It takes equal amounts of planning, goal setting, self discipline, self confidence and your own personal “cheer team.”
Beck specializes in working with writers, and during the often lively hour-long discussion she shared insights she usually reserves for her blog, The Relaxed Writer, newsletter and one-on-one telephone coaching sessions.
Here is a recap of points about finding and keeping work/life balance and success as a freelancer or other self-employed creative type that Beck made during the chat, as well as observations and resources shared by the writers who tuned in.
Is it possible for writers to achieve work/life balance?
Yes, but it doesn’t just happen, you have to work at it. “Balance is a practice, not a static state,” Beck says.
You also need a plan, Beck says. “You have to know exactly what you want for your life and business, and a specific, doable plan.”
What kinds of things stand in the way?
- Fear of rejection.
- Fear that you’re not good enough.
- Taking on too much work just for the money.
- Failing to work when you’re “on” or sticking to a schedule.
- Failing to make time for things you really want to do for work or for fun.
How can writers overcome the internal and external obstacles that stand in the way of success?
For creative people like writers, many of the obstacles are internal. Writers have to learn to cope with rejection without taking it personally.
Beck recommends having a group of people you can lean on for support – a “cheer team” of individuals who will be there when you need them. Beck’s cheer team consists of her husband, business coach, friends and meditation coach.
My cheer team includes my husband, mom, yoga teacher and a handful of writer and editor friends I’ve known for years.
Other suggestions for overcoming obstacles:
- Refuse to give into negative thoughts or self talk. Acknowledge your fears, but then work through them. “Recognize fear, harness it’s energy & use it to propel you forward,” Beck says. Susan Johnston, a writer who runs The Urban Muse blog, suggests reading author and essayist Annie Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird, for her take on how feeling overwhelmed can sap energy and creativity.
- Don’t give up on things because they’re hard or tricky. If a query gets rejected redo it and send it in again.
- Consider your habits and eliminate things that are getting in the way of your long-term goals. Beck gave up watching TV online “and feel much better about myself.” I gave up electronic games for Lent and even though I might only have played a total of 30 minutes a day, feel more productive because of it.
- Streamline. Dump volunteer commitments or other obligations that you’re not passionate about. If you can afford it, outsource work or household tasks that could free up more of your time for activities that are more important.
- Pursue what you love. It’s amazing how much more energy you have when you’re working on things you want to do, Beck says.
- Work when you’re on, or follow a schedule or structure that works for you. McKay is a fan of the Personal Efficiency Program. Beck recommends David Allen’s Getting Things Done organizational system, especially his advice to have a Monday morning meeting with yourself to map out the things on your to-do list that absolutely, positively need to get done that week.
My days are packed. How can I find time to work on my “dream” project, something that could take me to the next level of my career?
It’s easy to get swept up in the daily grind. If you don’t plan for it, you might never carve out enough time for the novel you’ve dreamed of writing – or in my case, the e-book series I’ve been telling myself for the past year that I’m going to write.
Start small, Beck says. First identify what your dream project is. Then, set aside a little bit of time every day, or even every week, to work on it. If it helps, enlist a friend to be your goal partner.
Breaking it into chunks and thinking of it as “doable” could make it less intimidating, she says.
Suzanna Stinnett, a San Francisco writer and leader of the Bay Area Bloggers Society, limits her fiction writing to a certain time of day. It helps, Stinnett says, “to restrict the assigned time, as in ‘This is the ONLY time you can do it.'” It’s an odd brain trick, very fruitful, she says.
Beck suggests using the following questions as prompts to start your own quest for better work/life balance:
- Think about your cheer team – are any additions/deletions needed?
- What single daily action can you do to feel that you’re working for yourself? Living your life?
You can see the entire chat on Twitter by searching the hashtag #wclw.