Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Delicate Balance

That incredible wonderful weird feeling washed over me as I was suddenly struck with inspiration and unbelievable clarity. My fingers moved quickly over the keyboard in a desperate attempt to keep up with my mind which was racing frantically. Prior to this moment, I’d struggled with a pivotal scene in book one of my romantic series, Fall Again: Beginnings.
The scene involved my two main characters, Marc and Lauren, and the first time they're alone together. They’re just friends. He thinks she’s a spoiled little princess while she’s labeled him an arrogant New York actor. By the end of the scene these negative perceptions must become mutual respect as an attraction begins. This shift in attitudes needs to happen honestly and organically, and until moments before had no idea how this would happen. But suddenly my hands were effortlessly flying over the keys as Marc and Lauren began to discover each other’s true selves.

I was startled away from Marc’s New York apartment to find myself in my own Los Angeles apartment, in bed with my laptop. In front of me is my husband, Tony.

He hands me a cup of coffee. “We need to leave for work in twenty minutes.”
Tony had interrupted my impromptu morning writing session. He's been more than patient with me since I began writing. He’s never complained that I don’t always cook dinner, (our favorite Chinese delivery place is on speed dial), and our home is not always as neat and clean as it could be. But Tony fully supports me and my writing, which helps me believe in myself.
Thankfully, Tony also knows when to pull me away from the world I’ve created and drag me back to reality. Twenty-two minutes later, I was applying makeup in the passenger seat of our car and sulking as we pull out of our driveway. “I only need eight more hours a day to stay on track…but I guess I can’t quit my day job.”

Tony pats my knee. “So quit… after you win the Pulitzer.”

I never dreamed that writing would take over my life! And no one bothered to tell me that with writing comes editing, marketing and keeping up on social media. Once I began writing seriously nothing else seemed to matter. My weekends of movies and malls became a thing of the past. Date nights with my husband turned into ordering food in…and I may or may not have always joined my husband after the food arrived. I found myself stressing when I left characters in precarious situations as I attended to the business of my life-hoping they’d be okay until I returned.

For a time, I found the smallest tasks overwhelming and was having trouble managing my time between my writing and the rest of my life which at the time involved a day job. I reached out  to a friend who has been writing for at least two decades and asked for his advice. "How do I do this?"

His answer surprised me. "Sometimes, you'll just need to stop writing, regroup and recuperate. You'll know when to start back up again. Give yourself permission to take some time for yourself!

I listened. I’m happy to report that now, out of necessity, I've  found more balance in my life. When I need to take a break from my writing, I do so and no longer feel guilty. I’ll read someone else’s book, have drinks with friends, or a date night with Tony. He planned an amazing New Year's Eve for the two of us a few weeks ago. I managed to leave thoughts of my current project at home.  It wasn’t easy, but I’ve learned the value of eating properly, getting a good night’s sleep and socializing.  As a result my writing is stronger and life in general is better!

While everyone is different, I've found a few ways to help me decompress, recalibrate and recover a sense of balance when things start to shift.

     Shift into domestic mode- it's amazing that doing something as simple and regimented like vacuuming or preparing a home cooked meal can take your mind away from matters that are cause you to feel unbalanced. The upside is that after you're done you have a cleaner home or a good meal.

     Spend quality time talking to a friend or loved one- shifting focus beyond myself and my own personal universe makes me remember that there is a real world with real people who I care about(and who hopefully care about me) beyond my current project. Meeting in person is great, but so is the ancient practice of talking via telephone.

     Revisit your childhood- escape by watching a favorite movie or an episode of a favorite TV show from another time in your life. Your focus may shift to a time when things were simpler. (For me it's the classic Peanuts specials.) 

     Exercise- seriously, exercise (or simply getting up and moving) will positively effect every part of your life. While a visit to the gym or taking a class of some sort are great, sometimes just getting outside and walking can do wonders for your psyche and help to clear some of the clutter from your mind.

     Taking breaks from social media- this will help to keep you grounded. Remember, there's a whole world beyond the computer or phone screen . Not posting for the duration of a meal or movie will not cause the world to end. There's a lot to be said for face to face conversation (though I'm afraid that this basic and valuable skill could be going the way of the rotary phone). 

Never let your writing take over your life. Having balance  in your life will help keep you focused in all areas of your life ...and keep you sane! It's okay to STOP  and take time for life's necessities...and  yourself! Life is far too short not to enjoy it while you can. Your writing will be there when you're ready to return.

With Tony on New Year's Eve
Today, I finished a rewrite of a scene in the next book of the Fall Again series- California Girl.  I'd had trouble with my primary character's motivation which had caused me to lose sleep for the past few nights. But now the scene reads smoothly and I've been able to maintain my main characters integrity. To celebrate, I'm  going to clean house and maybe cook a nice meal. You see, I need to decompress and hopefully find that wonderful feeling of balance.

Write well.

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