a writing life and real life is an issue for most of us, until Oprah
calls because she is highlighting our books on her show. Since I’m
writing this, you can assume she hasn’t phoned me.
For me, my “day job” as a
general surgeon is often irregular and turns into my “night job,” too.
Nonetheless, I have managed to balance writing and a career in general
surgery. This does create tension in my life, something that has
spilled into the lives of my mostly surgeon protagonists. If there is
tension in your life, even from an overblown schedule, harvest the
emotion to use in your writing.
First, let me tell you how not
to do it. I’ve been there, done this, and I don’t recommend it: the
juggle technique. You are definitely handling too many balls, so you
heave one into the air to ignore it temporarily while paying attention
only to the ones about to crash! Not good for you, your spouse, or your
Let me make a few simple
suggestions: 1) The writing life is a gift of grace! If God has called
you to write, if He has gifted you to do His work, then striving and
strife need to take a backseat to the realization that He is in control
and His peace needs to reign. He is in charge over whether you are a
best seller, and by in large you need to work on writing good stories
and lay aside much of the other striving to make yourself the next big
hit; 2) My friend Angie Hunt has a few time management suggestions that
are gold in reaching a balanced life: First, “How do you eat a cow? One
bite at a time.” I’ll let that stand on it’s own. Second, she says,
“Learn to say no,” and “The phone is not your master.” I like those.
Don’t be ruled by technology. If the phone rings during your writing
time, return the calls later!
The biggest way I have reached a
balance is because of the support I have from my wife. She understands
the demands of my writing career and does much of the business “stuff”
that can steal my time. I can’t really offer any advice in this regard,
except that if you find a supportive spouse, latch hold, do the
necessary work to make that relationship last, and the rewards will be
me, especially early in my career, I refused to be tightly bound by
contracts. I accepted contracts for only one book at a time (something
I no longer do, but when I accept a multibook contract, the time
demands are still very doable or I won’t sign!) because I never wanted
to have to write under deadline. My career as a surgeon has given me
the ability to do this because I’ve had enough income to put bread on
the table that didn’t come from writing.
God has given each of us the
same amount of hours in the day. If you are struggling to find time to
write, make a time journal—journalling how every hour is spent for a
few days may
How many hours can you find that were “wasted”? Was
that hour of TV really worth it? Could a half-hour of exercise actually
make you more productive?
have stolen hours at night
after the kids are busy with homework, hours travelling, hours during
dead time between cases, and even if I am not writing, I can be working
on plot twists in my head. I often “back-burner” problem spots in my
novels by just going on with something else while the problem simmers
in my subconscious. Often when I am going about my daily work, a
solution will present itself when I’m not directly focusing on my
writer’s block. When I have so much to do, I just take on another job
and let the writing problem simmer.
The solutions to balancing the
writer’s life are as varied as there are individuals! My final bit of
advice is to remember that for us as Christian authors, the one thing
that cannot be squeezed aside is our relationship with Christ. We
cannot expect to refresh our readers with stories of grace if we have
become dry and crusty in our own spiritual lives.
For all of you balancing two
careers, seize the moment, kiss your supportive spouse, and remember
where the true fountain of living water is located.