We all have twenty-four hours in one day. I don’t know of anyone who
has twenty-five. If you do, point me their way, because I would love to
learn their secret.
“How do you balance writing and everything else in your life?” is a
question I’m often asked. Mostly, the people who ask are just curious.
We live in a run-run-run world that shows no signs of slowing down, and
the precious 1,440 minutes we have each day are drained from the
hourglass over, and over, and over.
Take eight hours, or 480 minutes, away for sleep time—if you’re
fortunate enough to get that much. Then there’s another 480 minutes for
work, whether you’re at home or in an office. So that’s two-thirds of
your time gone every day during a typical Monday through Friday work
I could continue chipping away at the remaining minutes in a typical day, but I’m sure you get the idea.
I would love to tell you that I’ve discovered a foolproof method for
keeping balanced and getting everything done. I’ve discovered, instead,
that I can’t get it all done. Neither can you. For one thing, we
weren’t meant to do everything.
What then, can a writer do to keep herself balanced?
Back in June, along with millions of viewers around the world, I
watched Nik Wallenda cross the Grand Canyon on a tightrope without a
safety net. The twenty-two minutes ticked by second by nail-biting
second. Nik accomplished something that many writers strive to do. No,
not cross a chasm while balancing on a two-inch wire suspended 1500
feet above a river. He managed to keep his balance and reach his goal.
Keeping balance is no easy task, but it can be done. Nik had the
benefit of his experience, but, even so, he didn’t jump onto the
tightrope and speed across the canyon. Nik did several things: planned
ahead for what he would face; tuned out voices that would distract him;
and knew when to stop, take a breath, and regroup before going on.
Nik studied the conditions of the canyon area—crosswinds and
thunderstorms apt to pop up. He also knew the wire would move as he
walked. From all these practices, I’ve learned a few things writers can
copy from Nik Wallenda.
We busy writers must plan ahead. Don’t be surprised if something
will pop up to claim your time. I’m a freelance writer for my local
newspaper, a wife, a chauffeur for the family vehicle, and I wear other
hats. I’m also jealous of my writing time. Every week I look ahead to
what’s coming next on all fronts of life. Without my calendar, I’d be
lost. And even so, it’s an imperfect practice because life is
imperfect, messy. Don’t be surprised when life interrupts your writing.
Prepare for that possibility and make the most of the time you do have.
During Nik’s canyon walk, he wore a headset so he could listen to
his father encouraging him as he walked. His father would also be able
to warn him if conditions suddenly changed. As a Christian writer, I
try to keep my ear open for my heavenly Father’s voice. Am I making the
best use of my time, or am I making excuses? Sometimes those things
aren’t easy to hear. Nik also found some of his father’s comments
distracting (I suppose this is where the father–heavenly Father analogy
breaks down). He knew enough to say, “Please be quiet.” He knew when to
tune out distractions.
So must we. Whether that’s turning off the television, the Internet,
or our phone ringer, we need to learn to quiet those voices that can
pull us away from what we’re doing. Remember, we all have 1,440 minutes
I still remember the dizzying vistas captured by a camera operator
from the air as Nik crossed the Grand Canyon. A few times the wire
would appear to sway, ever so slightly. Step-by-step, Nik would find
his footing. I could hear him praising and worshipping God as he
walked, thanking Jesus for His help.
Twice Nik paused in his journey. He squatted on the wire and waited until his balance felt sure once again.
I admit to having days when my life’s tightrope wire is wobbly, the
winds are blowing, and I’m utterly distracted. That’s when I pause,
pray, and take a deep breath before continuing on.
One more thing about Nik. Another unseen factor helped him keep his
balance: passion. He wanted to accomplish this feat badly enough.
Every writer must ask herself: How badly do I want this? Do I want
to write this book badly enough that I’ll carve out thirty minutes
here, an hour there? Will I turn off the TV? Will I bring my laptop to
soccer practice? Will I get up early? Will I forge on despite
distractions, life chaos, sickness, family drama—fill in your own
blank. Ask yourself: how badly do I want this? I’ve had to ask myself
So there you have it. No deep, earth-shattering secret on keeping
that balanced writer’s life. It’s a process. Don’t be surprised when
things happen to drain time from your schedule. Practice ignoring
distractions and do what you must to keep your focus. Don’t forget to
squat—or even kneel—to regain your balance once again.