Thursday, August 7, 2014

Delia Latham: Is Writing Taking Over Your Life?

Writing…take over your life? Believe me…it can if you let it.


Any career should be controlled by its owner, not the other way around. So let’s talk about ways to keep writing within acceptable bounds, so you can still have a life in the real world.

Keep to a schedule. Only you know what “office hours” (writing time) you prefer to keep. Decide what they are, and adhere to them. Some people value free weekends, and that’s fine. Exclude weekends from your writing schedule, if you’re one of them. Some prefer to write in the evenings—I do. Being a night owl has its benefits. Run your “office” at night, if that’s what works for you.

The important thing is, whatever hours you set, stick to them. As with any job, there will be the occasional “overtime” hours, or unpredictable last-minute deadlines or unexpected kinks in the plan. Don’t be so rigid you can’t work with those things, just don’t allow them to happen too often. That’s how schedules become obliterated and writers find themselves at their desks every waking hour. And that’s the kind of schedule that inevitably saps all the joy out of writing.

Know when to say ‘no.’ We all love to help others when we can, and you’ll always find someone needing a hand. It’s important to reach out to those looking for insight, advice, mentoring…whatever. But it’s also important to know your limits. If all your time is given over to others, your own writing suffers—and so will your attitude. Help when you can. Give. You should. But know when it’s time to say ‘no.’ Say it kindly. But when you need to say 'no,' say it, and mean it.

Know your limitations. Some writers are quite comfortable working on half a dozen writing projects simultaneously. Others can handle only one or two at a time. Neither way is wrong. But if you’re most comfortable working on one project at a time, don’t take on two or three. You’ll find yourself less productive—not more, if you stretch yourself too far. 

Going outside our comfort zones now and then is not a bad thing…but common sense says when we do so, we shouldn’t go so far outside the zone that we can’t find our way back. If trying to write two novels at the same time steals all your free time as well as your sleep, stick to one at a time. 

What can you handle within the “office hours’ you’ve set? Take on that much and no more.

Don’t take your work “home” with you. Most of us write in our homes, so this one seems a little weird, but you get the picture. Once you’ve set your office hours, respect them. And when you walk away from your desk, try to leave your work-in-progress there—at your desk, in your office.

This one’s a bit touchy, because as writers, we’re constantly on the lookout for a great story idea. We’re writing even when we’re not writing. But your family deserves to have all of you during designated family time.

That’s why you’re reading this post, right? You want to find a way to keep writing from becoming your whole world. Writing is important to a writer, but God and family are more important. Keep your priorities firmly in place.

Things that “take over” in a physical garden are thought of as weeds. No matter how pretty they might be, when allowed to, they quickly overrun the good things - the things that are supposed to be growing there.

For instance, farmers hate morning glories. To them, they're weeds, because they tangle themselves into crops and choke out the thing that's supposed to be growing. Then the farmer has to invest extra money and manpower to eradicate them.

I, on the other hand, love morning glories. They're beautiful...when contained to a specific area and not allowed to over-populate a yard (or garden). I derive a lot of pleasure from watching them climb over my back yard fence. But hubby and I are aware of their propensity to take we keep them to a very specific area. If we gave in to the natural inclination to let them grow wherever they pop up, because we so enjoy their simple beauty, before long they would take over.

And we, too, would begin to think of them as weeds. Wouldn't that be terribly lose the intense pleasure I find in the morning glories adding that electric burst of color to my yard, because I fail to keep them in their place?

If writing is important to you, create boundaries for it and keep well within them. Otherwise, one day you'll discover you no longer want to longer take pleasure in creating fictional worlds...because it has taken over your real one.


What do writing and morning glories have in common? Find out on Write Right! @DeliaLatham

Is writing taking over your life? Find out how to set the boundaries you need.  @DeliaLatham


  1. Such a terrific post, Delia, and so true! Authors tend to suffer from the three maladies--not making time to write, allowing others to interfere with our writing time, and not taking breaks from writing. We need to find a balance, set our work time and boundaries, and stick to them.

    Good post!

    1. Thank you, Linda! I appreciate you stopping by. I enjoyed your post so much, and look forward to your next visit. :) (Readers, if you missed Linda's post, it's the one just before this one. Check it out!)

  2. Well...if the shoe fits... lol No, the preacher needed a self-examination, I think. :)