Why “Live Well”? – 2021 Edition

This is the last of the “rebuilt” posts from 2017/2018, and also the last of the Definition posts.  It’s a hybrid, because the original post was built from two different sources.  I’ve amalgamated those sources instead of simply referring to them.

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One of the things that happened recently was that I revamped my workout schedule.

Actually, who am I kidding?  I built a workout schedule.  For the years I have been writing full-time and quite a few before that, I didn’t work out because I was so focused on getting the writing income up to a point where I could quit the day job.  After that, for these last two years, I have focused on making sure the revenue doesn’t slack off.

There’s a lot of surprising differences about full-time writing.  I have several posts/articles on that topic. Articles page, here.  One of the biggest difference between writing part time and writing full-time actually isn’t a difference at all–I just assumed it would be.  I figured that writing full-time would give me spare time to do all the life stuff I’d always put off until now.

Only, now I work–voluntarily–twelve and fourteen hours a day.  I’m always thinking about work.

I figured out that waiting for the days to spontaneously lighten their load so I could take care of other priorities, like my health, was just stupid.

Health is one of those important, but not urgent priorities that can be so easily set aside when important and urgent priorities raise their heads.

Part of being productive includes living well, which presumes you’re looking after your health.

This was from a log post written well over two years ago. 

And in very human fashion, my “lesser priority” health slid over the horizon as work priorities and emergencies grabbed my attention.

Recently, though, as I’ve hinted at in log posts, I’ve faced a major health scare.  And as it turned out, the actual health issue was not nearly as serious as everyone thought.  But at the time it was enough to plunge me into major life-style changes, including a radically revamped diet, exercise plan, and dropping 30 pounds in weight (and counting). 

I’m continuing with those changes, because I consider the whole affair a wake-up call.  I also urged everyone reading PIFW to not wait until they get scared out of their sweat socks to reconsider their quality of life.

What is “living well”?

It’s not just about making sure you hit the gym regularly and eat clean as much as possible, although exercise and diet are certainly part of it.

Living well, rather than simply pursuing optimal health, is a balance of work versus everything else.  It’s not necessarily an even balance.  For you and your circumstances, working twelve-hour days may not impact your quality of life, while other writers find six hours a day of writing and writing-related business is a strain.

You may need more personal downtime, or more sleep than others.  Or less.

Writers are an introspective bunch, generally, so our need for social contact is usually less.  But you might be an extrovert whose energy is increased the more you hang out with other humans.

A good life balance is personal, unique to you.  It also changes over time–often fluctuating with the seasons, and shifting over years as your circumstances change.

And, of course, these days we also have pandemic concerns to add into the mix, and the fact that many, many more of us are working from home.  Western society’s gig economy has been kicked in high gear by COVID-19.

Just this morning I read a news item that COVID numbers are climbing again in Europe.  Germany, Turkey and Russia in particurly are being swamped by fourth (or is this fifth?) wave COVID infections, although the rest of Europe is also seeing spikes.

And what happens in Europe, pandemic-wise, will cross the pond very soon, and we’ll be facing another wave of our own.

In other words, working from home will become the norm for many of us, even if writing fiction isn’t our primary form of revenue, yet.

Just as I did in 2015, when I started writing full time from home, if you’ve suddenly found your daily commute down to 30 seconds and you’re working in your pajamas, it’s possible you’ve shoved “life style” to the “when we get back to normal” shelf in your mind.

Even if you’re back on-site with your job, you’re probably still making compromises about your health and your lifestyle, because, well, this can’t last forever, can it?

Only, it’s possible that this pandemic may be with us for years, yet, as the virus shifts and reinfects, and comes back time and time again. 

No matter what your personal situation is, it’s likely you’re not thinking long term about your health and your life-style.

But you must.

What the ideal balance gives you.

A good balance gives you energy, joie de vivre, an up-and-at-’em attitude.  You love more, laugh more, and life just feels good.

The ideal balance will be easy to maintain, because no one aspect of your life is screaming for attention.  Everything gets looked after, sooner or later…and in its time.  It is the least stress-inducing ratio of all things in your life.

Finding this balance is easy, when you’re working on paper and figuring out what it should look like.

Keeping the balance is where the challenge lies.  I’ve learned this lesson over and over in the last six years of writing full time.  A well-balanced lifestyle is like juggling.  You have to keep all the balls up in the air by paying attention to each of them in their turn.  But life has a way of throwing up roadblocks, which I tend to call Life Rolls – sickness, crises, injuries, and other problems that throw you out of balance. 

Finding your balance, dealing with Life Rolls, getting back to balance, and moving on is a large part of being productive and happy.

A good life balance will help you write more.

Even if your life balance requires you spend less time writing than you would really like (again, see this week’s log post for more on this aspect), you will end up writing more in that time than you would if you’re sick, unhealthy, unhappy, or constantly fighting with loved ones for the time you need.

The minimal stress of a good life balance enhances your energy, your creativity, your concentration and your motivation, which all speed your writing along.

All of which still applies.  Being off kilter, fighting constant crises, is stress-inducing and doesn’t enhance your writing. 

Writing more will help your life balance.

The more you can get written in the time you have to spare for writing, the happier you will be about your writing and life in general.

If you can increase your hourly word count, then you can choose to spend less time writing in favour of hanging out with the kids, exercising, meditating or other life interests.

Writing frequently and faster means selling more.  Making more money directly affects life quality and can take the pressure of having to get more books out…giving you spare time.

There are all sorts of subtle advantages to writing faster/writing more and they all feed back into living well.

And writing more so you can get ahead of your production schedule, “banking” time, gives you protection against Life Rolls, and builds vacation time into your year. 

Living Well is a process, not a state.

If your ideal ratio of work/not-work changes across seasons and years, it can’t be a set-once-and-forget-it process, even once you have found the ideal balance.

Just finding the right balance for you can take years of thinking and tweaking. Every time you have a major shift in circumstances, you’ll have to figure it out all over again.

But it’s worth the effort.

Becoming mindful of how you spend your time will start the process.

Begin by asking yourself what are the essential elements of your life.  Are there any you are not including in your life right now?  Can you adjust your time to include them?

And so begins the process…

And yes, so it begins. 

Especially if you’re working from home, there is no one else to nag you into taking care of yourself first, and your business second.  Burn-out is a serious and frequent malady among indie writers, and then there’s the pandemic.  And that’s before we get to the more mundane considerations like mental and physical health, time for family and friends, taking vacations, and more.

Having a steady, productive writing routine, and writing a little bit more each day than the schedule calls for is a hedge against nearly all the problems indie authors face. 

How many books do you want to write?  If you’re like me, there are so many in your head that you’ll never write them all.  I bet (and I will win that bet) that you’d like to write as many as possible.

Be pro-active, not reactive.  Be smart.  And be in this for the long term.