Chloe Neill ( Photo credit: Dana Damewood)
Let’s get the disclaimer out there and up front: I have absolutely no clue how to find balance in a writing life. But I’m trying to learn.
I have a full time (plus) dayjob, and a very full writing life. I’ve written a YA series (Dark Elite), a PNR/UF series (Chicagoland Vampires), and I’m hoping to announce my next project within the next couple of weeks. That one will intersect with CV, so I’ll be writing two projects at a time. Not unusual for a genre author, but not the easiest course for someone with a dayjob.
So, yeah. Professionally, I lead a pretty full life.
I try to compartmentalize the professions as much as possible. Daylight hours during the week are for the dayjob. Evenings and weekends are for writing. Obviously, the divisions aren’t always that clean: my editor may need to discuss a project during business hours, and a dayjob emergency may bleed through to the weekend. There’s fluidity to both jobs, which means I spend a lot of time at both of them.
My very well-intentioned husband calls me a “workaholic.” Undoubtedly, I devote a lot of my time to one job or the other. And although I’m flattered by what he clearly believes is my solid worth ethic, I don’t really care for the word. It suggests one works solely because one is addicted to it, maybe because addict fears stepping aside from the job(s) and engaging in other portions of his life, maybe because the addict’s self worth is derived primarily from the job.
I work hard—and often—because both jobs, by their nature, require it. If there was a way to build a novel, a series, a fandom, with three hours a week of effort, I’d be exercising a hell of a lot more in my newfound free time. J But it hasn’t worked that way for me, and I doubt it works that way for many.
Writing success is, in large part, measured by the effort you put into it. Not just writing a marketable novel, which obviously requires a good chunk of time (and luck), but continuing to writ, edit, and tweak a manuscript when you don’t want to look at it anymore. Blogging when you’d rather be walking the dogs on a gorgeous spring day. Engaging with readers even if you’re an introvert. Putting together a marketing plan when you’d rather dive into the book you preordered online, which is still boxed and waiting on the counter.
I’m definitely a believer that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing all the way. I try not to halfass either job. In addition to not being a good strategy for long-term success, halfassery is insulting both to colleagues and readers.
That said, as I’m editing my thirteenth novel, I’m also learning to let myself breathe. I’m learning that a few hours of rest—and maybe even a nap!—on a Saturday afternoon isn’t going to be the death of a manuscript. Chances are slim I’ll ever look back at a project and think, “Wow, the result would have been entirely different if only I’d not spent two hours that Saturday in February resting and reading.” In those thirteen novels, I don’t even remember the times I decided to rest instead of work.
Books and careers are built in slow slogs of time, built layer upon layer like fine sediment. Life still has to be lived in the meantime, and that’s fine.
This year, I won’t be visiting as many conferences as I’d like to. But my husband and I will be able to take a vacation together. I write/edit two books a year, and I could probably push it to three. But that’s only going to burn me out, negatively affect my health, and certainly not be positive for any of my relationships – or my dayjob.
Working “all the way”, I’m learning, doesn’t mean working to the exclusion of everything else. It means that every hour of the day presents a choice: to advance a project, to plan a new one, or to give yourself a chance to breathe, to be present in the world. And it means that all those options are valid and important.