A Balancing Act: Day Jobs and Writing - Guest Post By LM Nelson


“How do you do it all?” 

“Where do you find the time?”

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times friends, family members, and colleagues have asked me these questions. And there really isn’t a definitive answer other than blood, sweat, and tears. Well, maybe not the blood part, except for that time I had a paper cut. But then again, if bleeding ink counts, then blood certainly applies.

Real writers work ridiculously hard. I never realized how hard until I became a part of the author melting pot. Sweating over deadlines, crying because your editor wants to cut a scene you spent months perfecting, tearing your hair out over marketing, and coming to the realization that following your dream of becoming an author has sucked every ounce of energy from your body. The entire writing, rewriting, editing, revising, polishing, publishing process is a walk in the park, except you’re not walking. You’re running uphill in ten feet of snow with rabid dogs chasing you. Ok, it’s not that bad. I’d describe it more like a marathon where you’re pouring all your energy into the race and sweating like crazy, hoping to reach the finish line without collapsing.

The market for books and e-books is huge. Authors of every age, with varying levels of experience, ranging from big names with large-scale international profiles to indie authors no one has ever heard of, write and publish books from every genre imaginable, and all seek the same thing – to gain readers, which will hopefully lead to book sales. Authors participate in book signings and readings, keep up on social media, and some even conduct interviews or offer writing workshops to teach others how to write. The list goes on and on. All of this is challenging. But when you consider the many authors who are married, raising children, paying mortgages, and carrying full time jobs (myself included), the entire writing process is daunting.

How does a writer with a full time job and a family do all of this? 

Caffeine is certainly helpful, although I don’t recommend drinking 50 cups of coffee a day. In fact, I don’t even like coffee. Tea works nicely though. Or wine, if that better suits you.

Most people’s jobs occupy anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of their day, five days a week. I’m technically on the clock from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., although I don’t recall in the 20+ years I’ve been in this profession a time when I’ve actually left work at 4:30. I’m usually in the building until at least 6:00 p.m. every night, often later. My profession is one that requires me to work with young children all day, which, as those of you who are regularly around children know, can be physically and mentally draining. Aside from spending eight hours a day educating children, my job also requires endless paperwork, countless meetings, lesson plans, grades…I won’t bore you with all the details. The point is I work anywhere between 50 to 70 hours a week, not including work I bring home over the weekend. I will add here that I have made it a priority over the years not to bring as much work home with me as I used to. If necessary, I stay later during the week to avoid this. Sweat and tears are minimized and less blood is shed this way. I have, however, seen blood in my profession, including my own.

My first priority is always my family. My children are adults now and don’t require my attention 24/7, but I still make it a point to spend some quality time with them every week. My husband and I need to connect too, so we set aside a little time every night to talk. Housework, yardwork, and taking care of our pets is a group effort. When we all work together, we are able to complete chores fairly quickly. There is less sweat, fewer tears, and hopefully no blood.

My evenings are dedicated to writing. Whether I’m editing and revising a book I’ve written, working on a first draft of another book, doing research, or brainstorming a new project, I spend at least an hour a day writing. I use this time to relax and unwind, which is what writing does for me. It helps me de-stress. No sweat, no tears (unless I’m writing an emotional scene), and definitely no blood. Although I have written a few bloody scenes over the years.

Being a writer while carrying a full time job and raising a family definitely falls into the balancing act realm. It all sounds chaotic and overwhelming, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is all about balance. Maintaining proper balance is the key to a happy and productive life. When you’re happy, you’re more productive, and stress decreases. Less stress means less sweat, fewer tears, and only occasional blood loss. So take some time for yourself, pursue your dream, and write. 

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L.M. Nelson is certified teacher and CPR/First Aid instructor. She enjoys poetry, music, photography, gardening, and nature walks. Aside from The Guardian and her Scrubs series, she has written several poems, some of which have been selected for literary magazines and published in poetry collections. She co-wrote the article, ‘Gifted and Talented Education at the Close of the Decade of the Brain’, which was published in Perspectives, an Idaho Association of School Administrators educational journalShe wrote a guest post for Squirl’s On the Spot blog and an article called Renegade Marketing that was featured on BookDaily. L.M. Nelson grew up in California and the Pacific Northwest, but currently resides in South Central Texas with her husband and two children. She is a member of the Texas Association of Authors, the Texas Authors Institute, and the San Antonio chapter of Romance Writers of America.