Balance is a tricky thing. It can be so difficult to dedicate time to writing in between work, university, school, housework, family duties, catching up with friends, and all the other busy things we have to do in our life. All the time we (or at least I) find ‘helpful’ tips for how to fit writing into our lives: ‘write during your lunch break’, ‘wake up early every morning and write for an hour before your kids wake up’, ‘replace TV with writing’, ‘carry a notebook with you and write during your commute’. Here’s the thing, it might just be me, but I struggle to operate this way. I always have. When I studied music in year 12 people told me to wake up an hour early to practice for an hour, to practice every lunch break and recess, to practice after school for an hour every day. I tried, I really did. But I just couldn’t do it. All I find is I get too stressed and too tired, then miss a day, then get even more stressed, and then eventually give up and decide to sleep in, enjoy my lunch breaks and do something else in the afternoon. It’s the same with writing.
To me, it seems as though people everywhere want us to challenge the complaint ‘there just aren’t enough hours in the day’ by expanding our days to fit everything else in. “Wake up a 6am to write for an hour.” “Oh actually, wake up at 5am to exercise for an hour, and then write.” “After you’ve put the kids to bed, spend another hour writing/working/practicing/exercising.” “Don’t forget to read for at least 30 minutes before you go to bed.”
I don’t know about you, but I just cannot work that way. I think, instead of trying to adapt our lives around our schedules, we should adapt our schedules around our lives. Spending time on work or writing is important, as a university student and ambitious writer I know that all too well. But it is equally important to look after ourselves. After all, there comes a time where all those early mornings and late nights catch up with us, and we are forced to take time away to let ourselves heal. It’s happened to me far more times than I wish to admit, and is still a lesson I am trying to learn. When I was in year 12 (year 12 was a big learning year for me) I realised very quickly that I wasn’t one of those people who could wake up early, study, go to school, study, eat dinner, study, and then go to bed. Instead, I found what works for me. I arrived at school early to see my friends, I studied during the day, I enjoyed my lunch breaks, I worked after school until 6pm, but as soon as the clock hit 6pm on a weeknight, that was it. The books were away. I didn’t work on weekends unless it was completely necessary. And as a result, I managed to make it through most of year 12 without breakdowns, and I walked away at the end with an ATAR I was happy with and acceptance into the degree I wanted. I take the same approach to university, and to writing.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, and being willing to sacrifice things occasionally to make this success happen. But there is something wrong with sacrificing the rest of your life and putting your physical and mental health at risk in order to meet the unrealistic expectations of yourself or society. You should find out what works for you, not what works for somebody else. Finding the writing/life balance isn’t only about finding time for writing in the busy days that make up our lives, it’s also about finding time for life in between all the items on our ‘to do lists’.
What do you think? How do you find the writing/life balance? Can you make schedules, wake up early, and give up your lunch breaks for your craft, or do you, like me, need space to just…live? Any tips?