Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Juggling the Writing Life

by Mindy Obenhaus

When I first began writing back in 2004, I envisioned my days being spent at the computer, diligently working on story after story with, perhaps, the occasional book signing here and there. It was a simple dream. And one that couldn’t have been farther from reality.

No, here’s an example of my reality. Turn in edits for February 2020 release, submit proposal for next book series, promote contest that includes September release, acquire giveaways for upcoming book tour, pack for writers conference, make sure pantry and refrigerator are stocked before leaving for writers conference so family won’t starve, travel to writers conference with additional thoughts on proposal that’s already been submitted still pelting brain! And that was only the first half of the week.

Okay, so not every day/week is like that. And aren’t we grateful? However, there are times when it does seem like everything happens all at once. Because writing isn’t just about writing. There’s also promotion that might include newsletters, social media, book signings, radio or television appearances, blog tours, and the list goes on. Not to mention the fact that, while we may be writers, we’re also wives/husbands, moms/dads, daughters/sons, friends, employees… We’ve got so many balls in the air, it’s only a matter of time before we lose our concentration, get out of sync and down those balls come.

So instead of feeling overwhelmed, let’s take a step back and prioritize.

Start by looking at all the things that you typically devote a portion of your time to. Things like God, family, work, writing, hobbies, housework…

I hate to admit this, but sometimes the thing that’s most important is the one thing I fail to do when life gets busy, and that’s spending time with God. I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off and my mind is focused on the day and all I need to accomplish instead of focusing on the Creator of time.

Fortunately, one of the great things about God, is that we can talk to Him anywhere, anytime. Whether we’re brushing our teeth, riding in the car, or sitting in the stillness of a quiet house, He is always there, always ready to engage with us, to listen to our problems and offer us the peace and encouragement we need to get through the day. We simply need to keep our focus on Him instead of the chaos around us.
Look at those things that require your attention. Write them down. This is especially important if you’re a visual person. Now look at the list. What needs to be done first? What can wait for another day? Do not procrastinate, though. Procrastination is not our friend. Procrastination will give you heartburn and add lines to your face. Trust me, I’m an expert on this. If your editor sends you edits and says she wants them back one week from today, don’t wait until the day before to start doing them. Jump on those babies just as soon as you can and then send them back so they’re not hanging over your head.

Be realistic. As you're prioritizing things, be honest with yourself. It’s better to allot more time for something and be pleasantly surprised than to not have enough time and find yourself even more stressed and asking for an extension. Granted, there are times when this is unavoidable, but even though we have the luxury of working in our jammies, we are still professionals and need to behave as such.
Avoid unnecessary distractions. While social media is a great way to connect with readers, it can also be a huge time suck. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to Facebook with the intention of posting something to my author page, and then the next thing I know I’ve LIKED a dozen posts and forgotten why I was there in the first place. 

If you're there for business, stick to business. Also, instead of doing just one post, why not take a few extra minutes to schedule future posts so you’re routinely interacting with your followers? But wait until you have some downtime to look through your newsfeed.

Victory is yours! Revel in that sense of accomplishment each time you cross something off of your list. You did it. And before you know it, the chaos has subsided, or at least returned to a normal level, and you can breathe freely again. 

Even if you're not a writer, the next time life has you feeling overwhelmed, don't look at whole. Break it into bite-size pieces -- pray, prioritize, be realistic and avoid unnecessary distractions. It's a game plan that works.

What do you do when you find you're juggling too many balls? Share your thoughts for a chance to win a copy of my upcoming release, Reunited in the Rockies.


Preorder here.
Read the first chapter here.

A fresh start…and an old love reignited?
A Rocky Mountain Heroes romance
For widow Kayla Bradshaw, restoring a historic Colorado hotel means a better life for her and her soon-to-arrive baby. But she needs construction help from Jude Stephens, the love she lost through a misunderstanding. Working with Kayla, the police officer finds himself forgiving her—and longing to rebuild her shattered confidence. But can they trust each other to forge a future together?


Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com





46 comments:

  1. Great advice Mindy. That being said, I'm currently being distracted from a writing deadline by reading Seekerville. Of course, Seekerville is more inspiration than distraction, so it's perfectly acceptable, right? I'm currently working on getting my balls back up in the air because they recently came crashing down. Thanks for the great post!

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    1. LOL, LeAnne! We sure would rather be an inspiration. :) But I totally get how hanging out at a blog can delay the work.

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    2. LeAnne, we all have those morning rituals we have to go through before our day gets rolling, so yes, Seekerville is perfectly acceptable. ;) I just hope you did find some inspiration this morning. Now gather up those balls and get going!

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    3. LeAnne, I make Seekerville PART of my writing routine. I usually get enough out of it so it counts toward my work. There is a huge difference between visiting a professional site and cat videos.

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  2. Excellent advice! Be realistic is a tough one for me.

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    1. Terri, I'm the same way. Sometimes I can make a list and then later realize it's impossible. I've learned how to take items on my list and draw an arrow to the next day. :)

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    2. Terri, there's nothing worse than getting into something and discovering things aren't going to work out the way your thought. Just remember that you know you better than anyone else. You know what you're truly capable of. So always pause to make sure you're being honest with yourself.

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    3. Oh, Terri, you should have SEEN my to-do lists when I was younger. Of course I didn't account for traffic, waiting in line or the vagaries of Other People. I was scheduled to the minute. Not any more, too much angst. And a couple of car accidents that convinced me to slow down, literally and figuratively. It's not worth it.

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  3. Oh, how I love crossing items off a list! But I need to be more regular about making that list. My daily planner helps, but I don't always think to plan ahead. It's more like a last minute panic list. haha So yes, I need to be a better planner and lister!

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    1. Missy, there's something gratifying about ticking those things off the list, isn't there? I have my calendar and then a plain old notepad I keep beside my computer. I add things to it, I cross things off. And there's no better feeling than getting everything crossed off. Of course, I occasionally forget to write things down, or only write part of them. Gets me in trouble every stinkin' time.

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    2. SO gratifying. You had me at "list."

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  4. Amen to social media being a huge time suck. I call it the black hope that takes hours to climb out of. (However, I do enjoy your scripture posts :)
    I am a list maker too, great sense of accomplishment when I cross things off.
    Looking forward to your new book!

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    1. Tracey, I'm so glad to know I'm not to only one who's easily distracted by social media. Like I said, it has it's good points, but there are drawbacks. So we have to be wise, especially when we're in a time crunch. There's never a bad time for a scripture verse, though. You just never know who might need it. ;)

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    2. Tracey, I agree. But when I'm browsing mindlessly I know something is wrong. Either I'm too tired and really need to call it a day or a night, or I need to get up from the computer and stretch. It is truly a black hole when we use it as a substitute for doing other things, been there.

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  5. Great post, Mindy. I am definitely a list maker. I do love to cross things off. I also can relate to the computer time suck. I often go to the computer to look something up that I need and end up reading Facebook. I need more discipline.

    Please put me in the drawing.

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    1. Sandy, I don't know if you're a visual person like me, but lists are great because they allow me to see what I've accomplished. Facebook? Not so much.

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    2. Sandy, lists are great, aren't they?

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    3. Mindy, I am visual, so lists are great for that reason.

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  6. I definitely feel like some of my balls fall on my head some days. And I am about to add more by taking on a part-time preschool job teaching two-year-olds. But every afternoon, I make myself sit down and di my Bible reading. Every morning, I won't get out of bed before I send up a prayer asking God to help through the day. I find if I do those things, it's easier to tackle the rest. And I love to-do lists. Marking something off is a huge pleasure.

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    1. Bless you, Amy. As someone who has a two-year-old grandson and nineteen-month-old granddaughter in daycare, I truly appreciate people like you.

      YES, things always go smoother when we keep God in the equation. He is our sustainer.

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  7. Ah, Mindy. You've nailed this on so many levels. I have a huge problem with the reality part, because I am terrible at judging how much time I need for something. It's hard to explain, but I'll be getting ready to go somewhere, see I have fifteen minutes, and think, "Oh,I have plenty of time." Next thing I know, I'm running ten minutes behind. It happens ALL.THE.Time, and I don't know how to fix that sense of time in my head. I think I just go off somewhere in my imagination and lose track of time.

    I do think routines are crucial. I'm so much better at dedicating prayer time during the school year. I have an app on my phone, so every day I use the subway ride to read Bible passages and reflections for the day. But when I'm not doing that subway trip, I usually don't think to open it. I guess I need to build a new home routine for that.

    I'm the opposite to the rest of you, Yes, there's a satisfaction in checking things off lists, but the lists stress me out. I think it's seeing all those obligations on the paper. I'm very good at denial. ;)

    Happy Wednesday all.

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    1. No, I get it, Mary Cate. We're all made differently, so if lists stress you out, find something else that works for you. The list is to help keep things from falling through the cracks.

      As for judging time, even though you think you have plenty of time, go ahead and start out. Perhaps it'll become habit.

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    2. Cate, I have a problem judging how much time things will take and I'm one of those people who always has to do One More Thing before she leaves the house.

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    3. Cate, I'm like this, too. Just last week I looked at the clock and had almost 10 minutes until time to go to my exercise class. All of a sudden, it was past time and too late to go. (Maybe subconsciously I just didn't want to exercise.)

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  8. So I used to over-manage my time. To the minute. Never idle. Until a neighbor stopped by to chat and I decided to take out my MENDING, and she asked, "Am I keeping you from something?" I've had to back off a bit. I still have lists, but they're more realistic, and if I have to roll an item over to tomorrow, oh well. Thank you, Mindy. These are good reminders as I move from a busy summer to what looks to be an even busier fall.
    Drove up to Maine with my husband yesterday, a mini-escape to the York Beach area. We visited a lighthouse and had lunch in a 100-year-old restaurant. I usually use our lunches out for strategic planning, but this time I forgot my budget book, daily planner and clipboard. He did not remind me, and I'm glad he did. Time is precious, let's use it well.
    Kathy Bailey
    Planning her way into fall in New Hampshire

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    1. Kathy, I've been to the York Beach lighthouse in Maine! That was nearly 20 years ago, though.

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    2. Ooo… New Hampshire in the fall would be beautiful, Kathy.

      Yes, one can certainly over-manage their time. Even when life is hectic, we still have to take time out for the important things, like friends and family. I failed to mention my son breaking his hand a week prior to my leaving and having to put the on the brakes so I could take him to the ER. Life happens. And people are important. If they just want to chat, well, then we politely explain that we're overwhelmed. They'll understand. Or offer to help.

      I love that your husband forgot to remind you to grab your things. Please tell me you didn't stress out about being free.

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    3. Kathy, that's exactly where we were in July. I'm curious which restaurant you ate at. I loved the area. Really wish I could move there.

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  9. Housework is the first to drop. But I don't drop the ball so much as throw it in a corner, where it quietly breeds dust...

    Balance is something I want to get better at. Too often I'm so stuck in my head, I lose sight of the practical side of things. Or I'll use chores as an excuse not to write for days; weeks. I've been meaning to make a daily task list. Think I'll do that now. Thanks for the nudge this morning! :0)

    Good thing God never drops a ball.

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    1. Samantha, the good thing about housework is that it will always be there. Even if you do the dishes today, there will be more tomorrow. It's never ending. So unless I'm expecting company, I stick to the bare minimum when there are more pressing things on my list. Or recruit help from my family.

      I have been where you are. I know what it feels like to flounder on my writing and shift my focus to other things. But eventually, you have to force yourself over that hump. Do something that reinvigorates you and makes you eager to write again. Talk your existing story out with a friend or start on something new. And start by making a list of the things you want to accomplish. ;)

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    2. Thank you. It's helpful to know I'm not the only one who's struggled with this. :0)

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  10. Great post, Mindy! I'm a list person. Yes to checking items off when the jobs are done.

    I have some additions to make to my WIP with a Monday deadline. Hope to start them today. There's not much to do...but somehow changing a manuscript always takes more time than I anticipate. How can changing one or two words take so long? I stew over selecting the perfect word or phrase...sometimes for hours! :(

    I need to set my timer for 30 minutes. That ticking clock pushes me along.

    Just so I don't check Facebook and get lost for far too long.

    Have a great day!

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    1. Debby, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who labors over those little changes. Why do we do that to ourselves?

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  11. The writing life sure doesn't look like I thought it would. Just today I spent time with my website designer working on a refresh, adding a little something to the end of book 1 that the editorial team requested while brainstorming series title ideas, shot off a brief synopsis of book 3 to the same editorial team, and dove into edits on book 2.

    What happened to writing book after book with the occasional book signing thrown in? :D

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    1. Erica, it's obvious we were both very misguided. Or just plain clueless. ;)

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  12. Too many balls in the air can be an accident waiting to happen. I find if I drop one, it's usually best to leave it there for a while. Just for a breather.

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  13. I am currently feeling this so I needed to read this. I just try to decide what the least most important this.

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  15. Great post, Mindy!
    So happy to see your success!
    I always regret that when I make a to-do list I don't write them in detail, because if I did, then instead of only getting to cross one thing off, I'd get to cross off ten or more :) That would add a lot to my satisfaction :)

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    1. Eva Marie, that sounds like the same kind of logic I'd use!

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  16. I'm late chiming in on this post--proof that I really needed to read it! Thanks, Mindy, for these insights--valuable stuff! I keep a detailed planner--and I do my best to leave NOTHING out of it. I also try to come back several pages from deadlines and write notes like "begin blog post for (date)" so things don't sneak up on me. Of course, sometimes they do anyway! And I completely agree about social media--I love interacting with people, and all too often I often get sidetracked that way. Great post!!

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    1. Laurel, it always seems to be those times when we leave something off of the list that we end up in trouble, doesn't it?

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