If you were here with me last week, I told you about my NaNo adventure—writing a novel in a month—and why I decided to undertake such a task. Today, I want to talk a little about what I learned during the first week of my noveling endeavor.
As creatives, we sometimes struggle with maintaining a work-life balance—particularly when we impose deadlines upon ourselves and our work. Don’t get me wrong, deadlines can be helpful, magical even, when it comes to kickstarting your creativity, but we can’t let ourselves forget the value of margin.
The Plague of the Driven Creative
If you’re anything like me, once you’ve set a goal, you’re determined to reach it—whatever the cost. You’re driven. You’re motivated. But sometimes, you overwork yourself, and your creativity suffers as a result. You find yourself burning out.
Over the past week, I have written nearly fifteen-thousand words. At the same time, I’ve had to maintain my home, as well as continue working my day-job. It hasn’t been a vacation. With the goal of writing 50,000 words by the end of the month, the temptation to throw Regular Life under the bus has been strong at times. But guess what? I’m not insane yet, and I’ll share why.
Intentional Margin Time
Because we live on busy schedules with jobs, families, and responsibilities, it’s important that we’re intentional with our creative time. For example, I’ve been scheduling an hour and a half to two hours each morning before work during which I write in my novel. In that time, I can usually hit my word goal for the day. If not, I may write for another half an hour in the evening, but rarely any more.
What’s more important than scheduling creative time, though, is scheduling margin—making sure there is whitespace in your day so you can unwind without the pressures of work hanging over you. Because I’d been careful to schedule my writing time last week, leaving plenty of space to breathe, I was able to spend most evenings, as well as the weekend free with my husband and some friends without feeling stressed or guilty—and without getting behind.
The secret is, of course, finding free time.
The Secret Hiding Place for Time
You have free time in your day, I can just about promise you. The trick is to find where it’s hiding. Usually, it’s going to one of three places:
- The Internet
We spend so much of our time—both free time and work time caught up in the world of instantaneous technology and entertainment. According to Digital Trends, we sometimes spend as much as 4.7 hours per day on social media. Imagine what simply cutting that time in half could do for your mental health!
During the past week of noveling, I’ve spent much less time online, and it has been one of the most freeing things ever. Instead of scrolling absent-mindedly through Facebook for two hours before going to work, I’ve been able to write my novel, watching the progress go up in my word-count bar. And as a bonus, I still have plenty of free time in the evenings!
Setting Responsible Deadlines
Now, since everyone’s situation is different, your schedule may not look exactly like mine, and that’s okay. Perhaps you have less time to work with because you’re working a couple of jobs, or going to school. Maybe your schedule is not as predictable. That’s okay. But make sure to prioritize rest, or you will find yourself crashing and burning.
Maybe that means you only have half an hour for “creative time” each day before you push into your whitespace. If that’s the case, perhaps you should consider setting a smaller goal. Instead of aiming to write 50,000 words, try for 20,000 or 30,000. The goal is to fan the sparks of creativity—not to blow smoke into the rest of your life.
When you’re able to set healthy, reasonable deadlines for yourself, and be a diligent steward of your time, the burst of creative energy you’ll feel is amazing.
- Do you have creative goals this month? What are the deadlines you’ve set for yourself?
- Do you struggle with carving out time for balance?
- What are some strategies you’ve used to prioritize whitespace during busy seasons in your life?