Balance is hard to find. Just two weeks ago, I slaved over my chapter outline seven nights a week for hours on end, feeling closer and closer to finishing. The past two weeks? Well…I’ve started redrawing my map for the islands since it’s changed from the beginning, and no, my chapter outline isn’t done. I’ve come to realize it’s far from it and my writing goals this quarter likely won’t be reached.
Of course, I’m upset about this. Not so much that I’m losing sleep every night, but I feel guilty about it daily. This is a struggle that no one really talks about as a writer. See, plenty of writers talk about the struggle of finding physical time to write, though while I’m sure I’m not alone here, I’ve heard little (if anyone at all) talk about having the mental space to write. I’m not talking about having motivation. It’s different than that. I’ll do my best to explain.
Ever since that glorious week of hard work and great progress, my mind has been elsewhere. By elsewhere I mean my day job and where to find a new one.
I’m a graphic designer with a newspaper where I do advertisement design, and three years into the job I’ve reached as far up as I can go (most people think, “Yeah right, I’m sure you can always work harder and get promoted somehow.” But be warned, my boss actually told me there is nothing else I can do and said, “Maybe we’ll get raises?”). Since it’s frowned upon to discuss the amount of money you make, I’ll just say that I don’t make a lot. I owe a lot of money in student loans (on top of rent, groceries, car bills, cell bills, etc.), and I make very, very little in comparison. I’m constantly thinking of crazy ways to make money on the side while looking for a new full-time gig. Like your average 27 year-old in a serious, long-term relationship, I want things like a dog, a wedding, a house, a family, etc. Let’s just say, there’s absolutely no chance of that happening where I am financially now.
I took this job at the paper knowing it was an entry-level job, but now that I’ve gained everything I wanted from this job, it’s time to get out. This thought consumes me on a regular basis (if I told you the amount of my student debt, you’d understand).
In my free time I battle the need for a few different activities in my life: exercise, writing and freelancing/job searching (plus being in a relationship and having a social life, but in terms of every day hobbies, those are it). I am having the hardest time maintaining a balance of consistent work in all three of those departments, (as for John, I see him every day and visit my family often when I have more time on weekends).
On average, I’m at the gym four to six days a week for an hour to an hour and a half, then I’ll come home, shower, cook, eat, get everything ready to do it all over again tomorrow, and by that time it’s 8-8:30PM and I’m either tired, itching to do my daily job search, or write.
Here’s the point I’m arriving at: my mental space shifts on a regular basis. Sometimes I focus on other things longer than others. With this promotion I recently got at work, hearing my boss tell me there’s literally nowhere else I can go, all I can think about lately is my future and job searching. Then the little person over my shoulder says “Psssstt! Hey! Maybe your book will make you lots of money, so get writing!” But I can’t argue for that guy when I need to start making more (reliable) money now.
I know I can’t be alone with this. We all have issues that take over all of our mental space. What are you strategies for finding that mental balance? Writing takes a lot of focus, and for me, I have to be able to relax to really dive into my story. I’m working on finding that balance and focus now, but the only method I seem to be able to use is riding out the waves as they crash ashore. This wave is just feeling a little more like a tsunami.