Saturday, December 13, 2008

Balancing Life and Writing - can it be done?

copyright 2008 Aaron Paul Lazar

Hello friends and writers,

I hope this finds you well, and writing prolifically.

Do you have trouble finding time to write? Or do you have a secret strategy that works?

Is writing an obsession that grips you by the throat and won't let you go until you've spewed hundreds of words per day? Do your characters haunt you and force you to listen to their bizarre plot twists while you're driving to work or doing the laundry? How do you quench that thirst?

I've been asked those questions dozens of times on radio shows and in print interviews, probably because I've written twelve books.

Folks want to know how we writers manage to produce complete books while working full time, caring for homes and gardens, cooking healthy meals, grocery shopping, chauffeuring kids to practices or lessons, walking the dog, and more.

It's a great question, and the answer involves a skill I've honed for the past decade.

I thought I'd share some of my answers here, and ask you to contribute your own ideas below in the comments section. Sound good?

First of all, here's a little background:

As some of you already know, I work full time as an electrophotographic engineer at Kodak. I commute two hours daily to and from Rochester, NY and we also run a small chair caning business nights and weekends. I take on most of the household chores, because my wife has MS, and although she manages wonderfully considering her ailments (you should SEE the chairs she canes!), she can't do things like taking out the trash or doing the shopping. Most of the jobs such as cleaning, cooking, tending my huge gardens, bringing up the firewood, shopping, etc. are mine.
In spite of this, I'm currently working on book number thirteen.

How do I do it?

It's all part of the delicate negotiation of my time.

I put family first and writing second. The rest comes along for the ride. I also cook healthy feasts on Sundays and we eat off of that every night during the week. Plenty of veggies, poultry, and fish. And if the oil change in the car is a little overdue, or if my weeds aren't all neat and tidy like Sam Moore's gardens (the creep is retired; I'm so jealous!), or the kitchen floor isn't shining... well, so be it. I've gotta write. I have no choice.

It's always a struggle to find enough time. But if you're a writer, you must find a way.

My secret?

Well, it's not such a revelation. I simply gave up television. What do I miss? Nothing. What do I gain? Everything, including that freedom of spirit that comes with immersing oneself in a parallel universe, or, revelling in the pure joy of putting words on paper that sing, or smiling when my characters grow and evolve, just like real people. (What's that you said? They aren't real?) I love my writing time. I crave it. And it scratches an itch that must be tended.

I often go to bed at 8:00, and rise at 4:00, when the house is dark and quiet and the atmosphere is perfect for transporting oneself into another realm. It's my favorite time to write. And yes - I still get my eight hours of sleep. So what if I miss that episode of "House"? There are always reruns if I ever get the craving to see television again.

It helps to take care of yourself. I eat very well, with plenty of fruits and veggies and always home cooked foods. Well, most of the time. Sometimes I give in and buy a grilled stuffed chicken burrito with extra fiesta sauce.

Exercise sharpens the mind, too. Lately I've had to change priorities to allow for long walks with my twenty-three-year-old daughter, Allison. We walk four to five miles at a stretch. I have less time to do all the other stuff (okay, that kitchen floor REALLY needs mopping now), but I find it so exhilarating and refreshing that I can't give it up. We take photos along the way, which is a shared passion. And I try to picture my heart getting "cleaned out," every time we walk. It's so good for us, in every aspect. Great bonding time. The fresh air is cathartic. I love writing after a long walk in the country.
Somehow I fit in the cleaning, laundry, home repairs, and bills. Oh, I hate doing the bills. Maybe someday when I'm rich and famous (LOL) I won't have to worry about the struggle. But it never seems to end, even when you think it's going to "get easier this year."

But things worthwhile are never easy, are they?

Let us know how you manage to squeeze in your writing time below. All tips are welcome.

Perhaps we'll inspire the next award-winning author to change his or her life and finish their novel. Maybe it will be a book that changes our lives. You never know...

Meanwhile, get yourself organized, pull out that laptop or boot up your PC, and start writing like the wind!

- Aaron

P.S. Come join Gus LeGarde and his endearing family in the rolling hills of Upstate NY, where villains lurk in the wintry woods while the family congregates at the dinner table, enjoying mouth-watering meals prepared by our own Renaissance man. I'm offering a holiday special right now - three books for the price of two. Email me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com if you're interested in the details. Or you can purchase the books at all online or brick and mortar bookstores.


Kim Smith said...

Wow, Aaron. You are such an inspiration! I need to turn the television off too!

Marta Stephens said...

"... things worthwhile are never easy ..."

No, they're not, but they're always worthwhile.

With the exception of going to bed at 8 and getting up at 4, I'm on pretty much the same page as you. Prioritizing for me changes on a day to day basis.

Somedays house cleaning, or like right now, Christmas decorations, are top priorty. Other days, the writing and promotions come first. Regardless of what I'm doing or where I'm at though, the story is always in the back of my mind, so when I do sit down, it pours out of me.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I moved my computer desk from the loft above our dining room & living room to the corner of our dining room. I'm able to watch the stove and be handy if my husband needs outside help.

The television is left on all day & yet I barely hear it. I like the sounds of voices in the background, so I usually have the channel set to HGTV. It's so quiet here in the winter. If swans are occupying the front yard, then I'm distracted. But generally the TV drowns out most noises.

It's a weird way to work, but it seems to be doing such that: working. I'm writing more, I'm blogging, researching and still getting chores done. In between washing the mudroom, hallway, bathroom, kitchen and living room floors, I take a break by sitting at my computer. When I'm waiting for the laundry to dry in the dryer, I sit at my computer. While I wait for the pork chops to bake, I sit down at my computer. It's a great diversion.

Gus LeGarde said...

Hi, Kim. Of course I sit in the same room with my wife while she watches TV at night and try to write. The noise canceling head phones help, and the sounds of loons in the background that I play to drown out the TV. LOL. Sometimes it's not easy!

Marta, you always seem to be able to survive with less sleep than me. Someday maybe I'll get to that point, but right now I'm a sleep hog. LOL.

Joylene, I'm envious that you can be home all day. I dream of retirement and picture it much like your day, combined with lots of outside projects, of course. It sounds like you've got it all arranged beautifully. Good for you!