Balance. It’s a topic I’ve blogged about before. More than once, actually. It’s a topic worth blogging about again. Why? Because some comments I received on my last blog postreminded me that balance is a topic that is vitally important. If you didn’t read my last post, I talked about the importance of having a blog or website as part of your author platform. My readers reminded me how difficult it is to do all the things we have to do and be able to make time to write.
Balance is always, always, always going to be an issue for every single one of us. Very few of us are exclusively writers. We’re also parents, children, spouses, and employees. We all have other responsibilities. It’s hard to juggle everything without sometimes dropping at least one ball. Though there are times we might be able to juggle all our various responsibilities, eventually our arms are going to get tired. Balance isn’t just about doing everything we have to do, it’s about also finding time to do the things we want to do.
Even if you don’t have a job or a spouse or kids or family, you’re still a human being. You need to nurture your body and mind. You still need to find balance. And, there will still be times you either can’t find the time to write, or you feel guilty for not writing enough.
Guilt is a huge issue for me. I feel guilty for being on Facebook when I should be writing. I feel guilty for writing when I should be bringing our household up to minimum standards of cleanliness. I feel guilty for watching television when I should be marketing my book. Even when I am doing something productive, I feel guilty for not being the best mom, wife, housekeeper, bread-winner, author, or friend.
If you’re rapidly scanning this blog post looking for a magic cure to all your balance problems, I’m sorry to disappoint you. There is no right answer. There’s no perfect schedule for you to follow. There will always be conflicts in your life and you will constantly have to readjust your priorities and juggle your hopes, dreams, and responsibilities.
But, wait! I won’t send you away empty-handed. I do have something to give you.
I’m giving you permission NOT to feel guilty. Permission to ignore the bloggers who tell you it’s necessary to write every single day in order to be a real writer. Permission to ignore the experts who say you must commit a certain number of hours to marketing. Permission to order pizza because you’re finally in the zone with your writing and you don’t want to stop to make dinner. Permission to take care of your own health without feeling guilty about going for two weeks without writing a single word.
This doesn’t mean giving up on your dream or wallowing in excuses. If you want to be a writer, you’re still going to have to write. But, if you’re working a full time job, coaching a football team, waking up in the middle of the night with an infant, and checking in on an elderly relative every day after work, you probably won’t be able to devote as much time to writing as someone with a less demanding schedule. Does that make you less of a writer? No.
Squeeze your writing in when you can. If you commit to a deadline, be sure to add in a little wiggle room because you never know what life might throw at you. Adjust and readjust your schedule as necessary. And, most importantly, take time out to do the things that give you joy–without feeling guilty–because, if you don’t, you haven’t achieved balance.
Balance means finding a happy place where you’re able to do most of the things you need to do WHILE still finding time to do some of the things you want to do WHILE still finding time to rest, relax, and recharge.
Simple, right? Nope. Nothing worth having is ever easy. Finding that elusive balance is tough, but worth fighting for. We can do it.
If you have any suggestions, tips, or advice on how to find balance, leave a comment. Or, if you’re stressed to the max with all the things you have to do, leave a comment. Vent. Let it all out. I’ll give you permission to slack off on writing/ housework/ whatever. This is a guilt-free zone.
As a newbie writer, I resisted the pull of social media for as long as I possibly could. I avoided Facebook, had no clue what Twitter was used for, and shunned the internet altogether. For me, the internet was a necessary evil, a large-scale phone book I referred to when I needed to look up directions or a phone number. I was utterly un-Google-able. You couldn’t find me anywhere in cyberspace.
Eventually, I branched out, signing up for different online writers’ groups. At the urging of one of my local writers’ groups, I even set up a blog. Facebook and Twitter came later–much later. Maybe too late.
When I began querying my first novel, I had no author platform, no beta readers, and no clue what I was supposed to be doing. I’ve since discovered an author platform is essential. Some experts advise new writers to set up their blog, Facebook author page, and Twitter account BEFORE they finish their first book. By the time you’re ready to query, your author platform should already be in place. Agents will Google you. They will check out your author platform. What will agents find when they search for you?
If you don’t have an author platform, it isn’t too late. But, where do you start? How much is too much? What does a new author really need? I think most social media gurus would agree a Facebook presence and Twitter account are musts. Do you have to set up an Author Page on Facebook right away? No. But, it’s something to consider. Here’s something else to consider–if you’re going to set up a social media platform, commit to it.
Don’t start an Author Page and then abandon it after one post and ten likes. Your Twitter account will look a bit silly if you only have seventeen followers and your only Tweet says, “I don’t know how to work this Twitter thing.” Yeah, some of you might be laughing, but that’s what my Twitter account looked like for six months. It takes a while to expand your audience on Facebook or to attract lots of Twitter followers, but keep at it.
What about a website or a blog?
A blog is a stream of separate posts. It’s articles, random thoughts, poetry, short stories… whatever you want. A website is for static content. For some authors, a blog is part of their website. They have pages with static content and one blog page where they post updates and articles. Many authors use a simple WordPress or Blogger blog in place of a website. Other authors don’t blog at all. They set up a website and only update information when necessary.
Personally, I think a website or blog is important. Is it necessary for you to spend hundreds of dollars to set up a fancy website with all the bells and whistles? Absolutely not. WordPress, Weebly, and Wix have free templates you can use to set up your own website or blog. For a fee, you can register your own domain name (example: http://www.awesomeauthor.com). Or, you can stick with a free set-up (example: awesomeauthor.wordpress.com) Either way, I think you need a place readers (or agents) can go to find out about you and your amazing talent.
Wondering what you should put on your website or blog?
You’ll need an “About the Author” page where you’ll list your bio. For the published author, you’ll want a page (or pages) to display your book (or books). Published and unpublished authors can list works-in-progress. You can also add pages for short stories, poetry, helpful links, or anything else that adds to your image as a professional, serious writer. Of course, you’ll also want to prominently display your social media links–Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc.
What about your blog?
If you choose to blog, you can link this to your website. Or, you can set up a separate blog. I have a website and a blog. My static content lives on Weebly. My blog is here on WordPress. Why? Because Weebly has lots of pretty templates I can use to best display my static content. But, it’s much easier to foster a sense of community on WordPress. Other bloggers can find you on WordPress. On Weebly, it’s much less likely readers will accidentally stumble across your content. I’ve made friends on WordPress I never would have met if it wasn’t for our blogs.
Still not sure if you need a blog or website? Or both?
It all comes down to personal preference. If you’re just starting out as a writer, a simple blog with a couple of pages is probably enough. You can always set up a website later. Once you’ve published a book or two, it’s nice to have a website to organize your content and showcase your accomplishments. A website can be simple or dynamic. That’s entirely up to you.
You don’t have to have a blog. Or a website. Or anything at all. But, if an agent wants to research you, what do you want them to find? Setting up a website or blog allows you to control some of the content available on the internet. And, it tells agents, publishers, and readers that you are a serious, professional writer.