YA Author Cindy Hogan: Balancing Writing with Real Life

Wow, I have my first guest blogger today!  Help me welcome author Cindy M. Hogan, who’s on a virtual book tour for her latest YA suspense novel, Created.

With three YA novels under her belt now, plus a busy family and community commitments, I asked Cindy the ever-present question in my own life:  how do keep your life from spinning out of control?  She came up with some great advice for us, so read on:

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I’m so excited to be visiting Jennifer’s blog today. The topic she gave me is one that I have learned a ton about in the last year and a half and I hope to share with you what I’ve learned.

How do I balance my writing life with my real life?

My writing life before I published was pretty off and on. I didn’t schedule any writing time, I just wrote when it was convenient or I had the urge. Then I got published and everything changed. My family was so excited about it they wanted nothing more than for me to succeed and to help me do it. We talked about regular businesses and that most failed within the first two years. We decided we wouldn’t let my little venture do that and instead, we would work mega-hard for two years to make sure I did succeed.

It just so happened that my first book was such a huge success I was signing somewhere six days a week, something my family had not counted on. When that happened, I just let everything fall by the wayside: the chores, family dinner, dates with my husband, family time, laundry, everything. All I did was focus on writing. Not a good thing. We needed a new plan.

My good friend, Tristi Pinkston, taught an online class about almost this very thing not long ago, so when Jennifer gave me this topic I went back to that class and looked it over. (Tristi is my hero, by the way.) I was glad to discover my family had done many of the things she suggested.

Here’s what I think. To be successful with the least amount of stress, you should do these four things:

1.  Have a meeting with yourself. What do you really want? What does success look like to you? What are you willing to give up to become successful as a writer? My meeting only lasted about 2 seconds. I was that committed.

2.  Have a meeting with your spouse. Tell him what you want and then ask if he is willing to help you succeed. Talk about any problems you foresee (dinner, laundry, chores, family time, carpool, kids’ activities). As Tristi pointed out, make sure your husband also gets time to go after his own dreams or hobbies. Build that into the conversation.

(We didn’t do this simply because we didn’t think about it. My goal was my husband’s goal that first year. Then he had to discover his own.)

3.   Have a meeting with the whole family. Be excited! Talk about your goals and what it will take to achieve them. Discuss the problems you and your husband came up with and how you intend to tackle them. I think it’s important here to set firm goals that are measurable with a specific time limit.

Your family can’t be in a constant state of upheaval for you. Discuss the extras that the kids will have to pick up on and then what the awesome rewards are going to be. Fun family time is always a great incentive to do extra things.

(We decided to go full-hog for 2 years. It’s only been 1-1/2 years and we are thrilled with the results. We are also looking forward to that 2 year mark to attain a more expansive family time.)

4.  Now it’s time to follow through. Show your family that you have the self-discipline to see this undertaking through. Make sure you stick to the schedules and routines you’ve come up with as a family. Set a specific time each week to meet together and talk about your successes and failures as well as theirs. (We made a point to spend the little time we had together with laughter and fun. We have a specific time once a week that we play together.)

Most importantly, according to Tristi, (and I whole-heartedly agree) “be open, honest, loving, and fair when going through this process. Be flexible. You may find that the schedules you’ve created don’t really work and you have to change them.

Writing should be a grand, fun adventure and if your “Real” life is getting in the way, draining the fun, then go through these four steps and see if you can’t discover the fun again.

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Thanks so much for the great advice, Cindy!  I really like the idea of getting my family involved and having planning meetings to discuss what to expect.  Even if I’m not to the book stage yet, writing plus college is taking the same toll on us. Hmm . . . maybe I should have had that meeting with myself before I started!

What to do you do to keep your family life strong through demanding times? What ideas of Cindy’s grab you the most?

And after you comment (you will comment, won’t you?), you can stalk Cindy in any of these places (just click on the link):

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One Response to YA Author Cindy Hogan: Balancing Writing with Real Life

  1. I don’t have children yet, but I have found that my husband is much more supportive of my career and goals when we have inviolable time together. He knows that I’m not going to let anything interfere with the time we’ve set aside to spend together, so he’s more willing to be flexible and helpful at other times.
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