Life and Work Wellness for Authors: Five tips to help manage

Juggling multiple jobs, family life, and additional responsibilities (school, charity, elder-care, etc) on top of being self-employed as an author, editor, and consultant means a regular balancing act. I am no expert, but I have achieved a working peace with the Work-Life balance I have in my life now. The thing is, it keeps changing on me.

Many of us have long days that end in being overwhelmed. A typical day in the life of the average indie author may include: kids (sleep schedules, extracurricular activities, daycare, homework, health care, education, recreation, feeding, clothing, cleaning), parents and extended family (care for the elderly, errands, family get-togethers), ourselves (exercise, eating, sleep schedules, recreation), our partners (coordinating schedules, building relationships, quality time, emotional and psychological support), piled on to that are education, friends, errands, volunteering, repairing and maintaining dwellings, finances, pets, commuting, vehicle maintenance, work (deadlines, changes, restrictions, conflict, networking), self-publishing, writing, editing, working as our own publicist and accountant and not to mention the hundreds of passwords, pins, names, faces, emails, tasks, dates, events we need to remember. We feel at a loss as time passes us by.

Declutter. Our lives are filled with clutter that throw off our author work-life balance: thoughts, noise, stuff, schedules as full as possible in fear of missing out on something. Declutter your work space, declutter your home, your mind, heart and spirit. Let go of anything that is not serving you, anything that collects dust in the corners, that creates unnecessary work or that you are not willing to dedicate your time to. Check out Becoming Minimalist’s Blog for 10 Creative Ways to Declutter.

Set reasonable boundaries for your time. In the words of a wise comedian Bob Newhart, STOP it! Take a deep breath, exhale. Focus on what you are doing right now. Stop worrying about what is to come. Be aware of what you are looking at, doing, and saying fully, mindfully. In a world of multitasking mayhem, the art of focusing and finishing one thing at a time has been lost. Stop working through breaks and lunches, or skipping meals. If you are on a phone call, focus completely on that phone call. Slow down and become immersed in what you are experiencing right now. Set clear boundaries and don’t compromise yourself or your time for anything that isn’t a priority. Oprah offers great guidance about beginning to set personal boundaries. A lack of reasonable boundaries around your time is a sure-fire way to undermine work-life balance and increase your stress. It can be especially difficult for self-published authors who wear a dozen or more hats to get the job done, but trust me when I say your creativity and writing will thank you.

Plan and Prioritize. Take your days one at a time, but plan ahead. This may sound contradictory, and it is in a way. It’s a difficult practice. Plan and prioritize a strict sleep schedule, more time in the morning or evening for yourself, and quality time for your family and you. Plan meals in advance, this also helps save money and time on groceries. Plan and prioritize going outdoors and exercise. Prioritize and plan fun. But be open and flexible to changes. Stick to what is important and necessary at work, and at home. Mike Robbins offers 3 Ways to Re-Prioritize Your Life. Stuck on prioritizing at work when everything seems to be important? LiquidPlanner has a solution for you.

Learn to say NO without feeling guilty. To truly declutter our lives, we must learn to say no gently, but firmly. We can only handle so much in life. Is it healthy? Is the stress it brings manageable? Is it enjoyable? If it isn’t absolutely and truly necessary or important just say no. Don’t know how? Start with 11 steps from Wiki-How. Saying yes to too many things both at work and home is one of the biggest reasons people become off-balance.

Acceptance. Accept and respect that you have limits. Accept that there are things that you cannot change, that you cannot control (especially other people). Balance is a practice whether you are at work or home, accept that you will never achieve perfect balance. Adjust your focus, effort, and time that as your boundaries and priorities change and don’t feel guilt over it. Working yourself to exhaustion will lead to worse consequences down the road; not to mention, it will deprive your creative brain of the space it needs. GoodLifeCoaching Blog – Living the Creative Life offers a great article about accepting your limitations.

Fiction to Function: Stories that Heal

Stories are medicine.
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Our lives are filled with challenges, changes, and problems to be solved. These difficulties can become great crucibles, when we get stuck thinking or feeling. Perhaps, like me, you are faced with an event so traumatic that your mind and body relive it in the attempt to process, solve and prevent. When you are thinking and feeling and reliving, sometimes you get caught in an unhealthy cycle too close to the issue and can’t move forward.

As a form of escape, my young self took up story making. I turned people, problems, and events in my life into dragons, magicians and mermaids, castles, oceans, and valleys. I turned problems into journeys and fairy tales. It helped me to heal. The process of fictionalizing gave me a new perspective: one where I could escape a tumult of thoughts and emotions, create order, and find solutions. One where I began to see stories everywhere and that led me to my passion for writing. It wasn’t until recently, I discovered that many native traditions, spiritualities, religions, therapists, and counselors often use similar techniques in their practice to inspire growth and promote healing.

Creating stories may come easily to you, or it may be a struggle. But hopefully, I can guide you through a few steps to get your creative mind working and help you on your path to health and balance.

First things first—embrace your imagination. These stories are your own creations. They don’t have to be shared with anyone; they don’t have to be “good” or accurate. They don’t have to be written, they can be drawn, or just imagined. They can be stick people, they can be bullet points. They are a way for you to remove yourself from the situation and imagine it from multiple perspectives.

Creating stories is an act of mindfulness. Focus on the task at hand and accept without judgment what you create. Make sure you have a few minutes to brainstorm and create quietly and uninterrupted. Maybe during a coffee break, late at night when you can’t sleep, early in the morning, or even while you are in the shower.

You need a character or maybe two or three. These characters should have differing personalities and can have strange ideas about the world. Writers often use stock characters, or characters that they can continuously rename, reuse, or rewrite. For example, you can most likely recognize the superhero, the villain, or the damsel in books, movies, and other stories you encounter. Try creating your own stock of characters. You can also turn animals or inanimate objects into characters. Maybe you have a favourite type of tree or a pet that would work well.

Next you need a problem to solve or place to go. How do they get there? What type of solutions might a pirate come up with as opposed to the class-clown, hero, or villain? Imagine how your characters might react—how would lettuce negotiate with the rabbit that is consuming it?

To be a story, you must start and end. But you don’t have to start at the beginning or end with a solution. It could start in the middle and you could discover, as I have, that perhaps the only solution is there is no solution and the issue should just be left alone or left behind.

This is your healing journey; be gentle with yourself. Often we can be the worst critics of our selves. This isn’t something you have to do, have to do well, or have to do a certain way. This could be a need for you, a desire, or simply a curiosity to create a story. Treat it like it is just something to do. The less you expect of yourself, the more open and creative you may become. And here is a trick I have discovered over the years. Our minds naturally create stories about what we are doing, what happens to us, what the weather is like, coming up with whys, could-haves, should-haves, and what-ifs. It’s like fighting fire with fire, except with stories.

What stories can you come up with? What stories has your mind already created? Have fun with the process and don’t forget to infuse a little humour into every tale. And if you feel comfortable, maybe invite others into your story-making process. Make a family night of starting and finishing each other’s stories. Children are amazing at adding twists and turns and new characters to a tale and they infuse child-like humour into many fictitious encounters. You’ll be surprised what you uncover and learn!