by Rob Slater
Balance. When I hear that word I can’t help picturing the scene in The Highlander where Connor MacLeod is standing in a boat balancing a log with heavy rocks tied on each end as Ramirez (Sean Connery) rows out to the middle of a loch. B… A… L… A… N… C… E… Inevitably MacLeod gets dunked and realizes he cannot drown. And the Spaniard in his Scottish brogue says, “You’re immortal.” MacLeod tells Ramirez, “I hate you.” With his bearded smirk, Ramirez says, “That’s a perfect place to start.” Balance.
Creation is like that. It is hard. We hate it at times. Often it overtakes our lives. I am a passionate creator. I have trouble focusing. And then I don’t. My current quest is to find balance between my life and my writing. Because as much as I love it, my life is not writing. I have a family–a big family–and a day job teaching a wonderfully eclectic classes at Windward High School. Balance.
My twelve year old recently told me, “All you do is write.” What I think she meant is that I’m not taking time to do things with her that she wants. How do I do that? I can’t give up on the creating, but I also can’t turn my back on family and friends. Balance.
Limit writing time. Sit down and do it. Easier said than done. I bet you want steps. How about five?
- Set a goal. What do I want to accomplish that I can measure?
- Cut something out of your life so you can use that time to create.
- Create a space, Room of One Zone, that is conducive to creation.
- Tell your family, friends and future fans when you are going to be there in your Room of One Zone.
- Put those times in your calendar.
- Respect the time, energy and process you put in above and get your butt in the seat and create.
What do you want to do? Write a novel? Publish a novel? Or be an author [not just a writer]? That’s your goal. Step 1. My goal is to write and publish enough books over the next five years to work half-time at my day job, probably 11 books. I have 2.75 now. That means two finished novels a year, nearly double the current output. How do I do that?
Step 2. Cut something out of my life. Television’s been gone since Deep Space 9. We watch DVDs and streamed movies, but more of a special occasion (like the glass of wine I’m having while writing this. On the weekends and then only one or two.). I cut back playing music. That hurt, but I still pick up my guitar regularly. Doing local theatre. I was ready for a break. Probably will do more someday, but don’t miss it much. What else can give that doesn’t negatively impact family and friends?
The day job. Income and hours. This year I took a 15% pay cut to get more hours to write. This really hurts. I can’t do some of the other fun things I like, because I can’t afford them. At least not until the writing I’m writing gets finished and starts selling. I can hear you. “But, Rob, you’re a successful, award-winning novelist with three novels and a story collection. Aren’t you making bank?” Sadly, no. I sell something nearly everyday somewhere in the world. But income fluctuates from $60 to $600 a month, usually closer to the lower end. Hollywood agents aren’t calling me to negotiate options on my movie-ready debut. I’m making more money as a writer than I made as an actor or musician. CERTAINLY more than as a poet, but it’s not like I can ‘afford’ to take a 15% pay cut. Balance.
Step 3. Set up a Room of One Zone–The Writing Zone Room–WZR. I fancy myself someone who can write anywhere. To be fair, I’ve produced half a million words in the last four years without a “place” that I write. You know what? I’m going to set up a distraction free writing space.
I’m doing Steps 4 and 5, but only half vast (Say it out loud.) effort. Writing’s in the calendar. Step 6? Do I respect it? No. Sigh. If I don’t no one else will. Balance.
So what am I going to do? Keep at it. What have I learned as an Indie Author? Perseverance.
What happens when I don’t hit my goal? Reset it. Adjust it. Balance.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest [Hoquiam], Rob wanted to be an astronaut or a rock star. At 42, he gave up those dreams to become a science fiction and fantasy writer, where he can pretend to be both.
Like his characters, he speaks in lines from 80s movies, drinks Mountain Dew and eats pizza. He loves music as a listener, a zealous fan, a guitar player, and a singer/songwriter.
Follow him at his personal blog, www.robslater.com, or the Deserted Lands website, www.desertedlands.com. Feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on most social media as robertlslater or Robert L. Slater.