Like many folks, we here at Smexy are constantly working on juggling work, family life, social life, reading, blogging and other things. I often wonder how authors balance it all. Melia stops by to talk about what works for her. Melia’s new book, Seduced by the Soldier is out now.
Tips on how to keep your day job, writing life, and sanity
Like many writers, I have a day job, a place I lovingly refer to as The Male Observation Lab. As you might guess from the moniker, I work in a male-dominated industry, although there appear to be more women in the construction ranks than when I started *cough cough* years ago.
The days can be long and intense, particularly in the summer as our projects swing into full gear. And like most day jobs, you kinda have to show up in order to get paid—shocking, I know!—which can put a damper on the writing life. So what’s a writer to do? How does one keep up with all the day job stuffs, the writerly stuffs, the family/social stuffs, and still stay sane?
Aside from the necessary day/project/annual planner(s), I have some thoughts on how we can do all the things and stay sane. Now, I’m not saying these are the end all, but I do try to keep them in mind whenever I feel like I’d rather ignore the world, grab a book, and hide in a corner instead! It would be true bliss, but what I’d come back to when I surface from some time with my book boyfriend would be nothing short of chaos. And who needs that, right?
First of all, remember that outcomes matter…kinda. We all have goals. Some of us want to write one book and walk away while others want to make gobs of money from their writing so they can buy an island and lay around drinking margaritas all day (my kind of author!).
Well, I believe that how an author attacks the writing depends on WHY she’s writing. Become thoroughly, emotionally invested in the story and you’ll find you actually want to drag yourself out of bed at ungodly hours (or maybe even stay up ‘til ungodly hours) because you’re so excited to be with your characters again. With the right WHY, you’ll still feel energized even when the first draft is spinning you in circles like an old-fashioned toy top.
Next, strive for balance. Yes, it’s not always possible, especially when the sun’s shining and construction projects are all starting at the same time—some of them at night—and they all need your attention NOW, and, oh, by the way, your editor is patiently waiting for you to turn the book in, and, what’s that? I have to write a safety plan for a project proposal for a multi-million dollar project and it’s due tomorrow? UGH!
*Ahem* Excuse me, didn’t mean to get too carried away there.
The reality is that balance can seem like a pipe dream when everything happens at once. What’s really helped me is good old-fashioned prioritizing via darts and a dart board. Yes, you heard that right. Darts.
See, by following the law of averages (don’t ask me for details or I’ll be forced to make something up!), I kinda figure that the most important things will have a way of happening whether I force them or not, so why bother to stress? Here’s an example:
I recently scheduled a girls’ weekend, which meant that from mid-day Friday until sometime Sunday afternoon, I was off-the-clock, both writing-wise and day-job-wise. I was taking that time to do the bonding thing with ladies from my CrossFit gym. (As an aside, these are the peeps you want to travel with! We unloaded an SUV stuffed with stuffs in no time, and all by our lonesome. It was a badass moment!) The weekend was our time to laugh (so much laughter!), listen to the waves crash beside the condo we’d rented, play hours upon hours of Cards Against Humanity, eat all the foods (Almost Better than Anything Cake, anyone? Soooo yuuummmmy…) and maintain a Level 3 buzz the entire time.
Did I mention that I was also waiting for second round edits from my editor and that I had a tight work schedule at The Male Observation Lab? Yeah…about those…
I ended that weekend sober and ready to tackle the edits, but only after I’d done the mental dart throwing (Wait. You didn’t think I’d actually hang a dart board and throw pointy-tipped things at it, did you?), which basically meant deciding what HAD to be done versus what would be nice to have done—laundry so that there were clean clothes to choose from the next day? Nope. Laundry because I was out of clean underwear? Helllzz yeah!—and I followed this method for the day job stuff, too. Basically, I streamlined my life to fit the most important things in it. It can be painful to choose which gets dropped from your to-do list, but your sanity’s at stake here, remember?
Which leads me to the last tip: Be good to yourself. Kindness matters, especially when we’re talking about YOU.
To paraphrase motivational speaker Kyle Cease, remember that everything you’d ever created came from you, so get excited about YOU. Read that again.
Every book you’d ever written, every parent-teacher conference you’d attended, every dinner you’d ever made came from you. Take the time to sit down and truly understand and appreciate this. Once you do, it becomes obvious that your day planner, that all-important tool used to keep life organized, MUST include down time, play time, time with family, time with friends, and, most importantly, alone time.
These tips are what help me fill the creative well, keep all the life balls in the air, and ensure that when the alarm clock goes off at 4 a.m. I’ll eagerly hop out of bed with a smile on my face, ready to take on the manuscript, and happily leave the dirty laundry alone…until I run out of underwear.
Book blurb: Zandra York just got her big break, photographing a major project for a travel magazine. So what if she’s never traveled out of the country before? Or that she’s more adept at deciphering fraudulent financial statements than reading German train schedules? Her brother Jackson is on his way to act as her guide, and she can’t wait to experience Europe with him.
But when Jackson’s overprotective best friend gets off the plane instead, Zandra knows this will not end well.
There isn’t a damned thing Special Forces instructor Blake Monroe wouldn’t do for his best friend, but babysit Zandra when Jackson is unexpectedly called away on a mission? Nope. Not on the list. Especially not when she proves to be more trouble than he can handle—and far too tempting.
Between accidentally hiring a hearse as their rideshare, an unprovoked goat attack, and photographing erotic-shaped chocolates, Blake and Zandra can’t keep their hands off each other. But Zandra’s new career is about to send her all over the world and Blake is finally ready to settle down after his next deployment.
He’ll never ask her to give up her dreams. And she’ll never ask him to give up his.
Hilarity ensues when a world-weary Special Forces soldier must keep his best friend’s little sister, an independent travel photographer with zero experience and too much determination to go where she has no business going, out of trouble.
Melia Alexander is the author of sassy, sexy, fun contemporary romances, but is also fortunate to spend her week days at The Male Observation Lab (a.k.a. her job at a construction company) where she gets to observe guys in their natural habitat. Though they often behave like typical alpha males, she’s often seen through their personas to the heart of who they really are – the heroes of their own stories.
A native of Guam, Melia traded in warm, tropical breezes for the rainy Pacific Northwest. She’s an avid reader who also loves romantic comedies – preferably with a glass of Cab Sauv and a box of dark chocolates nearby. In her free time, she’s busy conquering her CrossFit fears: ring dips, power cleans, and the dreaded 800 meter run.