We live in a society that
admires busyness. If we aren’t busy we
must be lazy or doing something wrong, right? Wrong. Margin in life is
important. We writers especially need to be aware of margin. Just as
that empty space around the edge of a page makes a paper easier to
read, empty time in our daily lives allows us time to breathe and stay
healthy. But how are we supposed to have margin in our lives when so
much needs to be accomplished and so many people are depending on us?
One word—discipline. Without
discipline margin will cease
to exist. How do we achieve margin white space in our life when there
is so much to do? It’s not easy, but it is possible.
When I first began my journey as
a contracted writer in
2012 I was teaching piano lessons and had two teenage boys. I wrote
while they were in school and quickly cleaned house during that last
hour before school released to prepare my house for my piano students.
To say I was busy is an understatement, but I had a system, and it
worked. I had several books under contract, and for the first time in
my life, I was no longer writing simply for the fun of it. I felt the
pressure to fulfill my contract and the self-driven pressure to market
my books. My first book released on October of 2013, and by December I
was stressed and my blood pressure was too high. Something had to give
if was going to continue writing and teaching piano lessons.
Thankfully, the Lord had
provided the means for my husband
and I to take a dream vacation to Disney World that December. He knew
what was going on with me before I did, and I am thankful for all the
things that clicked into place for us to be able to go. Three days into
our vacation my chest stopped hurting, and I began to breathe easy
again. The Lord taught me a lot through that experience. The first
lesson I learned was that I needed to chill and stop stressing every
We’re all busy writers. We have
day jobs and families that
need our attention, but we must take care of ourselves. If I don’t take
care of me, I can’t do my job, and be a wife and mother. But with so
much to do, how can I meet my writing deadlines, do my day job, clean
the house, and be a wife and mother?
If you guessed discipline, you
are partly correct, but
there is a little more to it than that. Yes, it’s important to have a
plan and stick to it for the most part, but there is something else
that is crucial to staying disciplined—learning to say no.
It’s almost unfathomable to
consider saying no to a book
contract or a promotional opportunity, but if your time is already
maxed out, don’t commit to something else. In fact, I suggest if your
day is filled to capacity, then it is too full, and margin is missing.
margin is built into your day, you give yourself opportunity to jump at
unexpected opportunities. For example, I received a phone call about an
hour ago asking if I could write this article and have it turned in
today. If I did not have margin built into my life, I would have missed
out on writing this article.
Margin allows for flexibility
and the time to take care of
ourselves. I still have to work on a contracted manuscript today, but
I’m not stressed about it, because I know what I can accomplish within
a set amount of time, so I know that I have an hour until I hit the
point where I must start writing in order to meet my writing goal for
The past three years have been a
learning experience for
me. I have had ten books release since October of 2012—five from my
first publisher, one independently published novella collection, and
four from my current publisher. In that time, I quit teaching piano,
both my boys have gone off to college, and I am now working part time
at a high school. Talk about a lot of changes in a short amount of
They say change is good. For me
it was a struggle to get
used to a new way of living. I went from being a fulltime mom, in
addition to writing and working part time, to being an empty nester,
and working part time and writing.
You might think my
schedule sounds idyllic, and I must admit it is pretty nice most of the
time, but it was a process for me to get to this point. I have found a
new daily rhythm that works for me with my current lifestyle. I don’t
over commit my time, I allow for margin in my day, and I plan ahead.
I keep a calendar with all my
writing obligations written
in it—yes, I’m old fashioned. I need to see things written down on a
By planning ahead, I’m able to
deadlines with ease. Since I know my limits, I contract books with
empty space built into the schedule. I will admit, there was one time I
had to write half of a book in two weeks’ time, but that was a freak
situation that couldn’t be avoided. I buckled down and set everything
else aside for those two weeks and met my deadline with a day to spare.
Then I spent the next several weeks recuperating.
discipline and planning, margin can be built into your day making a
healthy environment for you to create and be the person God made you to