This week’s topic is how we maintain work/life balance…or whether or not you have a standing desk, a treadmill desk, believe in “butt in chair” or some other mantra. Hmmm, plenty of room there to write a post!
On the micro level, I sit at my writing desk, which is actually my great grandmother’s desk, a fact which pleases me for the continuity. I don’t think she wrote anything other than her own diary (which I’ve never seen – who knows if it even exists but didn’t every woman of her time keep some sort of journal?). My grandmother used the desk for her correspondence and I believe may have written some poetry. Then the desk came to me and I bang out science fiction romance and ancient Egyptian paranormal romance and probably both ladies would clutch their pearls at some of my scenes, but I believe they’d be supportive.
I sit in a cheap Amazon ergonomic chair at the moment, and before that had a cheap Walmart ergonomic chair that was actually better than the extremely elaborate and price-y ergo chair NASA/JPL provided me at the old day job. I used my Walmart chair until it literally fell apart after about eight years. (To be fair to the JPL chair, it had too many levers and controls that I could never figure out. It was probably extremely ergonomic if I’d ever mastered the amenities.)
I (mostly) write for a timed thirty two minute stint and then I get up and walk around, do housework or other activity on my feet for at least ten minutes before resuming my place at the desk. Why that exact time frame, you ask? Well, I used to do forty two minutes but that was too long to sit in this one spot, and thirty minutes feels too short. Go figure! Ten minutes of activity isn’t long enough to kill my creativity if I’m doing well. If I’m in the flow of writing, I never even hear the timer and I just keep writing until I realize my whole body has gotten cramped and stiff. Forget time limits!
I have a trackball mouse, wrist braces if needed for a bad week, a lower back support and an ergonomic foot rest.
I try to walk a certain number of steps every day and to avoid sugar. Don’t ask me how I do on those goals.
And a cat to supervise my writing. Did I mention Jake?
I TRY to write at least a little bit every day, but most days I can do 2-3K words. Yes, I spend too much time on social media.
On the macro level, two events defined my approach to work/life balance, which that life is too short to waste on things I don’t enjoy or which are stressful, and that life can end at literally any moment so be sure you’re getting the things done you really care about. My family is the most important thing to me and if they need me, I’m there. And of course one has to take the trash out, go to the dentist, have a mammogram, go to the day job to support themselves and their family (before I became a fulltime author)…but life is TOO SHORT to waste forcing myself to finish reading books I’m not into, watching movies or TV shows I’m not into, cleaning the oven, taking on thankless jobs because someone expects me to do so…etc etc etc.
What gave me this attitude? I’ve talked about both things before but briefly, one evening after work my husband went out for a bike ride with his best friend and ten minutes later the neighbors were at my door to tell me there’d been a terrible accident. An athlete and former Marine, he died in the prime of life, in his mid thirties. Our children were 3 and 5. And he was literally hit by a truck, so I don't take that phrase lightly. It happens.
Second, one morning while attending a business conference I came within about 60 seconds of dying (according to the doctors), after choking on food and passing out. Only the fact that I was able to pantomime the Heimlich Maneuver to the co-worker who was at the table with me in the seconds before I lost consciousness saved my life. And the fact he was a big strong guy, who persisted in doing the maneuver fourteen times before the obstruction came loose and my brain got oxygen again. Approximately 5000 people a year die in similar incidents. I would have been done, gone, no more time to write another word or more importantly, to hug my kids.
So when it comes to your allotted time on this Earth there are no guarantees, no promises, perhaps no chance for a few last acts or even words….
I may sound cynical here but I’ve had the experiences to support what I’m saying. It may be an uncomfortable thought and everyone expects to peacefully pass away in their sleep at 105, so they feel there’s plenty of time….
Don’t waste your life on things that don’t matter to you, okay?
NOTE: Photos are Author's own or purchased from DepositPhotos