Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Finding Balance

I was looking for an image of justice scales and got a pile of lizard and snake images, plus this one which I figure will do because we all wish we could just bask in the sun, don't we?

But we have to work. Even if we're writing--which honestly feels to me like basking in the sun on a lazy river--we're still working.

You'd think sitting in a chair wouldn't be that physically demanding, but apparently, when you put in the kind of time I do at a computer, your back starts to feel about as flexible as our friend's here.

About a month ago, when my lower back went on strike, I faced that I was not so much basking as running flat out on my log. You know how that game ends. (Bloop, splash, glug.) My body made sure I received the message by saying, No, each time I sat down at my computer. It kind of shouted at me in a really mean voice that brought tears to my eyes.

What's pathetic here is, I'm an old hand at managing burn out. So after briefly trying to ignore it, I faced that I needed to renege on some commitments. This blog was one of them, but I see today that my spot wasn't taken.

One of the reasons I overcommit is because I like writing in all its forms, even blogging. So shhh, don't tell my back, but I'm taking this opportunity to remind both of us how to achieve a decent work-writing-life balance.

  1. Go outside. Walking is preferred, or some other form of exercise, but build 30-60 mins into your day to breathe fresh air away from electronics and other distractions. (I'll make an exception for a camera and yes, you're allowed to take photos for your blog, but go outside, rain or shine.) Bonus points if you take someone you love. Yes, your dog counts.
  2. Find an exercise regimen you can stand. I lift weights twice a week, but also do pilates and yoga off a video. It doesn't have to be expensive. It just needs to make your body do something other than type. 
  3. Make time for your loved ones. I'm including it to remind myself as this one is really challenging for me. My husband works really weird shifts. When he finally does have time off, it's often my midweek where I'm working, running kids hither and thither, and yeah, I have books to write as well as blogs and email and oh, yeah, the banking... It's super easy to shut the door on my writing room and not interact with anyone until bedtime. 
  4. Make an Artist Date with yourself. This kind of 'me' time often turns into retail therapy for me, but we live really rural so when I take myself into a bigger centre, I don't stop at coffee and pie. These should be more about filling the well: browsing book stores and museums and other places that will provide artistic fodder.
  5. Give yourself a specific day off. Mine is Friday night. I'm quite disciplined through the week and weekends are wall-to-wall writing for me, but Friday night is a glass of wine and a movie.

There ya go. A few thoughts on how to keep yourself from burning out. I was also going to say, 'Learn to say no,' but you can see I'm not exactly the poster-child for that one.

Did you have any great tips on keeping yourself at the top of your game? How do you spare your back (or other body parts) from all the sitting and typing?


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Everyone reacts differently. My back has seen better days, but writing lowers my BP.

My non fiction writer friends seem to like the out of doors. We have five sliding glass doors and seven skylights, places to rest the soul while thinking up some dasterly event to incude in my fiction.

Big Mike said...

I know about a hundred published authors, male and female, and all but two freak out about a lack of balance in their life, including me. Thought once I learned the ropes it'd settle down but after 6 years I still squirrel around from task to madding task across promoting, writing new projects, maintaining two houses, babysitting my GD, and a dozen more activities. Got to cut down eventually before it kills me.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Naomi Stone said...

Hi, Dani. Balance is important. I second the vote for walking, and I also do leg-lifts to strengthen my lower back.

Naomi Stone said...

Hi, Dani. Balance is important. I second the vote for walking, and I also do leg-lifts to strengthen my lower back.

Nikki said...

Recently, in addition to a daily walk, I've started taking short breaks every hour. Put in a load of laundry, wash a couple windows, walk up for the mail, rake out a section of garden. Little stuff, but I come back refreshed physically and mentally, and I don't have all those little chores piled up for my "day off." Which never seems to be "off" anyway.

Dani Collins said...

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I am making progress, forcing myself to walk and take breaks and right now I have one foot out the door to yoga.

Take care,