Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Balancing Act

by J. C. McKenzie

When I started writing Shift Happens, my debut novel, I was childless. The only responsibilities my husband and I had were paying the bills and taking care of our fur-baby (a 70 lbs American Staffy). Then our lives changed.
We created this beautiful life.

While I adore everything about my son, it tipped the scales of my “balancing act.” During maternity leave, it wasn’t so bad. My writing occurred during one of my son’s many nap times, but when I went back to work, I found myself struggling to maintain my sanity. I had to go to my day job as a teacher, tutor, coach, take care of my son (basic needs, but also just playing with him and spending time with him), clean, cook, wash bottles, make lunches, and fit in workouts if I wasn’t exhausted. I still wanted to play volleyball and needed to fit that in somehow too.
Luckily, my husband is a modern man and helped out a lot around the house, so not everything was solely on me. But even with the two of us plugging away at the mundane day-to-day stuff, by the time I got to put my feet up, my writing mojo wasn’t just gone, it had fled the scene, assumed an alternate identity, and holed up somewhere deeply recessed.

I needed to find time for my writing.
The ultimate formula still alludes me. Right now, I’m bogged down with promotional work for Shift Happens, editing for Beast Coast and The Shucker’s Booktique (both contracted pieces), editing the third installment of the Carus Series to make it submission worthy and writing the last two books of the Carus series.

Somehow I need to fit that all in. And my current solution fits into two words: Nap Time.
Just like when I was on Maternity leave, I count on these precious few hours to get everything done. I jam Social Media blasts into little breaks here and there throughout the day. I edit hard copy versions of my story during the week, so I can read in the living room and interact with my family. I reserve writing time to the afternoon nap time on the weekends and hope I make some progress. I also write after the little man has gone to bed. Now that the weather is nicer, I try to walk everywhere to fit in the workouts, but this is the area that’s having to compromise for my sanity!

What I’ve found is that my writing is more succinct. Yes, this is probably due to improving with experience, but I also think it’s because I only have a few short hours for my writing. I’ve had to mull over plot points and think about character development. When it comes time for me to sit down for some uninterrupted bliss, the words just fly onto the computer screen.
Less is more, it seems.

What about you? How do you fit everything into your schedule without losing it?

29 comments:

  1. Oh my. I don't know how you balance it all And write! Get Rest! And hug that new sweetie for me. Barb Bettis

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    1. Thanks Barb! That's an easy request to fulfill. I hug him everyday! :-)

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  2. Thank you for having me Rebecca! It's a pleasure to be here

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  3. Sounds like you've found a good balance for now! Congrats on your contracted books!

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    1. Thanks Katie! In no way is it perfect. I think in going to have to add in scheduled breaks :-)

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  4. Still looking for my balance. I'm a mess.
    Congrats on all three books, the new man in your life, and the one who helps keep it running smoothly.

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    1. Thanks Sandra! I find my balance is very precarious. One new thing and it tips right over, and then I'm a mess, too!

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  5. J.C., you are Wonder Woman. What a crazy busy schedule! I can relate--I, too, try to squeeze in writing time while the baby naps. It's not easy, but it does make me more efficient. And it's true, there are some areas where you just have to compromise. Hope you keep your sanity!

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    1. Well, I think my husband will argue whether I had sanity to even lose! Lol! Good luck with your balancing act. Those nap times are bliss!

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  6. Well, my post vanished. Probably serves me right, since I was mocking the Fates over the sanity issue. ;) As I was saying...amazing J.C.! I'm super impressed. Thanks for sharing and nap times are glorious.

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    1. Lol thanks Mary! I mock the fates all the time as well...and I also haven't learned my lesson. Nap times ARE glorious. Thanks for visiting!

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  7. And to answer the question, (which I forgot) I have disciplined myself to a daily schedule. There are days when it works, and others, not so well. I find if I don't do some sort of exercise, I'm more flustered and don't finish everything. I tend to axe out the most important item of the day: fresh air! :)

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    1. I agree completely. Sometimes I get so caught up in promotional stuff and the time-suck of social media, that I don't get outside, and that fresh-air is much needed! I get a lot of thinking done on my walks :-)

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  8. Wow I'm so impressed right now. I remember when my children were little and it was tough. I can't imagine doing all that and writing books.

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    1. It really does put my sanity into question! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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  9. Great post! When I write, I write. when i get on Facebook I'm there until I'm done doing what I plan to do. I found multi-tasking doesn't work for me, I just don't do as well as some when I divide my attention. But kudos to those who can! :-)

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    1. I wish I could do that, and maybe one day I'll be able to. Sometimes I'll find I'm getting right into the zone and then my son will wake up, or my husband will come home or it's already 1am and I work the next day. I often dream if going in one of those writing retreats! :-)

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  10. My daughter is 17 and I still don't have any free time since I'm always running her to volleyball practice or tournaments. (And even when she gets her G2, I'll probably still go.) In one year, she'll be away at university, and while I'll miss her more than I can imagine, I figure I'll have free time writing, gym and all my crafts. (If I can see thru all tears of loneliness)

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    1. If you can see through the tears of loneliness...oh my! I bet that will be a difficult transition for both of you. I have a few years to go (more like 15, lol) before I have to go through that. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  11. Great article. I admire anyone who can juggle family and writing. I struggle and I have no children - not even the four legged kind! Upon saying that I have a lot going on and there have been times where my writing has been pushed to the side with me waiting for some magical moment where I lock myself away in a cabin for 3 months and just write. Yeah right! So I made a decision - no excuses. Weekdays after work I set the alarm for one hour and I just write. It doesn't matter how tired I am after work I write. The weekends are a little easier as I have a little more time.

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    1. I love that idea of setting a specific time aside for your writing. I bet you get a lot done in that hour as well! Thanks for stopping by and commenting and sorry for my late response. I missed the notification somehow!

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  12. When my kiddoes were little I lived for nap time. Even when they were older I insisted on 2 hours of quiet time every afternoon. They could read, sleep, play quietly in their room, but they had to be quiet. I also lived for bedtime. 8 pm, jammies on. 8:30 pm, bedtime. That worked pretty well, till my they were all old enough to be in all day school...and I went back to work (after being a stay-at-home mom for 11 1/2 years). I struggled with finding time to write. I'd write in the food court until the opening supervisor arrived and sometimes during lunch. Then I became a supervisor and hours increased and I rarely wrote in the food court. Now, many moons later I long for nap time and the energy to work full-time and get words on the page. I've been stressing myself out about not writing, so this year I gave myself permission to not write and instead concentrate on dealing with some chronic health stuff while working full-time at an accounting firm.

    Sorry to be so long-winded. I love your title, Shift Happens. :D And I wish you scads and scads of sales.

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    1. I think it's important to give ourselves permission not to write. I haven't mastered this yet and I have a feeling I'll have to this fall when a new school year starts and I'm teaching 11 different subjects!! I think my balancing act will crumble. Thanks for commenting and I apologize for my late response!

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    2. Holy cow! Eleven subjects. I'm in awe of teachers -- good, caring teachers can make all this difference in someone's life. My brother is a teacher and I'd love to see him in action. Sometimes I have trouble explaining things to people, so I fear I'd make a lousy teacher. What kind of classes will you be teaching?

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    3. I'm a bit biased with my opinion on teachers! Lol! But I'm glad you appreciate them. I usually teach 3-5 different courses, but I moved provinces and I've gone from a school of 1800 students to one of 180 students! So now it's more like, what am I not teaching!! I'm teaching science 5, 7, and 9, biology 11 and 12. Math 7, 8, 9, 10 (two types), and guidance 5/6!! My writing is going to go on hiatus for a bit in the fall!!

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    4. What is Guidance?Are you in Canada? Sounds like you'll have quite a mix of ages and subjects. When I was in school a bazillion years ago I didn't have different teachers for different classes until high school. At the small Catholic school I attended from 2nd through 8th grade, there were 2 classes in each classroom. Each classroom had one teacher. I wish you well with your new teaching venture...and hope you'll be able to squeeze writing into your busy schedule.

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    5. I'm in Canada, but I'm in a very small town, too small to support an elementary and secondary school, so they're k-12 here. I just moved to sask from bc for my husbands job at the beginning of the year (feb), where I was teaching, I was strictly high school, grades 8-12. So thus will be a challenge for me. I'm not used to teaching the little ones!! Guidance is like career planning but for children, so more building skills, like how to use this program, and discovery projects, like what's this job about, and self exploration, like what kind of learner are you. I've never taught it before!

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  13. J. C. You are a true inspiration to writers and teachers everywhere!

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    1. Thank you! I hope the same can be said about me after this new school year! Lol! I've got my head in the sand and I refuse to look at it until August :-)

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