Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wolff Wednesday: Striking a Balance

So, last night I was at my local RWA meeting and NY Times Bestselling author Julia London was speaking-- on ten pitfalls of being a writer. A number of things she said struck home to me, but one of the ones that hit me hard was when she talked about how hard it was to find a balance between work and home.

Because most writers work at homr (me included) she said it's very difficult to keep home from encroaching on work and vice versa and boy, could I relate to that. Currently, my office is a small, 200 square foot alcove off the upstairs game room (where my three boys have every gaming system known to man plus a whole bunch of toys. The two rooms are connected by an archway and I don't even have a door--which means if they're playing Wii or watching Iron Man or fighting with lightsabers, I know all about it. It also means I know about every disagreement, argument, fight, injury, whatever that they and/or they're friends are involved in-- while it is happening.

This makes for a very unconducive work environment, especially since when my husband isn't traveling, he works at home as well. And no matter what boundaries I set up, none of the four men in my life seem to understand them. They think that because writing comes fairly easy to me that it isn't really work-- that the fact that I've written three books this year and have two more to write by June 1st means I'm fast, not that I'm a total maniac. And they all have a tendency to think that they're dinner/snack/crisis/schoolwork/football game/karate lesson/ art class whatever is a reasonable excuse to interrupt my work-- yet if my husband is working the whole world has to come to a stop. It's frustrating in the extreme.

At the same time, I know I'm guilty of not separating family and work time. Very often in the evenings-- after I've made dinner and played with the kids-- I can be found typing away instead of hanging in the game room playing a game or watching a movie with the rest of the family, which annoys all of them. I try not to feel guilty about it, but it's hard. At the same time, it's hard to get my words every day when I'm constantly being interrupted-- so often, it feels like I'm in the middle of a vicious cycle. If I don't get my words in, I have to work at night. If I work at night when the kids want my attention, they're more likely to interrupt me the next day to get what they want. And on and on it goes ...

Now, I'm a relatively new writer, my first book hit the shelves less than eighteen months ago, so I'm hoping that a lot of these problems will work themselves out with time-- I just need to find what works best for my family and me. Plus, once my youngest goes to preschool next year, I figure things will get a lot smoother during the day. But I have to admit, with summer looming and four books to write by September, I'm a little leary about how this whole thing is going to work. After all, last summer was an unmitigated disaster!

So my question today is this: do any of you have trouble balancing work and home commitments or am I the only one who can't seem to find that balance?


  1. I have such respect for what you do Tracy!!

    I have been a SAHM now for nearly 21 years but I did work full time up until just before my oldest turned 2. I seriously don't know how I did it! I was so stressed out about trying and wanting to be good at everything but felt like I was failing at everything!

    Even though I am home now and my kids are nearly 23 and 16 I still feel like I am neglecting something in order to do something else! I still haven't found the balance but what I have discovered is that I can't do it all and I just don't stress about it anymore! I do what I can and trust me, the dirty laundry is still going to be there no matter what!

  2. Oh, Blanche, don't I know it about the dirty laundry. I looked at the pile in my laundry room today and figured it was time to get started on it-- LOL.

    Thanks so much for your words. I'm balancing writing with teaching 2-3 college courses every semester and it gets hard-- especially around now, when it's crunch time on a book and I have hundreds of essays and research papers pouring in from my students. And I know exactly what you mean about the trade off-- I often wonder what I'm letting go by choosing to do one thing or another.

  3. I don't think any of us ever find the balance. I've been self-employed at home for 25 years now. Yes, everything gets dropped to go get the kids, go take the kids, feed the kids & DH, pick up DH's elderly mom, take care of sick ones/funerals, etc. When do I work? Usually when everyone else is sleeping. I feel fortunate when I get my needed 7 hours of nightly sleep.

    My breaks are spent blogging. I give myself these breaks periodically throughout the day. I don't smoke, rarely drink alcohol, have never tasted coffee, and quit drinking pop last August. Blogging is apparently my "vice" these days. At least it only costs me my time. Good thing I enjoy it so much!

  4. Oh, Laney, I know what you mean. I count myself grateful if I get 5 hours of sleep a night. I'm usually up at 4 or 4:30 getting in a couple of good hours writing time before I have to get the boys up for school. And I'm thrilled that blogging is your vice-- I always enjoy seeing what you have to say :)

  5. Hi Tracy
    Kudos to you. I don't know how you do it all with 2 jobs & 3 boys. Many years ago when I was just starting my twenties, we women were told we could have it all. Well it didn't turn out like we thought. I like my job. I love my family & friends. I love my books & I play tennis at least 3 times week all year round. Of course the housework gets neglected. I save it for weekends but sometimes I need a weekend off after my weekend. I think the stress we feel when we can't juggle it all is counterproductive,
    so I'm going to sit & watch tennis on TV for awhile. The housework will still be there tomorrow (just call me Scarlet LOL).