The Real Life Writer Juggling Act: Too Many Balls in the Air?

As you know, I will be MIA for the next month or so. But have no fear, dear reader, I have brought in a wonderful collection of awesome authors to fill in the gaps. They'll be sharing their wisdom and expertise on a wide variety of writing and publishing-related topics. So, sit back, relax, and make sure to take notes... There will be a test when I get back.

Today's guest post is by Denise Verrico

Denise Verrico is a New Jersey native who grew up in Pennsylvania.  She attended Point Park College in Pittsburgh, where she majored in theatre arts.  For seven seasons she was a member of The Oberon Theatre Ensemble in NYC with whom she acted, directed and wrote plays. Denise has enjoyed vampire stories from the time she was a little girl and a fan of the Dark Shadows television series and Chiller Theater.  She enjoys reading non-fiction and fiction of all kinds, particularly historical fiction, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, manga and graphic novels.  Every April through October you can find Denise climbing to heights of four hundred plus feet at speeds exceeding one hundred and twenty miles per hour on her favorite roller coasters.  She currently lives in Ohio with her husband, teenaged son and flock of seven spoiled parrots.




The Real Life Writer Juggling Act: Too Many Balls in the Air?

Everyone dreams of fame and fortune as a writer, but the reality is most writers work full time at other occupations in order to earn their livelihood.  For many of us, the demands of juggling a full-time job, family and our writing career are daunting.  Life often gets in the way.  This winter, I found myself having to move out of my house and into a much smaller townhouse.  At that time, my third book came up for editing.  I had to pack, work with my editor, go to my job as a special education aide and be a wife and mother.  It proved to be overwhelming.  Needless to say, my writing projects had to take a backseat for a while. 

So how do we do get words down on the page, not go broke and still maintain sanity and relationships?  It helps to prioritize.  Here are a few tips I’ve found to keep things in balance:

1.  Set a time during the day that is your writing time. 

I just started a new job that allows me to sleep in a bit in the morning, but gets me home later in the afternoon.  I was used to coming at 3:30, checking my e-mail, starting dinner and then sitting down to write for a couple of hours.  Now, I check the email in the morning, and I’ve adjusted my writing time to later in the evening, after dinner.  Usually, I write between eight and eleven p.m, or nine and midnight.

2.  Eliminate distractions

Find the perfect time and spot in your home where you will be undisturbed.  I write while sitting on my sofa with my laptop.  The TV is on for background noise and to entertain my parrots, but most of the time I don’t watch it.  There are a few TV programs that I watch religiously.  My cable company offers an on-demand feature for some networks that allows me to watch these programs at a convenient time.

3. Limit online time.

Social networking is a great way to keep in touch with friends and promote your work, but it can also be a drain on precious time.  When obtaining livestock on Farmville is taking precedence over your writing, you may be addicted.  I find that not having Internet access on my writing computer keeps me from wanting to play around on the web and chat instead of writing.  I have to actually get up and go down to my den to use the Internet.  A few months back. I made the mistake of getting a phone with online access and for two weeks I was obsessed with it.  Luckily, we’ve got that addiction under control.

This also goes for marketing chores.  Try to set aside a day or a limited part of the day for these.  It’s difficult when a new book is launching, because of setting up publicity and updating websites etc.  After the third book, I’m starting to get a better grasp on how to do this, and reserve a couple of days to contact bloggers and reviewers, design and order publicity materials and work on my websites.  For a nominal fee, it’s possible to hire someone to set up a blog tour for you and save time.   I’m experimenting with this option for my current tour.

4. Make time for yourself and family.

One of the plusses of my recent move was close access to a marvelous city park in the neighborhood.  My husband, son and I try to go for frequent walks on the wooded paths and visit the nature center often.  It’s free entertainment and beneficial to one’s health. 

Don’t forget the reason most of us became writers.  Writers love to read.  Read for
pleasure as well as research.  I read a lot of books in my genre, but it’s fun to read other genres for a change of pace.  When I attended the World Fantasy Con this year, I got a sack stuffed with free books.  I’d had enough of vampires for and wanted to take a break and read something different.  In college, I read a lot of high fantasy, and it was a joy to rediscover other types of fantasy. 

Remember to eat well, get enough sleep and have fun.  Go to movies, plays or
Concerts, you don’t have to spend a fortune.  There are free outdoor events in summer.  Schools, colleges and universities offer lots of free or low-priced entertainment.  Pursue your hobbies and interests.  I ride roller coasters and keep exotic birds.   You have to take care of your mental and physical health.  This is vital to keeping things in balance.

5. Learn to say no.

There is nothing wrong in a polite refusal.  If you can’t arrange the next school fundraiser, don’t feel guilty.  I’m committed to promoting other authors at my blog.  For a while, I was devoting two posts a week to this, but it turned out to be more than I could handle.  Now, I generally only run one guest spot a week.  I still schedule the spots, but in a time frame that works for my schedule.  I don’t generally review books either, because of limited time.

6.Keep your overhead low and expenditures to a minimum.

Don’t live beyond your means in pursuit of your writing.  I try to treat my writing career as a business.  Ultimately, I want to turn a profit.  With that in mind, I keep my costs low.  I limit my events to places that I can drive to in a few hours and if possible stay with a friend or relative.  Doing so, I get the added bonus of spending time with a loved one.  There are many places you can promote your books at no or low cost.  I enjoy participating on panels.  Some conventions comp admission to panelists.  Libraries love writers and often have no budget to host them.  They’re happy to have you come to their library.  This is especially true in small towns.  I’ve come up with a fun PowerPoint presentation on vampire lore that is popular at Halloween.  I’ve also taught writing workshops for teens. 

You have to decide how much of your income you’re willing and able to invest in your business.  Yes, I can’t resist some of those Vistaprint sales, but I only order swag a few times a year and try to find materials that can also be prizes in giveaways.  I limit the amount of free books I give, but I’m developing an e-book of short stories based on my series characters that I will give out when I promote my fourth book.  If you have the income to invest in lots of freebies that’s fine, but in this economy many of us are making do with less.

I’ve found that flexibility is the key in making all the elements of a writer’s life peacefully coexist.  There is always room for improvement.  If you have any thoughts on this, please share them.  I welcome your comments and tips.

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