Tag Archive for: work-life-balance

Getting a Life

by Linda Rodriguez
I just crashed. I slept late. I couldn’t get myself moving on
anything I had to do, not this blog post or another guest blog that’s
due, not my usual stint on the WIP, not any of the several business
emails I needed to take care of, not trying to clear some of the
clutter and mess that have collected in my house as I’ve launched
and promoted two books while writing yet another, taking care of a
slew of freelance commitments, and preparing and teaching several
workshops. Usually I rise early, take a deep breath, gird my loins
for the day’s battle with the endless to-do list, and kick into
overdrive, but yesterday I couldn’t muster the energy or the will
to do much of anything productive. This is not like me.

driving with my husband past Kansas City’s Plaza, which is a
premier pedestrian shopping mall/outdoor art gallery full of
fountains, intricate and colorful Spanish tiles, ornate buildings,
and beautiful sculptures, I reminisced sadly about the good times we
used to have walking the Plaza and sitting on one of the many benches
to watch the parade of people. I reminded my husband of the fun we
had taking picnic lunches to some of Kansas City’s many great parks
to enjoy after a refreshing walk. I waxed nostalgic over the weekend
day trips we used to make to explore lovely small towns all around
the Kansas City area—I’ve given many of their best features to my
fictional town in my Skeet Bannion series of novels. The strange
thing is that, though we don’t do any of those things any longer
due to lack of time, we used to do them when I had an
ultra-demanding, 60-70-hour per week university job. Now that I’m a
full-time writer, however, I have no time to enjoy leisure activities
with my husband or any of the other things I used to do to make a
real life—cooking, fiberart, gardening, going to Shakespeare or
concerts in the park, lunches with friends, etc.

did this terrible imbalance in my life occur? Isn’t one of the joys
of being a full-time writer supposed to be the flexibility of time
that allows you to lead a fuller, richer life? How did I manage with
that old job and all its hours and responsibilities to weave in time
for recreation and fun, time with family and friends, time to feed
the creative well inside me, yet now I can hardly find time to even
wash dishes or do laundry, the minimal tasks required to keep us from
sinking into total chaos?

If I
were just writing my books, I would have time to enjoy some of these
activities still, but I have to promote those books in an effort to
constantly increase sales. Publishers are dumping, left and right,
amazing writers who have received impressive reviews and award
nominations because their sales are just not spectacular enough. So I
have to work harder to try to get the word out about my books and
persuade new people to try them. The writing and publishing (with its
line edits, copy edits, and page proofs) when combined with the
promotion and marketing (with its touring, social media, conferences,
and events) are two full-time jobs. Since my writing career is still
not earning enough to support me, I must take on freelance
writing/editing/evaluating/judging/teaching contracts, yet another
full-time job. It’s no wonder I’m so tired!

hardly the only writer in this predicament. Writers who are far more
successful and have been doing this for far longer than I have are
facing the same dilemma. The Sisters in Crime listserv periodically
rings with the cries of authors who have run out of steam trying to
do all of this. Some are even seriously thinking of giving up
writing, which they love, because they just don’t think they can do
all of it any longer.

As a
country, we are moving more and more to a freelance or independent
contractor environment, where we don’t have paid vacation and sick
days and where we can find ourselves working all the time—or
feeling as if we ought to be. How do we make a go of this kind of
career and still have any kind of life outside of work?

the first to admit I don’t have the answers to that question. I
will be spending my next few days trying to find some, however. How
we spend our time is our actual life, even if we think we’re just
doing it until we
bring in enough money or reach a certain level of success. I intend
to find a way to bring those elements of a real, lived life back into
mine. Can I do it without shortchanging the efforts I need to put
into my writing and promotion of my work to create a successful
career? I’ll have to find a way.

do you manage that career-personal life balance that can be so
difficult to get right?
Linda Rodriguez’s Plotting the
Character-Driven Novel,
based on her popular workshop, and The
World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East
an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Every Family
, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police
chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear in autumn, 2017. Her three earlier
Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust,
and Every Last Secret—and
her books of poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have
received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s
Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International
Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices
& Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and
Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.
Her short story, “The Good
Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has
been optioned for


Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP
Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter
of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers
Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International
Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and
Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at

Does Work Life Balance Exist?

by Sparkle Abbey

If you follow us on Facebook, you know we just returned from
our first NINC (Novelists, Inc.) conference in St. Petersburg, FL. We had an
amazing time exploring beaches, enjoying local hangouts, and learning from our
fellow authors. We returned to Iowa with dozens of seashells and major brain

We attended workshops on business, marketing, and
creativity. We learned that we need to do a better job of cultivating our
mailing list (sign up here), how to
create engaging Facebook ads, new strategies for a launching book #9 (we’re
still kicking around titles so if you have one, please share it!), and
discovering new readers. We also attended a workshop on balancing two careers
by speakers Dr. Debra Holland, Heidi Joy Trethaway, and Dr. Jennifer Barnes.

Since we both still have full-time day jobs, we’re always
seeking ways to stay sane while writing the best books we can, and still giving
one hundred percent at work. It’s hard enough managing work-life balance with
one career, but add a thriving writing career in the mix and all bets are off. Thankfully, all three authors offered
practical advice on following your intuition, self-care, and weighing the cost
of taking on new projects.

Heidi Joy offered a super easy tip that resonated
with us. She suggested that if you’re going to add a new project or task, try
and subtract one that you’re already doing. What a great idea! We took it a
step further and added that if we can’t subtract anything, then maybe we needed
to say no. Now, that’s easy in theory and much more difficult in practice.
We’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to participate in special writing
projects, speaking engagements, and book fairs. We hate to say no because we
love it all, but the whole idea of subtracting before adding is a great starting point.

They also talked about being kind to ourselves, which is
something many of us, not just writers, overlook. We get so caught up in being
there for others, meeting deadlines, and multi-tasking to stay productive that
we forget to set aside time for ourselves. Or we obsess about what we did wrong
that we fail to acknowledge what we did right. If you don’t even know where to
start here are 17 ways to be
kind to yourself
. Let us know what you think.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or have given on
finding work-life balance? 

Sparkle Abbey
the pseudonym of two mystery authors (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). They
are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery
Series. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue
pets–Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). If you want to make
sure you’re up on all the Sparkle Abbey news, stop by their website and sign up
for updates at 

Embracing the Change

by J.M. Phillippe

Like many other writers, I have a day job. I am a social worker and have spent the last four years working in child welfare. While this can be a very rewarding field to work in, it is also a very draining field to work in. Self-care is a constant challenge due to the demands of the job. When you rarely get time for lunch, it is even harder to make time for writing — which has not been good for me, or my publishing schedule. 
It’s not just the hours, which are long, or the paperwork, which even the most prolific of writers would find daunting to keep up with — it’s that the constant stress leaves you so little mental energy to dig into character and conflict. Writing is work, of course, but it began to feel like more work than it ever had before. 
Every writer, regardless of their outside life, struggles to fit writing into that life. Writing is a very time consuming enterprise, and much of that time is spent away from other people, and away from the maintenance of every day living. It’s hard to write and do dishes at the same time (though so easy to get dishes done when you are avoiding a particularly challenging writing session). Time spent writing is time AWAY. You have to have the time to spare (or the ability to create it).  I was running out of away time to dedicate to writing (or laundry, which was piling up on the regular). Something had to give. 
So I sought out and found a new job at a mental health clinic — I will now be working as a therapist full time. What I am hoping this means is that I will have more time — and energy — for writing. 
And yet, change is hard. Change makes people very uncomfortable. (As someone who helps people change their lives for a living, I can attest that most people find it at best, a frustrating experience). So even though I’m very excited for this change, I am also nervous. What if this doesn’t work out the way I hope it will? What if I start to feel burned out again? What if I don’t make time for writing in this new schedule? 
Change comes with risk — it invites the unknown into your life. It leaves variables on the table that only time and experience can solve. And at this point, I’m still not sure what X will turn out to be. 
It feels very much like sitting down to write a new story with only a vague outline in mind, and no real idea how it’s going to end. So you’d think I’d be used to this feeling, used to facing down the unknown. The very act of writing is the act of embracing change over and over, solving for x time and time again. Writing is meant to be uncomfortable and challenging, or else it wouldn’t also be rewarding. Change, like writing, is hard every single time. It also is the only way that something new, and potentially amazing, can happen. 
Here’s to opening the door and inviting in the amazing!

J.M. Phillippe is the author of Perfect Likeness and the newly released short story The Sight. She has lived in the deserts of California, the suburbs of Seattle, and the mad rush of New York City. She worked as a freelance journalist before earning a masters’ in social work. She works as a family therapist in Brooklyn, New York and spends her free-time decorating her tiny apartment to her cat Oscar Wilde’s liking, drinking cider at her favorite British-style pub, and training to be the next Karate Kid, one wax-on at a time.