The Elusive Work/Life Balance

I’ve been down this road before, so much so that I find its rocky terrain almost comforting. For as long as I have been a creative person I have struggled to find that ever so elusive, work-life balance. But how do you find balance when you’re working to ultimately provide a better life for yourself?

A few months ago, when I first became a supervisor, I was asked to come up with a professional development presentation on a topic of my choosing, and given this was an area I felt I needed the most help with, I decided to do it on the importance of achieving a good work-life balance. I read articles, did research, found information relating to why it’s essential to mental health and helps avoid the creative hell that is burnout, and then proceeded to go back to work and utilize none of the information I had gathered.

Over the past few months since I started doing YouTube I’ve noticed a familiar trend emerging. My boyfriend will message me to ask me a question or just to talk, and I’ll have to inform him that I’m filming a video for YouTube right now and therefore can’t. Even my novel has had to take a back seat to my filming videos for YouTube. Inevitably I find myself feeling guilty for these lapses in helping people or getting back to people; but then if I’m not filming or writing, I end up feeling guilty for not working hard enough, and thus the endless cycle spins on.

Why don’t I create a schedule? This seems like the obvious solution to my problems, and arguably the best advice you see given to writers time and time again. It’s something I’ve certainly been working towards more and more. I tend to try and vlog Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays. Leaving me Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday to do everything else, though I’m sure I don’t need to film even this much. I generally record about 2-3 videos per sitting so if I recorded Saturdays (for the week) spent Sunday after work editing and pre-scheduling for the rest of the week I would have Mon-Fri to work on other projects (eg: writing more and blogging more).

I seem to get the most creative work done after about five or six so if I were to work from say, 6-12 (when I usually go to bed) that offers me at least 6 hours to write. Assuming I spent half of that time writing blog posts and half of that time writing my novel I would actually get quite a bit accomplished in a relatively short amount of time, and I wouldn’t even have to do so daily. Leaving me time to read, work on design projects, branding further, etc.

This all sounds great on paper. It also sounds great on paper that theoretically my current job offers me the opportunity (most times) to do more creative work in between what I do on a day to day basis, and yet, it doesn’t always work out that way. None of this is to say I won’t be actively working more on finding a balance, and making time to schedule my work better, but a key change that I have to factor in isn’t just in scheduling my life more, but also in actively allowing myself the freedom not to write, not to film, not to work constantly. 

It’s easy to say, x, y, and z will offer you a better work-life balance, but putting it into practice in a meaningful way is where I really feel like I need to do more. Because frankly, I’m tired of feeling guilty for both working too much and not working enough.

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The Response from the Universe Part II

It’s not always overt when the Universe responds. Rarely is the message a blinding neon sign in the sky that says: Go this way. Or follow this path. Instead, the message is subtle. So subtle in fact that it’s easy to mistake it for a coincidence. But when you see something at just the right time you need to see it, or something/someone comes into your life at just the time you need it one can’t help but wonder, is this a mere coincidence, or something more?

Yesterday’s existential crisis had me heading towards emotional, but as I look through my usual email newsletter feed, I noticed an article from Writer Unboxed that seemed to pertain to my thought processes that had led up to this existential crisis.

Wants vs Shoulds:

The article’s crux was essentially that a lot of us have this idea of how we should be doing something, or how far we should be on a project and this creates a spiral of guilt that in many cases make our work output even less frequent.

Part of my existential dread is that because I am not currently working on a project that this somehow means I cannot reasonably call myself a writer much longer. After all, if one doesn’t write every day are you even a writer?

My boyfriend made a similar point to the article, but the main takeaway I got from all of this is that ultimately not writing, or even not blogging with any kind of frequency, doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me less of a writer. But if I’m only keeping up any kind of blog schedule because I should then I’m going about it all wrong. Why is it, I’ve published 3 blog posts in 2 days? Because I want to. I have a lot I want to talk/write about, and so here we are. Outside of my normal “timeline”. Because saying I’m going to blog these days and these days is tricky.

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Reacting to Old Writing

What was I thinking?

From the moment I sit down, I’m nervous. This was a bad idea. My mind is racing with a million thoughts. INTP—the logician—a thousand and one thoughts at a time. My life for years—at least I have a name for it now. I’ve already pressed record and I’m already made up, and my mother is with me, and there’s no backing out now. This was my idea after all.

It’s been years since I’ve looked at it. The cover is as cute as I remember, and I’m almost impressed that at 12 I was able to put this whole thing together. It has my old name and I’m bothered by that, but my attempts to grab masking tape to block it out are thwarted by the masking tape all but being glued to the roll. I give up—and introduce my mother, then begin the way I always do.

“I’m your host, not for possession, Narcissa Deville… and Welcome to Hell,” I’ve added a flourish to the end, all the more dramatic. I’m glad I’m wearing makeup because I can feel my face getting redder by the second as we introduce the book and I begin to read. This is going to be harder than I thought, I realize. But then, that was the point. 2017 has been a year of challenging myself. To move outside of my comfort zone. It’s why I began vlogging in the first place. So I know that I have to do this. And I know that I have to share it. Because this was the point of all of it.

I barely look at the camera the entire time—but I stick with it.

It’s funny in a way, and almost cute in others… I was so passionate even then. Some things never change—though I know that I definitely write better than I did then. It’s easier to edit than I expect and the majority of our 29 minutes ends up in the final version. I watch it several more times, add the finishing touches and prepare to share it. Maybe I’ll do this again sometime. Or maybe I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone enough for one video.

Is it All Worth it?

writeRecently I’ve noticed a frustrating trend. I’ve worked diligently to ensure that I am posting daily blogs, and 3x weekly vlogs as well as bi-weekly podcasts and essays. I’m making it a point to utilize Twitter more and working to use Facebook more, and ultimately continuing work to grow my brand to its greatest potential. But this has come at a cost, in terms of my literary output. I spend so much of my time working on avenues to get my name out there and get my brand out there that I’m not actually doing the one thing that I desperately need to do to make all of this even worth the effort.

Write.

Mostly I am writing every day in the form of blog posts, or essays or ideas for things, but the novel writing, the part that is why I’m doing any of this has slowed considerably, and it makes me wonder, is platform building worth it, if it comes at the cost of me actually writing?

I feel like I’ve had this existential crisis before, but I still haven’t figured out the answer. I want to believe that I can have both in tandem with one another, building a platform while also continuing to write novels, but the evidence thus far is showing that less and less. The more I do one, the less I seem to do the other. Finding that balance has become increasingly tricky and I can’t help but wonder if something will fall by the wayside in the process.

Writer: Blocked

essayIt started unexpectedly as I was working on the sequel to my previous work-in-progress. I had accomplished a number of things already, I had written the better part of three chapters, I had outlined what the rest of the story needed to be, and I had titles and notes for the better part of the 30 chapter novel I was planning. Everything was falling into place, I was confident, and more importantly I was eager to get to work.

Read More…

Now What?

days6After working for several years now on my current work-in-progress, to now be done with stage 3 of my 3 part editing process, the question becomes, well now what? What do I do now that the edits are done?

One of the most difficult and honestly most stressful questions to ever ask any writer, is how do you know when a story is done? How do you know when you’ve literally done everything you can to make the story as perfect as it can be? A number of us will simply answer with the glib if not understated, “when you can no longer stand to look at it”. Still others will suggest that the true test is when you can think of no more possible changes that could be made to it, but I don’t think there’s a writer alive who hasn’t noticed at least one or seven things they would change somewhere in a story that’s been edited to death. So I tend to lean towards the former idea of: when you can no longer stand to look at it. 

The next stage, besides the obvious of starting to send out queries to agents is actually to have other people actually read your story. It’s one thing entirely to tell them about your story in this sort of etherial sense, but the only way for them to get the full picture and for you to be able to get feedback on it, is to let people read it. Now that I’m at the end of this project, I am both exhausted, and frankly sick of looking at it, so now it’s time to let someone else look at it for a change and give me their thoughts, so I can pull myself out of my own head and my own anxieties about it. This is sort of a reiterated point, but it’s worth repeating because I think having people to read your story is so beneficial in so many ways.

Filling the Time

wed

Self-imposed deadline met. Another year down and another draft completed, and now… well… I don’t really know what.

Yes obviously working on the sequel, but how do you really keep yourself from going back and taking a peak at your book during the time between drafts? Because I’ve never successfully been able to leave the book alone for any period of time longer than a few days without wanting to make changes, but part of the reason I wanted to get this draft completed by December 31st was so I could spend all of January leaving it the hell alone.

I know it’ll be better for the book over all if I wait, so I’m trying to use this time to work on future blog posts, the sequel, my long list of books I’d like to read in the coming year, and walking but that still doesn’t quite stop that little itch that makes me want to get a little sneak of the book and start editing. Luckily having a full time day job takes care of a good deal of my free time issues, but on the days when I’m not working which this week was three days, means there are a number of times where I find myself feeling the urge to edit. Actually so far, I’ve been kind of lucky, I haven’t really had the desire to edit, but it’s only been six days, so there’s still time.

Any ideas on how to keep busy during the waiting period or how to resist the temptation to edit?

The Comfort of Knowing

monThis morning I woke up to the news, like so many others had two days ago, that the latest in ‘the Song of Ice and Fire’ series was not yet complete. (Why this appeared on my Facebook today, I have no idea.)

Now, I’ll admit, I have not yet had the opportunity to read any of the books in ‘The Song of Ice and Fire’ nor, have I watched any of Game of Thrones the very popular HBO series based on the series, but as a fellow writer, I couldn’t help but want to hear what George R.R. Martin had to say about why he hadn’t been able to complete the manuscript as planned.

There’s something comforting for me, as a new author, to know that even authors who have been doing this for years, who are well established and more importantly who’s books are very popular, sometimes struggle with deadlines, and getting a book complete. When I finished the latest draft of my novel just under the wire of my New Years self-imposed deadline, I did so, after spending the better part of 2015 trying to complete four chapters. I was sure, as anyone would be, that four chapters should have been far easier to complete, in far less time. But here we are, in the beginning of 2016, and I only just completed it.

So it’s comforting to me to know that even authors who have had years more practice than me, find themselves in the same positions when it comes to the difficulties of completing a novel. Now, I daresay that I am in no way comparing myself to Mr. Martin, nor am I suggesting that my books are anywhere near as long, actually, I’m a little disappointed with the length, and since I’ll start another round of final edits in February, I’m hoping to fill in some gaps wherever I find them.

author beware

ab

Somewhere in my early teens (I can’t seem to remember exactly when), ever enamored with the idea of publishing and becoming a real published novelist, I decided to do some googling and came across a website for a literary agency and so I decided to submit to them. I was thrilled and terrified, I knew virtually nothing of the world I was getting myself into at the time. The response was surprisingly quick. They wanted to sign me, but they also wanted a hundred some-odd dollars to read my work. This should have set off alarm bells somewhere, but I was young and naive enough not to have done my homework before hand. I didn’t have the money myself, but my mother was more than willing to pay for it. We signed the contract and off we went. They reviewed the writing and even gave me quite a few pointers on it, it almost seemed legitimate.

But the more we talked about it with other people the more red flags started to pop up. You see the one thing we didn’t know at the time, that needs to be stated is that literary agencies, don’t ask for money. They get paid a percentage through royalties. I dissolved the relationship about a month or so in; later I found their agency on the Preditors and Editors website. It’s lucky it only cost me a hundred dollars and not several thousand as one might worry that something like this could cost.

It’s hard to be a writer, and sometimes we let the excitement of possibility get the better of our judgment, in my case, I allowed my excitement at the possibility of having an agent cloud my better judgement in learning how all of this works. Had I simply read a book on the subject I might have known that agents don’t charge you to read your book. This is a warning, to all my new writers and young writers out there. Be careful, there are unfortunately those who would take advantage of you without a second thought. Give yourself time, you may think you’re ready now, and perhaps you are, but sometimes, giving yourself time to get better is so much of a help. Truthfully, I would have been mortified if I’d been published back then, looking at some of my older work (as it does for many authors) makes me cringe.

Thoughts on Self Publishing… Three Years Later

thought

It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s already been three years since my foray into self publishing. It seems like only yesterday.

I’ve written a lot about my thoughts on it in the months after, but now that I’ve put a good deal of distance behind me and now that I’m working once more on this current work-in-progress, I have some thoughts that I figured I would share with those of you who are new to this blog, and potentially new to self publishing.

  1. Self publishing was probably one of the most terrifying things I’ve done, professionally speaking. Not only because it was the first time I was really putting my work out there to be seen and judged which is admittedly terrifying, but because it was literally all on me. Self publishing may be a team effort, but at the end of the day it’s your name on that book, and when you don’t have a publisher behind you any and all blame for a book that doesn’t do as well as you’d hoped or doesn’t look professional falls squarely on you. There’s almost no way to prepare for this, because in reality, knowing that everything is on your shoulders, is not the same as experiencing it. This was made glaringly clear to me when I caught sight of a several chapter title errors after I had already printed thirty plus copies of the book to sell.
  2. Have a plan of action, and know what you’re getting yourself into. Self publishing is a business. You need to have a strategy for what’s going to set you apart from other authors. One of the biggest challenges in today’s market is that, with next to no overhead needed, anybody can publish a book. Anybody can put together a cover and have it professionally printed, indistinguishable from any other book on the shelf. Which makes it imperative that you stand out somehow and that more importantly you have a marketing plan. Part of my problem was that I was excited and nervous and I really didn’t think things all the way through. I thought I had at the time of course. I guest posted on other blogs, I blogged about it, tweeted about my book, and even held a contest, so I definitely felt that I tried, but it was tricky to balance writing and publishing. Which brings me to…
  3. Publishing is a balancing act. Self published, traditionally published, the nature of the beast dictates that you be able to balance the world of doing your own publicity and actually getting the next book out there because at the end of the day you’re still only as good as your last book, so you need to make sure you’re continuously putting out material. As I learned with the sequel to my first self published book, which was far more successful than the first.

Self publishing is a completely different beast now, then even three years ago. In order to be a successful author you have to be versatile and be able to change with the times. It also requires you to take what you’re doing seriously, get all the facts, do your homework, and put your best foot forward. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll be successful. At the end of the day, failure can still happen, that’s a part of life. But there’s something to be said about putting your work into the world and giving it a life of it’s own. It’s probably one of the most terrifying, invigorating sensations you could imagine, but there’s nothing better than hearing from a fan that they loved your work.