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Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.

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Like most writers, I’m often glued to a computer.

I don’t need medical science to tell me this isn’t good. Before I went to Romania for a Horror Writer’s Workshop in Transylvania, I was getting migraine headaches almost everyday.

Since I’ve been abroad, I’ve hardly gotten any.

My life at home is horribly out of balance. I write to pay the bills, but  I also have two novels-in-progress and four that need a rewrite.

Not to mention all the marketing that needs to be done.

This doesn’t leave a lot of time for errands, cleaning, and yard work, so in spite of my best intentions, my weekends are filled with endless to-do lists. To get everything done would require working fourteen hours a day on both Saturday and Sunday, but of course I fail. My brief “break” usually turns into a full-on crash.

I always feel like I’m behind the eight-ball. By the time I get around to doing laundry, it’s an insurmountable chore. Every time I promise myself I’m going to stay on top of it, but when more pressing tasks are waiting, it’s easiest to put it off. Again.

The easiest solution would be to hire cleaning and/or laundry help, but it seems foolish to spend that kind of money on something I could do myself. When we move to the island next year, every penny we’ve been able to save will count.

I’m tempted to put all my new projects on hold in order to make sure I finish the rewrites on those four other books and get them out into the world, but I don’t feel good about not writing for the rest of the year.

How do you balance everything that needs to get done? I’m sure some of you struggle with the same things–I’m hoping at least one of you has found a solution.

I can’t even imagine how people with kids cope. I only have to worry about taking care of myself (and three cats, but as long as they get food and love, they’re fairly low maintenance.)

Help!

PS – If you missed them, check out my posts about the Horror Writer’s Workshop in Transylvania. You can find the first one here.

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30 Comments

  1. Lexa Cain

    I hear you! Sometimes my ambition and expectations of myself get out of control, and then I’m usually in for a big, depressing crash. It’s hard to accept we cannot do all things, and will never do some things well, but I think accepting limitations is key. For you, it seems prioritizing would be good. What will make you happiest – getting new books out? Writing new things? Getting a bit of help around the house? Whatever would make you happy – do it!

    Reply
    • JH

      I have to figure that out, Lexa. Right now everything seems like top priority, and the stuff that isn’t (like posting pictures of my travels, which I always get harassed about) just never gets done.

      Thanks for the kind words! Much appreciated.

      Reply
  2. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    I don’t know how people with kids get it done either.
    It is all about balance. And finding where you can pull back or disperse with altogether. I work a full time job on top of everything, plus my band, so I really have to keep things at an even balance.

    Reply
    • JH

      What have you pulled back on or gotten rid of, Alex? I know you’re not on Facebook…I’m guessing that saves you a ton of time!

      Reply
  3. Jason

    I’m lucky in that my regular job has enough lulls that I can sneak writing time in.

    Reply
    • JH

      That is lucky, Jason. I used to be able to balance my journalism and day job that way, but never could write fiction in the office.

      Reply
    • JH

      I’m the same way. I’ll get in a mood and spent hours weeding both the front and back yard, or getting those piles of laundry done. On those weekends, what I don’t do is relax or have any fun.

      Reply
  4. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    I tend to feel like I’m behind a lot, too, so I don’t have any real answers. I’m just trying to pay attention to my rhythms, listen to my body, and not beat myself up so much. Also, trimming that to-do list by asking if all the things on it really do need to get done.

    By the way, I have said this exact same thing – “The easiest solution would be to hire cleaning and/or laundry help, but it seems foolish to spend that kind of money on something I could do myself.” 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      I’m starting to think maybe it isn’t so foolish. What’s more valuable when it comes down to it…our money or our time? Although, I was one of those crazy people who straightened everything up before the cleaners came over, so I’m not sure how much time it would really save.

      Reply
  5. Toi Thomas

    I have no idea how people with kids do it either, although some people seem to think I have kids because I’m all the time doing stuff with my nieces and nephews. I can’t balance either, even though I try. Every so often I get a little caught up, but it doesn’t last long. As I wrote today, I keep piling on hope to better my situation. I’m afraid to back down. I wish I had an answer.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too, Toi, but it’s good of you to spend all that time with your nieces and nephews. That’s what life is all about. The dirty dishes aren’t going anywhere, but those kids are growing up.

      Reply
  6. Chrys Fey

    I wish my writing could pay the bills but my royalties are pretty pathetic.

    Being away for a long time can sure pile on a lot of stuff to our to-do lists. I hope you can catch up and get back to writing!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Chrys. Me too. It’s my non-fiction writing that pays the bills. My fiction royalties? It is to laugh! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Haneen Ibrahim

    OMG! I do everything on snail pace, and things just keep piling, I multi-function like a crazy cyborg mad scientist and of course nothing is done. So this year I decided I had enough. I’m going to do only 3 tasks a day no matter how busy and pressed for time I am, and for the first time in my life: Progress. I’m even happier and much more relaxed. It’s better to finish three tasks perfectly than aim at seven and do a lousy work. Hope this helps.

    Reply
    • JH

      That sounds like a great idea, Haneen. After my client work is done, I usually only have time for two tasks, and even those exhaust me half the time. But I’m not going to give up. Better to get one thing accomplished than have seven on the list and get nothing done, I agree.

      Reply
  8. Heather M. Gardner

    Wow! I can so relate.
    There is no real balance, I just know it all gets clean and it all gets dirty and it all gets clean again.
    1 chore a day makes a few a week!
    4 cats, 1 kid and 1 husband. We just have to make it work!

    I need to go back and finish reading about your workshop!

    Heather

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Heather! Cleaning is usually the lowest on my list, I have to say. It bugs me, and I feel guilty, but there’s simply too many other things that take priority.

      I have three cats, so I feel your pain. Will they ever stop shedding and puking? 😉 Still, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

      Reply
  9. Birgit

    First off…breathe! Take 3 deep breaths in and 3 out. Housework will always be there, do the minimum so you can concentrate on your books. I have dust bunnies and little messes. It can feel overwhelming because I feel guilty that I am not cleaning and have a “House Beautiful”. My home is more of a “Bless this mess” style. Sends my hubby round the bend. One thing I do…I take 15 minutes and do the bathroom. I then will concentrate on something that needs to get done (like you need to do your writing). I will take a break, eat and then spend 15 min. doing a quick dusting. It doesn’t all get done at once but at least there are no cobwebs or 5 inches of dust around. Write down what you feel you must get done, put it away and then a day or later look at it with fresh eyes and prioritise. Sometimes that works. When all else fails, sit down, have 3 or more glasses of wine and watch a movie or read a good book:)

    Reply
    • JH

      Great suggestions, Birgit, thank you! I like the idea of your “Bless this Mess” approach to housecleaning. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Samantha Bryant (@mirymom1)

    Finding and re-finding balance is the story of my life. As soon as you think you’ve got it, life throws another curveball. It’s important though to recognize it. My tactic right now, is to give different aspects of life my fuller attention in turn. Maybe Monday is hardcore writing day, Tuesday house and life errands, Wednesday promotion, etc. When I’m on summer vacation (I teach), then I schedule portions of days as devoted to different things. I have to write every day or I’m a grump-a-saurus rex, but I don’t always have to write for the entire day to feel satisfied.

    Reply
    • JH

      That sounds like a good idea, Samantha. I think I’ll look at my schedule and see if I can give that a try.

      Reply
  11. Patricia Lynne

    I have yet to find balance either. House chores always get pushed off in favor of writing, and my ideas of setting aside a day to do them often don’t happen. We need clones, that’s the solution… or the start of a horror story. 😉

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes! Clones…or inexpensive, unobtrusive maids.

      Reply
  12. Tara Tyler

    prioritize and lower those expectations – we can only do so much with the time we are given. clean a little, work a little, relax a little, repeat a lot!

    relating to this post! good luck to us!

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s the problem, Tara–everything seems to be top priority right now. Client work, which pays the bills, obviously has to come first. But my #1 goal is to make a living writing novels, so obviously writing is very important. And if I don’t rewrite and market those books, it’s as if they were never written.

      You see my quandary, I hope. Unfortunately, the things that keep suffering are those which are most important to one’s quality of life–recreation, exercise, friends, family.

      I need all the luck I can get. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Jaime

    I wish I was commenting with an awesome solution, but sadly I am just adding myself to the list of people who say, “I totally get it!!” I often feel determined, then overwhelmed, then tired, then totally behind…and so on. I work a part time job, and am trying to find time to launch my writing/art stuff in addition to having up to five kids running around, depending on the day. Mostly it feels like my life takes place in a zoo exhibit. My biggest pep talk I give myself (after Hey, at least you’re still here!!) is that every little step forward is a STEP FORWARD! No matter how small, it’s still more than I did yesterday or 6 months ago. All those little steps taken have added up to the point I am at now, and even if I just continued doing the small steps I am doing today, I would have SO much accomplished by next year at this time.

    And my house is a mess, usually. The clutter is the thing I can’t stand. As long as the floors are clean and the clutter is contained (sometimes even stashed out of sight!) I can function. Plus, my older minions…uh, kids…are responsible for laundry and dishes daily, plus their bedrooms. So those tasks don’t take over my mind.

    (However, my office is also in the room with the stairs leading to the kids’ rooms, so there are times when I have to ban them from using the stairs so I can get a moment’s peace. Haha)

    I just have to accept that I am human and I expect way more out of myself than any normal sane person would. It’s a daily battle for balance, and one I have a feeling ALL us creative types fight. The good news is, it appears we fight the battle together, not alone 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Wow, Jaime. I can’t even imagine how you juggle everything with five kids. I couldn’t handle one–cats are enough for me, and they can’t talk back. Well, not in English, at least.

      I can confirm that it’s totally normal for people (not even just creative types) to expect too much of themselves and feel miserable when they fall short. But that doesn’t make it feel any better when it happens, does it? I wish I had some solutions for this stuff. I’m terrified that one day my life will end, and I’ll have missed the whole thing because I was so busy “getting stuff done.”

      Reply
  14. C. Lee McKenzie

    I try to prioritize, and things like laundry or dishes are at the bottom of my To Do list. I do put exercise at the top just after “Write That Damned Book.” But I’m never satisfied with my progress or what I think I’ve accomplished. I often cut out sleep to get caught up, but then I suffer. My friends often read the obits to see if I’m still among the living.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ha! I can relate, Lee. I’m pretty good at keeping up with my friends (I hope), but I don’t call my mother as often as I should.

      Sometimes I get glued to the computer and exercise falls to the wayside, but I’m determined to change that.

      Reply

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