Maintaining a balance between writing and socializing is one of those things that I find infinitely challenging. I’ve certainly been known to set aside a whole day for writing and then, because I have the whole day, after all, not start writing until night.
Those of you who have done this know that those misspent hours are never productive. Most likely, you spent them experiencing varieties of guilt, browsing Twitter, and allowing yourself “just one episode” of That TV Show.
Like many writers, I work a day job. But I love writing, because I love to be busy and writing offers every opportunity to either be a) writing, or b) feeling guilty because you’re not writing. It’s the most efficient self-martyrdom known to humankind.
My worst moments as a writer haven’t been when I’ve been blocked, or distracted, or just received an edit informing me that I used the phrase “there was a” fifty times in a manuscript. My worst moments are when my friends are doing something — something not writing. My dang wonderful friends, who have hobbies that involve leaving the house and interacting with people, not just reading your own manuscript at a bar.
(Of course, it doesn’t help that friends have an innate sense of deadlines, and will only do fun and cool things exactly when you can’t.)
It’s hard to be a writer, and have a job, and sacrifice free time that you’d like to spend with people you love. It’s hard to learn when to say yes to making plans, and when to say no.
Saying no sometimes makes me feel like a total killjoy. Or like a recluse who has never had a friend, or left the house, or showered, even though the evidence to the contrary is right there on Instagram.
Lest it sound like I’m blaming my friends—the problem is me! Time management is hard. My darkest moment was at New Year’s Eve, when I really did mean to hit up a friend’s party. Only, I had avoided revising Sparkwood all day and then gotten way into it that evening. By the time I was actually ready to leave the house, it wasn’t physically possibly for me to get to the party before the New Year struck. So uh, I ordered takeout and kept working through the night.
See? My bad.
I’ve been working on some sick strats for being less of a bad human when it comes to work-life balance.
On the “work” side, I’ve been forcing myself to cross the streams. I started a writing group at my job, and we’re now organizing monthly write nights in the office. This means I have a venue to talk about writing with my coworkers and friends, and also a set period of time in which to get work done. This frees up other days of the week—or even the rest of that night, if I’m feeling particularly social.
My friend Austin Chant has what I think is an even better method for dealing: use friends as breaks.
“I know I can’t actually write non-stop,” he told me. “So I can get lunch with a friend in the middle of a work day.”
Writing during the morning is another time-management tactic I’m honing. It’s tricky, because it does involve going to bed at a normal hour. But I find that if I can at least drag myself out of bed and put my face in front of a computer, morning writing changes the tenor of my whole day.
Imagine going into work with 500 words already under your belt for the day. Nice.
(Plus, it’s very fulfilling to tell people you got up at six am to work on your novel. Double nice.)
The hardest thing to figure out is when to cancel plans—with your book. If I’ve been avoiding writing for hours, and I’m coming up on a friend-date, the temptation to cancel is strong.
I get it. In fact, I’m the world’s official Biggest Fan of Plan Cancellation. But here’s the thing.
Cancelling plans is a nice punishment for a writer who has been bad. No social life for you! Stay inside at the word mines! But it serves no one. There’s absolutely a relief that comes with cancelled plans, but the problem is that time can just be filled with more procrastination, because now you really have nothing else going on.
If I didn’t use the time I had allotted for writing correctly in the first place, I don’t get to “punish” myself by avoiding my social life. It never results in productivity, and it means I’m basically training myself to view my schedule as meaningless. I’m not going to fix my mistakes by being even worse, and derailing my friends’ days as well.
It’s absolutely a “your mileage may vary” scenario though, because we all sometimes make plans we never should have made, whether that’s because of unforeseen lack of spoons, deadlines, or any other reason.
What are your strategies or struggles with balancing writing and real life? Share them please! We all need help.
Daria Defore is a writer by night, and a video producer by day. She’s been writing ever since she was a kid, and vividly remembers that her first story was about visiting Santa Claus and getting a pet dinosaur. Now she writes filthy romance instead.
A Washington transplant living in New York City, Daria writes stories in her beautiful home state, as well as her strange new home. She loves reading, cups of coffee in multiples of ten, and being bullied to write more.
Please note: all opinions and statements expressed are those of the author and not of Open Ink Press LLC or its affiliates.