How to Balance an Out-of-Control Writing Life

Filed in When Writing Is Hard by on September 7, 2016 • views: 2074

by Alayne Kay Christian

senior caucasian woman walking on a tightropeColleen asked me to be a guest blogger
just when I was about to enter into a major life transition.

At one time, she suggested that perhaps I could share how I maintained my health during the stress of transition. Believe me, there were plenty of times that I did not do a good job of maintaining my health. But my body made sure that I snapped to it and found a way to get my stress levels under control.

One of the ways I did this was to turn to my life coaching tools, which always lead me to a question of balance, boundaries, and honoring my values and needs.

Today, I’ll talk about balance and boundaries.

How Your Life Can be Easily Knocked Off Balance

Life is made up of many facets, and they are all equally important.

A fulfilling life is one of balance. Why is balance so important? Here’s an example:

Let’s say, like many people, you are focusing 75 – 80% of your energy on one area of your life. If something happens to change that one area, you won’t feel like you have much of a life left.

Maybe you put most of your energy into your job or a relationship. If you were to lose your job or relationship, you would be knocked off balance.

Can you imagine how something like the above might impact your writing and health? If 75 – 80% of your life is focused on activities that do not fulfill or energize you, how might that impact your writing and health? If 75 – 80% of your energy is going to one or two areas of your life, what happens to the rest of your life? Does it get put on hold?

When our life is out of balance, our to-do list is usually so huge that it’s impossible to get to the bottom. How might you, your wellbeing, and your writing be hindered if they are always at the bottom of a to-do list?

Take Care of Yourself by Setting Boundaries

If you are like most people, self-care is one of the most common things you neglect. Things such as fun, time with loved ones, and your health are often put off until a tomorrow that seldom comes.

Setting limits or boundaries is one way of taking care of yourself. I’m talking about becoming aware of who and what takes up your attention and your time and then setting some limits. Identifying and setting healthy boundaries makes it more possible for you to spend your time and energy wisely. Using your time and energy wisely means that you do not waste it on anything that is not good for you.

You are responsible for your life. You choose what you let inside your life. If you compromise your boundaries and make unwise choices, you will be allowing things into your life that sap your energy and interfere with your commitment to what is really important to you.

In life coaching, this is sometimes called being out of integrity.

When the Pizza Gets More Respect Than You Do

One of my favorite Jimmy Cliff songs has the line “Let your yeah mean yeah and your no mean no.”

Whenever you say yes when you should say no, you’re allowing someone or something to invade your boundaries.

When you don’t respect your boundaries and say yes to someone else’s demands or needs, you say no to yourself. At that point, you are making that person and their needs more important than the commitments you’ve made to yourself.

You do the same thing when you allow activities (or sometimes lack of activity) to creep beyond your boundaries. For example, if you have a commitment to yourself to eat healthy and you sit down and eat half a pizza, you are saying no to yourself and your commitment. You are out of integrity with what you say is really important to you.

The pizza has just received more respect from you than you give yourself.

If you’ve made a commitment to yourself to write every morning for two hours but you allow yourself to be distracted by Facebook and other social media, you are out of integrity with what you say is really important to you.

When you make a commitment to yourself but don’t keep it, ask yourself if what you say you want is really what you want. And if it is, respect yourself!

Sometimes You Have to Give Up What You Want to Tend to What You Need

For me, writing was a great source of gratification and the perfect distraction from my stress. But it was also a temporary problem.

When I realized my transition had knocked me off balance, I found that I had to set some boundaries with myself. I WANTED to continue my writing routine as if nothing had changed in my life. But something had changed in my life. I was in a situation that needed my attention and required most of my time and energy.

In order to continue doing what I WANTED to do, I sacrificed self-care until my body said, “This can’t go on!” There are only 24 hours in a day. When you already have a full schedule and then something else comes along and demands your time, it’s impossible to meet those demands without giving something up.

In my case, I dropped about 75% of my writing related activities. I did not give up writing 100%, but I set priorities and limits to protect my health. By stepping back, reprioritizing, and setting limits, I found that my mind was clearer and my energy replenished.

My health improved dramatically. While I tended to my priorities with a clearer mind, I got new story ideas and solved rewrite problems. Once I was able to return to my normal writing routine, I was good to go.

Tools to Help You Find Balance in Your Life

I have found the following to be really helpful:

Wheel of life 2

Wheel of Health 2

Writing Wheel Updated 2

If you want to explore the facets of your life, duplicate these wheels and complete them as follows:

  • Each section of the wheel represents an area in your life. With the center of the wheel rated as zero and the outer edge rated as ten, rank your level of satisfaction with each area by coloring in the appropriate space (see the example below). Zero should be used to indicate that you are not satisfied at all, and 10 means that you are 100% satisfied.

Wheel of life example 2

  • Once you’ve colored your wheels, look at the outer edges. Are they smooth and even? Or are they uneven? Imagine these wheels are on the car you are driving through life. How easily would the wheels turn? How bumpy would your ride be?
  • Now, imagine that you have a deadline for a personal or professional writing commitment, but you must be traveling in this car. You have paper and pen in the car, and someone else is driving. How many words do you think you would be able to write down during this crazy, bouncy ride? How good do you think the story would be? Do you think you would be able to make your deadline?

I created a “Health” wheel (shown above) separate from the “Wheel of Life” because I feel our wellbeing is the foundation for a balanced life. I also believe it is the part that often gets neglected the most.

Your writing needs “for balance” might be different than the categories on my writing wheel. Feel free to create your own wheel based on what you believe is essential to your writing life.

You will find a blank wheel below.


Keep your colored wheels for your visual representation.

You can learn some next steps by viewing the following resources:

* * *

Alayne Main 2Alayne Kay Christian is the award-winning author of Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa, a certified life coach, and teacher of the picture book writing and analyzing course Art of Arc: How to Analyze Your Picture Book Manuscript (deepen your understanding of picture books written with a classic arc).

For more information about her and her work, please see her website and blog, or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. For more on her course about picture books, see the Art of Arc.

Butterfly KissesButterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa: Emily loves to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Like most grandchildren, she gets lots of affection and the freedom to do what she wants. But sadly, every visit comes to an end, leaving Emily longing for a way to feel close to her grandparents … until she can see them again.

Gold medal winner of a prestigious Mom’s Choice Award and an IPPY award winner too, this gracefully illustrated story begins with Emily’s sorrowful wishes: ”I wish you didn’t live so far away. I wish I could sleep over any time I want.” It continues with a special gift from Grandma and Grandpa that teaches Emily to use her imagination, memory, and natural surroundings to feel connected to her grandparents. In the end, Emily surprises her grandparents with a gift of her own, showing them that children are not the only ones who can use memories and imagination as comfort when they are missing those they hold dear. 

Available at Amazon. Find more information, including videos, at the book’s website.

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Comments (5)

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  1. JP McLean says:

    Balance – oh so important! And so easy to get out of balance, too.

  2. Charlotte Dixon says:

    Thank you for the reminders and the balance wheels. Some days my priorities need sorting.

  3. Balance wheels are such a clever way of keeping track of tasks and priorities! Will have to give them a try. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Thank you so much, Colleen, for inviting me to be your guest. And thanks for making me look so good with your layout and edits.