More Thoughts on Juggling and Balance

The Writing Path. That’s part of my blog title, but I haven’t mused out loud about it here for a while. There’s a thought, or a few semi-connected thoughts, that have been simmering in my mind for a while. I’ve put off blogging, because I don’t want it to sound like whining, but what the heck. I’ll just try and edit out the whine!

For many years, I thought my dream was to have nothing to do with my life but write fiction. Note, this was probably because what I was doing full-time was writing computer manuals! 🙂 I thought that, if we never needed me to work for another penny for the rest of my life, I’d be just fine with working on my fiction–and, of course, getting published–but that whatever they paid me would be enough.

Part of me still feels that way, but it’s tinged with some more realism. Fiction-writing doesn’t pay enough and never will. I’m ready to deal with that, as long as I don’t spend too much time figuring out what that means for my hourly rate! And, yes, if we won the lottery, it would make those numbers a lot easier to face. And, obviously, the day that someone comes to me and says, yes, we love, love, and want your stories…sign here, I’ll be whipping out my pen and coming back to this same topic, from a very different angle.

Today, though, the bottom line is that I want to write fiction, and I want to earn some money. Right now, our family is still at the point where it makes sense for me to be writing and editing from home, and sort of seeing where I can grow skills and connections to bring in more than I did the year before. In four years, my son will be going to college, and my goal for that time is that I can feel like I’m contributing enough from this desk that I don’t have to move my stuff into some other desk in a cubicle somewhere. I don’t know, right now, if that will be possible. And, if not, I’ll take the other step and keep the juggling going.

This goal, however, sometimes makes me feel like pulling out the magic telescope to look into my future, and see if I’m doing that juggling “correctly” right now.  (I know, not a question that can be answered.) Between my fiction, some nonfiction articles I’ve got going, prepping for conferences and workshops, and keeping on top of a bit of marketing, I feel as though I’m working full-time for the first time in years. (Hugs and kisses to my husband who made sure to tell me that I am.) I have to tell you, overall, it feels fantastic. Yes, stressful; yes, scary; yes, tiring, but…wow. I love being a mom, and I love my son, but short-term-goal-responses and rewards? Not a lot of that in parenting. Taking on a proposal, getting it accepted, and carrying it through to it’s end product? I always loved that feeling, even with those computer manuals, and it’s great to be getting back to experiencing it again.

And then you flip the coin and look at the money. Last year, I reached a point where the numbers got bigger than zero, and it seems like I may be on that stage of the writing path where I can see this continuing…even if, from day to day, I can’t see how or in what direction. Enough to feel like, in four years, this would be enough to really help with college and life? Um…no…Enough to feel like maybe, maybe, I’m taking the steps to get there? A bit.

Basically, I like ths part of the path. I’m busy and happy, and I have a family who’s totally working with me on going through the changes. The trade-off? Well, you can probably guess. I’m not writing fiction full-time. In fact, some weeks, I’m finding it hard put to do the juggling that will get me that first hour-a-day-for-fiction I’m trying to commit to. I’m learning that I can get through pieces of a couple of projects in a day–with some time for checking off phone calls and appointments, runs to the grocery store, TIME WITH MY FAMILY, and maybe even some exercise. And when I look at it like that, I think I’m doing pretty well and it’s a sane way to be living. Last week and today, those two projects for the day were getting out some conference proposals and an outline for a magazine article (one they ARE paying me for!). For the rest of the week, I’m going to try and slide back in that hour-of-fiction first and do some more work on my WIP. And I think that’s good and okay and, again…sane.

I have a few role models out there, from people I meet on blogs and other social-networking sites. People who are juggling all this and more (usually with full-time jobs or part-time-out-of-the-house jobs or younger children). People who still manage to make forward progress on their ficton and do it beautifully. People like Jo Knowles whose books, if you haven’t read them, are testimonials to the idea of staying true and focused with your fiction in the midst of many, many other commitments. And Beth Revis who has written a book I haven’t read, but which I am impatiently waiting for, all while she was a full-time (and I’m guessing brilliant) high-school teacher. If I could even manage to teach high school, you can bet I wouldn’t have much time, energy, or imagination left.

And the lesson I take from these people, and many others like them, is that you just have to keep stepping forward. In some sense, it doesn’t matter how big or small those steps are, or if you know which way they’re taking you, as long as they’re heading out from where you are at the moment. As long as you aren’t standing still. I picture my writing path a lot like the picture at the top of this blog–a gentle path through soft green and brown woods. Except that along that path are doors–maybe instead of forks. I can’t see what doors are coming, or which ones will feel like the right ones–at any given time–to open and walk through. But I know they’re there, and I’ll get to them and be able to make some kind of choice…as long as I keep traveling.

There. Not too much whining, I hope. I’d love to hear from all of you how you feel about your path right now and the steps you’re taking.

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14 thoughts on “More Thoughts on Juggling and Balance

  1. Like you I work from home, but my kiddos are younger. I have no idea how other people can accomplish so much with a full-time job outside the home. I am constantly amazed by the strength and determination of these writers.

    We just have to keep moving and writing.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Michelle, after reading your post about all you’ve done when people said you couldn’t, I kind of think you qualify for those “accomplishing” people! But, yes, moving & writing… 😉

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  2. jordanrosenfeld says:

    I have always enjoyed being “Busy” in the productive sense of the word. Having a two year old challenges that part of me so deeply, I know in a good way, but I relate to this post on so many levels!

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    • beckylevine says:

      Jordan, I’m in awe of what you get done with a two-year-old. When my son was that age, I was only just starting to come out of the cocoon of just-life-managing I stepped into when he was born! I have to remind myself often that just because, with one teenage son & working at home, I have it easier than other people–it can still be tough for ME, and that’s how I have to look at it. 🙂

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  3. I don’t think this has anything to do with whining. It’s exactly how you feel about this path you’ve chosen, and this is actually inspiring…especially for aspiring writers like myself. Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Makes me want to trot out that old quote about “it’s the journey, not the destination.” I don’t know how true that is, but we might as well enjoy the journey too, since the publishing journey is a long one! At least there are nice milestones along the way. 🙂

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    • beckylevine says:

      It IS true, but I’ve never felt I’m very good at relaxing into the journey. I think life is teaching me a lesson I need these days. 🙂

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  5. Karen says:

    Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post. I care for my two young children, dream of publishing fiction one day, and am currently looking into working from home as a book indexer. It’s truly a juggling act.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Karen, I am in awe of indexers. I have had to do some very basic indexing (NOT well) a couple of times, and it’s really tricky! Good luck–I hope it works out for you. And you’ll find a way to get that fiction written, too. 🙂

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    • beckylevine says:

      Vivian, if you’re as sure about me making it, as I am about you, then we’re BOTH going to make it! Thanks. 🙂

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