On Balance

It’s a new year of sorts, for me. In my world, September has always seemed like the start of a new year, even more than January 1, no doubt because from the time I was old enough for preschool, September marked the start of a new school year, first as an elementary school student, then high school, then university, then as a teacher myself, and then, with only a three-year gap, as a mother to a kid in school. And I have a September birthday, too, so September is well ingrained in me as the time for fresh starts, for setting goals, for buying new notebooks and launching back into serious work after a lazy summer.

This year, September saw me already deeply immersed in my biggest project, coordinating the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I was aware of the usual September excitement, that need for fresh pencils and new clothes, of course. It’s too much a part of me to miss completely, especially with my daughter starting a new school year and my continuing in my volunteer role chairing the PAC. But even so, it’s now, in the first days of November, that I’m re-thinking my goals, getting ready for a new start, looking for balance.

When the conference ended, I was spent, exhausted, and completely lacking in any sort of reasonable brain function. It took a few days to get past that overload and become a productive human again. But by the time November rolled around, I was ready to get back to work.

I’m not doing Nanowrimo, but the spirit of it grabbed me, and I decided to work on the book every day this month. That’s a huge change. Last year (conference-to-conference year, that is), I wrote 300 words. In the whole year. Not Good. This year, I’m determined to find more balance.

For the first four days of the month, I stuck to my goal of working on the book every day, and I got a lot done. I’ve been through the entire manuscript, picking up threads and re-acquainting myself with the characters and getting ready to move forward. The wheels are sticky and slow to budge after such a long hiatus, but I can feel a little movement, and I’m hopeful working on it every day will have them turning smoothly in no time.

But today I’m faced with the challenge of trying to find that balance I’ve promised myself. I have a significant amount of SiWC work to do today, and it’s hanging over my head. But I also want to work on the stuff I was thinking about yesterday. I can – I must – do both. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

I think I’d like to write first, to be sure I do write, and then get to the work. But I’ve tried to do that this morning already, and the guilty, nagging sense that I should be doing the work on my plate first is interfering with the flow. But if I do the work first, I know the day, and the momentum, could both disappear before I have a chance to get to the WIP. It’s a challenge, and one I know I’ll be facing daily as I search for how best to be able to do both this year, plus spend time with family and friends, keep the house from failing apart entirely, run errands, volunteer at the school, be a good parent, not make a stranger of my husband… the list goes on, as it does for us all.

I failed at finding balance last year. I’m determined to get it right this time around. In big picture terms, by the time next September rolls around, I’d like this WIP to be finished, the conference planning to be well in hand, and to still have a family and friends who love me and who aren’t attacked by giant piles of laundry and papers when they come to my house. That’s do-able, right?

Care to share? How do you find balance in your own life?

1 Comment

  1. A Novel Woman
    Nov 5, 2010

    Fill your own cup first, before it runs dry and you have nothing left to give to anyone else. And believe me, no one is going to fill it for you. Like every mum in the ‘verse, you have to make that trip to the fridge yourself, you know what I’m saying? (g)

    Acting as mother, as wife, as daughter, as friend to so many others, we always feel so guilty if we put ourselves first. It was drilled into us that it’s selfish behaviour. It’s not. It’s preservation of the self, nurturing that part of you that makes you distinctly YOU, the thing that gets pushed aside once we become mothers and wives and take on jobs and volunteer and and and….. All good things, all necessary, but you must take time for YOU or resentment can build. And regret. You don’t want to live a life of what-ifs.

    My advice to you is meet your needs, however modest, before you tackle all your “shoulds” and you will be much happier. Leave guilt where it belongs. (Under the bed with all the dust bunnies.)

    When my kids were young and the house was crashing around my ears, I took the time to read every morning with a large mug of coffee. It didn’t matter what else was going on that day, if I took that bit of time, I could cope with the rest.

    Even if it means only 15 or 30 or however many minutes a day of uninterrupted writing you need, DO IT.

    Do it first. Do it before the volunteer work, the laundry and the other myriad of chores and duties that will still be waiting. You will be a better mum, a better wife, friend, daughter etc. if you do.

    A year from now, would you rather have a clean floor or your published book in your hand? That’s what I thought.