I write – a lot. I write for work as a reporter, as well as personally. Yes, that includes fiction, journals, permission slips, love notes for my kids and husband, memos and blogs (what you’re reading now – ta-da!).
Writing, if we’re going to get technical, makes up 60 percent of my life. The other 40 percent is with my kids and family. They do also deserve a good chunk of my existence, you know.
So how do I make sure that this made-up ratio doesn’t tilt too much towards one side? How do I ensure I write not just for work, but also personally and that I still have time to tend to my kids?
The truth is, I’m always going off balance. And I’m fine with that. I’ve come to accept that. I’ve found that going off balance is what keeps my writing – I think – healthy. Because like me, my writing life needs to be a breathing, always-evolving thing. But don’t get me wrong. There is a lot of freedom in how I write, but also some structure.
Yes, I know. Just when you were going to turn your laptop off and kick caution to the wind, thinking, “homegirl is just as messed up as I am with this crap” – I come back and throw that tire-screeching effect into the mix.
But it’s just 3 simple must-do’s that keep me going every, single day. That’s it, really. That keep me focus without the “help-I’m-drowning-in-procrastination-land-and-chaos” feeling.
1. Good Hourly Organizer. I got an hourly List Maker pad at Staples approximately two years ago that forever changed my life. Before I would randomly plug things to do in my alarm clock. I would set an alarm for 5 p.m. at 9 a.m. – only to forget by the time 5 p.m. came around what the hell was the alarm for in the first place. Enter the pad that would allow me to plug what I need to do, so that I can refer back to it when that alarm clock hit. It has been the perfect combo for me since. It’s great for how I function day-to-day. P.S. I make copies of the notepad, to ensure that I never run out. Also, since the pad paper is so small, the larger copy type lets me write other random notes on the paper. Chicken-scratch notes for life, baby.
2. Drink Lots and Lots of Water. This advice is coming out of left field, I know. But trust me. It’s saved my writing life oh-so-often. I think as writers, self-care becomes a very big issue… in that we don’t do it well enough. We suck at taking care of ourselves. I’ve learned this the hard way. Several times, when I end up with headaches from the dehydration. Our minds are an incredible organ. But they do require that we sleep, eat and drink lots of water to keep the process of thinking going. I have a theory – about water in particularly – that it keeps the functionality of it going and it’s how we write the beautiful things that we write. Ok, so maybe it’s more like this is real science as explained in this TED-Ed video. That explains how having your brain hydrated allows it to work to the best of its abilities. So don’t be like me (dreading how often I’m going to be going to bathroom) and just make sure you drink up often.
3. Adding “Reading” to Your Schedule. Yes, a writing life wouldn’t be a writing life without writing. But it wouldn’t be one either without the other flip-side of the coin – reading. If 60 percent of my day is dedicated to writing, 40 percent to family, then add another 60 percent to reading. It doesn’t add up. I know. But I’m good with writing… not math. I make sure I have a list of go-to websites – such as The Atlantic, Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, where I can read essays and other long-form content – in the morning and at night. I also keep “favorite” or “like” other articles on social, so that I can come check them out later in the day or the weekend. Just remember to go back to it and unlike or delete later, if you’re no longer into reading what you’ve saved. Reading and adding reading to your writing life schedule should be about adding some flavor to your writing life – not to make you feel guilty (about not writing enough or writing up to par), burdening you with so much to read that you’re not writing and simply reading crap. If that’s happening, start writing instead – asap. Let your thoughts and mind regroup on paper.