Happy New Year and welcome to 2010!

In my last post I offered an overview of some various areas of our lives as writers that we often struggle with, and promised I would tackle them each in detail over the next few posts. Today, I’d like to take a look at one, which, in my opinion, is the most important one we face: balancing our writing lives with our family time. Juggling the two most important aspects of our lives is never easy, but it can be done. I certainly do not yet have this down to a science, but over the years, I’ve discovered a few “rules” that, when followed, can create peace of mind with this balancing act.

  • Work out a schedule with your family that will help you most effectively work around your family. Talk to your family before you schedule your work hours. By getting a general consensus upfront regarding what the best schedule will be for everyone, balancing your time with family down the road will become easier.
  • Set definite hours for yourself, then leave your work in the office when your work day is done. For me, this has become the most difficult rule to actually follow. When you work from home as I do, it’s too easy to do “just one more thing.” Having tough, consistent boundaries here, however, is very important, especially if you have children at home who are expecting you to be available when you promised you would be.
  • Pre-warn your family of upcoming tight deadlines or other anomalies to your schedule. By now, they probably realize writing is not a “regular” job and can have its share of crunch times. Instead of just locking yourself in your office for weeks on end with no one knowing why, alert them to your deadlines ahead of time and let them know you need to temporarily adjust your schedule. If you have young children, you may also want to reward their patience during this time by promising some quality time with them once your schedule is back to normal.
  • If you work a regular full-time job in addition to writing, limit your writing hours to a certain amount each day, and try to schedule your time so it’s most convenient for your family. I’ll address this issue more in an upcoming post that looks specifically at juggling part-time writing with full-time work, but for now, let’s just say that your writing time may not be an optimum time of day for you. I know writers who get up at the crack of dawn just to get an extra hour of writing time in before they head off for work and then squeeze another hour or so in after their kids have gone to bed. This way, they’re still in touch with their families, and they’re still writing. They’re just not sleeping! But…sometimes you just have to do whatever you have to do to make something work.

These are just a few starters, and I’m sure you have your own that have worked well for you and your family. The most important aspect of making any rule is to enforce it. Once you’ve established time boundaries and set a schedule for your writing, be sure to keep it. Your family will thank you!