The Balance Dilemma: Putting Your Writing First

Photo by Ana Luísa Pinto

For the last six month, I have not been the poet I wanted to be.

I've been the editor, the co-founder, the graphic designer, the book cover artist, the socializer, the proofreader, the teacher, the brainstormer, the organizer, the co-director, the financial planner, the faculty, the breadwinner, the book contract reader, and the researcher.

These are all important titles, all valuable, all needed.

The problem is each of these other jobs was stealing time away my most important job-- being a writer.

For the last three days, I have been locking myself in my writing shed and focusing only on my writing.

I have been getting up before the rest of the house and revising poems from 5 am - 7 am.

I feel dizzy.  I feel that overwhelming sense of satisfaction I get when I am lost in my writing and in words.  I have this weird euphoria, this wanting-to-stand-on-a-cliff-and-yell-I'M-AWESOME-LIFE-IS-AWESOME.

Writing does this to me.  It's my fastest serotonin boost.  

People talk of runner's high, I swear there's a writer's high.  Even if I don't publish the work, show it to anyone, do anything with it except write it, I feel elated.

I think it was Gloria Steinem who said, 
Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.

This is how I always feel.


I know there are other parts of the job besides writing.

I know we have families, jobs, friends, chores, errands, stuff, that we have to attend to. And we want to attend to our families and friends because they matter. 

But we can't do everything and there are ways to do things better, make choices.

Here's a few things I've changed in my life to put writing first--

1)  Edit this mindset: Find time to write  REVISED: Make time to write.

When I hear someone say, I can't find the time to write.  I want to say, "Well, it's hiding under all those hours you spend on Facebook."

Or maybe it's under the TV, or your two-hour commitment to your hairstyle.

You will never find time.  Time is running out the door while you talk on the phone.  Time is giving you the finger while you surf the internet, read HuffPost. Time is brilliant at hide-and-seek.  You'll never find it.

But there's this amazing thing called "Making time."

Take out your calendars right now and X hour 2 hours in the next week for writing. Congratulations.  You just made time.

That's is.  It's putting our priority of writing first.

For the last 5 months, I haven't done this.  I've been swimming in my own head of tasks and too much to do.  
But was their time to write?  Yes.  
Did I find it?  No.  
Could have I have made it?  Yes.  
Did I? No.

2)   Don't worry, spiders, I keep house casually.  ~Issa

I let a lot of things slide.  I am the worst domestic diva, I am the Cher in the movie Mermaids serving her kids appetizers.  

If you were to set me next to another mother at my daughter's school and grade us on  
1) how often we houseclean  
2)  how well we cook    
3) how many Halloween costumes we have made by hand     
4) how often we bake    
5) how well we organize our family photos    

I would lose.

However, since 2003 I've published 5 books and one more is on the way.

Also, another secret-- hire a housecleaner every so often.  Or a landscaper.  Or a handyman to fix all the things on your to-do list (even if you're a man and you're handy). Totally worth the expense.  People spend money on crazier things. Consider it you paying for your writing time.  A self-made residency in your home.  Your time is worth something.

We each choose our priorities.  If your priority is winning the do-it-self-parenthood award, go for it.  We each need to choose what's best for us individually.

But if your priority is publishing a book, get some help with your tasks or overlook them. 
Get a sitter every once in awhile. Ignore the dishes in the sink and write.

3)  Carry a book of poems and a notebook always.

You know those fifteen minutes you are sitting outside your child's school waiting to pick her up. . .

Or you're waiting for a prescription to be filled.  A doctor's appointment.  You're somewhere in the world waiting.  Next time you find yourself waiting, do this--

Take out a book of poems and read it.  Slowly.  Read each line and thinking about each image.

Now, take out your notebook and write a line in response to a line in the poem.

If the poem said, That time the canvas wasn’t made / of sorrow.  You write: Yesterday, the envelope was made of bliss.  Or:  We weren't made of apologies, but of the yellow tails of waxwings.  

Write and see what happens.


I know this is an ongoing challenge for many of us.  I know we will all fail and then do better.  That's okay.  It's okay to screw up, to make mistakes.  It's okay not to have time write and then to make some.

Just take a few minutes each day and put your writing first.  See your writing self and give it the time s/he needs.  A little bit of writing each day can take you on some great journeys...

~ Kells


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  1. You may not be the best house keeper but you're the beautifulist.

  2. So true, so true. This is a constant battle for me, but your post is a good reminder to make time rather than find it. Thank you!

  3. YES! YES! YES!

    I am discovering this "making time" thing while doing NaNoWriMo this month...and you are soooo right! Good for you! Thanks for the inspiration. I'm going to go write RIGHT NOW! :-)

  4. There is a man painting my living room as I write this from the solace of my writing shed.Kill me as it does to pay someone to do something that I normally do myself, I have finally decided it's worth it so that I can focus on my writing. This novel is a long time in the making because I had a hard time balancing things. NO MORE! It's been lovely devoting so much time to my writing lately. Not writing for someone else or for the sake of some quick money. This is MY book. My time.

    I'm a happy girl :)


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