If only. If only. If. Only.
OK, there are technically writers who have a structured work schedule and that works for them and that is absolutely wonderful.
But I’m assuming most of you reading this right now — such as myself — aren’t quite there yet, and/or never will be.
Don’t worry — from where I’m standing, it’s totally normal, you’re going to be fine, DEEP BREATHS.
Something I’ve really been struggling with this year isn’t figuring out how to maintain work-life balance, but rather explaining to my loved ones and friends the abstract nature of my chosen career path. I’ve lost track of how many times someone in my life has said to me — this year alone — “Well, you should only be working until five, five days a week, so what’s the problem?”
The problem, dear ones (I do love them so dearly) is that it’s simply not possible for someone who has only been writing professionally for four years to settle for a nine-to-five work schedule — at least, not someone who is trying to save money for Big Life Things while also pursuing seemingly out-of-reach writing goals.
I’m describing myself here of course — I’m not married to my day job but don’t want to leave it and also want to do some freelance work for companies I love.
But maybe that’s not you. Maybe you have a day job bur are also trying as hard as you possibly can to write a book or run a blog — writing things for which ideas and/or motivation don’t always come between normal working hours. Why are you up at three in the morning typing away on your laptop? Because THE MUSE IS CALLING, YOU CAN’T HELP IT.
You can’t always will ideas to descend upon you at precisely 3 in the afternoon when it’s most convenient. Creativity usually doesn’t work that way. Writers work strange hours because they either love writing and don’t ever want to stop or they only have good ideas/feel inspired when it’s most inconvenient to sit down and write things.
Welcome to the writing life! Here’s your coffee! Wine! Whatever!
The good news? You are a writer! You don’t have to do things the “normal” way.
Don’t feel pressured to stop working because people don’t “get” it. Yes, there does have to be balance — you do have to make time for your friends/family and for taking care of yourself (eating right, exercising, etc). But there are going to be people in your life who don’t want you to spend so much time writing. And they’re either going to have to figure out how to deal with it or leave.
The way I see it, those close to you don’t have to fully understand why you are the way you are as long as they support you anyway. It’s nearly impossible to explain to my significant other why there are stretches of time I all but disappear — usually because I’m working on a bigger project and don’t like being distracted. They don’t get it but they’re supportive anyway. Side note, try to find someone like that. Anyway.
There will be nights your brain will not let you get a good night’s sleep. There will be days you wake up at 4 in the morning with an idea you can’t ignore. Embrace those moments. In some twisted way, they make you who you are.
When the urge to write calls, answer it. Those you love may not always approve, or “get it,” but you have to do what you have to do. Within reason, I suppose.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.