Work-Life (and Writing) Balance
by Yen Ooi
Let’s face it. The majority of writers today hold ‘day jobs’ of some sort that brings in money to help them survive. In a recent article in The Guardian (UK) http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/17/writers-earn-less-than-600-a-year?], we read that writers earn less than £600 a year. That’s atrocious.
So, how do writers juggle (paid) work, life, and writing?
Firstly, it’s important to realize that writing is work, too, even if it doesn’t pay yet. The great thing is that writing is a passion as well, so it probably doesn’t feel tedious, like other work.
Where there is flexibility, judge how you can devote time to both your day job and your writing. Consider how much time you feel is healthy for you to spend working. Forty hours a week? Sixty? Eighty? A hundred? Whatever you decide, test it out and then review it every few months—thinking up a number is very different from working it. Writers are human, and we all need entertainment, rest, and physical activities.
Once you’ve decided on a feasible schedule, you just need a little bit of organization and discipline to maintain these hours for your work (including your writing).
There is a small exception here. Writing has many phases, and writers tend to think a lot about their writing before they sit down and write. I call this the ‘brewing’ time. Brewing time doesn’t need to be allocated in the hours you set aside. This can happen everywhere, at anytime.
So, theoretically, if you decide to work 40 hours a week, and you hold a full-time job that takes up 32 hours a week, you still have 8 hours of physical writing time. This adds up to a full-day’s work, which is plenty.
If you hold jobs that are more sporadic in hours, then try and plan a week ahead. Fill in your (paid) work hours, then go in and work out a schedule for writing. Try and keep them to comfortable units of time that are achievable—for example, I like two hour slots. And, if you’re juggling a few writing projects at a time, make sure that you allocate specific projects to your schedule, not just ‘writing.’
Though writing is a passion for most writers, and may not pay yet, we need to treat the process and ourselves with respect. A healthy writer writes best, and maintaining physical and emotional health means balance in your career, your social life, and your creative outlets. And, consider this: if you don’t make time for your social life, then where are you going to get your writing ideas from?
Yen Ooi is an author and regular contributor to the Spectacle newsletter. Learn more about her and her work here!