April 11, 2011
“Crazymakers like drama,” says Julia Cameron in her classic book for writers, The Artist’s Way. “If they can swing it, they [the crazymakers] are the star. Everyone around them functions as supporting cast, picking up their cues, their entrances and exits, from the crazymaker’s (crazy) whims.”
You may have a quiet weekend of reading and writing planned, but then voila! A crazymaker shows up. It might be someone you thought was banned from your life for good. It might be someone no one else suspects is your crazymaker. They might rage and scream–or knife you in the back while smiling in the traditional passive-aggressive style.
“Whether they appear as your overbearing mother, your manic boss, your needy friend, or your stubborn spouse,” says Cameron, “the crazymakers in your life share certain destructive patterns that make them poisonous for any sustained creative work.”
Enough is Enough
Sometimes you get blind-sided by crazymaking behavior. It can be shocking and look ludicrous. It turns your schedule upside down, destroys any plans you might have, nearly always costs you time and/or money, is draining with its drama, and–if they’re really good–the crazymaker can blame you for the whole problem they created.
I’ve had more than my share of crazymakers to deal with in life. (I suppose everyone feels like that!) Anyway, it happened to me again recently, and I was tickled by my reaction. I recognized the game, called a spade a spade, and was astounded to see the problem go away. It didn’t cost me any sleep, and the crazymaker found someone else to harrass.
A Dance by Any Other Name…
Julia Cameron always said, “If you are involved in a tortured tango with a crazymaker, stop dancing to his/her tune.” Yes, that’s easier said than done–but it CAN be done! I was thrilled to see that if I stepped back and didn’t play the game, it stopped. And beyond that, I got some writing done!
Maybe there are some nut cases in your own life that need to be banished for the sake of your creativity. If so, deal with it as soon as possible. You’ll be soooo glad you did!
March 17, 2011
I was reading an article this morning in Writing World’s monthly newsletter, and the editor revealed her recent struggles with depression–both its cause and rather surprising symptoms.
Could this be you?
Dawn wrote: It came as a huge surprise to me. I thought I was suffering from Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I did not think I was depressed. I mean, surely I would notice feeling depressed? Surely I would, well, you know, feel sad, weepy or blue? Apparently not. The fact that my body had slowed down, and weakened, that my concentration had been blown to pieces and my ability to think became clouded in a fog are all textbook symptoms of clinical depression. Feeling sad doesn’t really come into it. I had, in layman’s terms, overloaded my system. I had tried to do too much for too long and something has to give.
I applaud Dawn for speaking out on this issue. I see writers (and others) overloading themselves terribly these days. I used to think it was just a “young mom writer” syndrome, but I see it in all ages as writers try to work 40 hours at day jobs, juggle children or grandchildren, do volunteer work, run marathons, social networking, attend conferences, you name it! (And I’m preaching to myself here too!)
This editor/writer went on to describe how she’d slowly over-crowded her schedule (with good things!), and what that had done to her creativity. Since she didn’t exhibit classic signs of depression (sadness, crying), she didn’t realize her nervous system was basically trying to shut down.
If you recognized yourself in her description, do something now before you have a full-blown depression to address. Trust me–it’s easier to deal with your schedule before than to crash and burn after you’ve overdone it for way too long.
One fun site she recommended was MoodGYM, which offers online cognitive behavioral therapy. I plan to check it out. If you do too, please leave a comment below for other readers with your opinion of its helpfulness.
August 20, 2010
If a friend from your critique group told you ”I just can’t get started on my story today,” what would you say? “Get moving, you lazy do-nothing wannabe!” I hope not!
If your writing friend bemoans receiving another rejection, do you say, “Well, what did you expect? Your novel stinks!”?
I would hope not. Most of us are better friends than that…except to ourselves.
Your Own Best Friend
Listen to how you talk to yourself. When you procrastinate, do you beat yourself up? Do you call yourself names? And to paraphrase Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” Does it spur you on to do your best writing–or to give up and eat a pint of ice cream?
When you receive a rejection, do you downgrade your writing? Do you tell yourself that publishing is just a pipe dream, that it’s for others but not for you?
Do you say things to yourself that you would NEVER say to a writer friend?
Time to STOP!
Learn to tell yourself the truth–but with kindness. Be a mirror that reflects back understanding. If you got off course, gently encourage yourself back on the writing path you want to travel.
- You’re so lazy that you’ll never get anything written and published.
- No editor or agent will ever read your novel, much less publish it!
- You only have friends on Facebook because they don’t really know you.
Say this instead:
- You may have trouble getting started because you’re afraid of something. Try journaling to get to the bottom of it.
- You may (or may not) find an editor who loves your novel–but you’ll never know if you don’t keep sending it out. Let’s try one more time.
- Many people in your real life know you and love you. Make a list. Be thankful for each person on the list.
Be That Good Friend
The next time you stall or hit a rough spot in your work, talk to yourself like a true friend would. Be kind, be understanding, give some praise, and encourage yourself to try again.
You can be your own best friend.Newer Posts »