Saturday, February 25, 2012

Finding balance

I was a competitive gymnast during my elementary school years. For the most part I loved gymnastics, and I can still do some of the simpler stuff, like handsprings and walkovers and aerials. One of the basic gymnastics moves is the handstand. Being able to hit a perfect handstand is of the utmost importance, because gymnasts end up using them on the beam as well as bars (a straight handstand is important for giants, an upper-level bar skill).

The key to a perfect handstand, I've found, is finding that point of balance. Too much, and you'll flip over into a backbend. Too little, and you'll fall back onto your feet. Once you find that balance point, you clench. Leg muscles, butt muscles, arm muscles....clenching keeps your body tight and helps you stay upright.

People always ask me how I balance writing with college, work, volunteering, sports, and social life. (Oh, and sleep.)(Hahahahahaha sleep.) For me, the hard part is finding that same balance point. I have the tendency to expect too much of myself. Last year during April and May, I forced myself to write 3,000 words a day despite the chaos of planning my upcoming graduation. I'd stay up until 3:00 a.m. doing the homework that I put off earlier. When I try to do more than humanly possible, I only end up disappointing myself, and I don't finish the necessary work. On the other hand, I'm the type of person who needs to set goals if I'm going to get anything done. Without a concrete schedule I'd just sit around watching Grey's Anatomy reruns and painting my nails.

We're all busy people. Some of you have children instead of college, or full-time jobs, or a combination of all three. When it comes to writing, you have to discover a point of balance that works for you. I personally hit that point at 1,500-2,000 words a day. Anything less, and it doesn't get done. Anything more, and I find myself sacrificing what little sleep I do get to complete last-minute homework projects. And once you hit that balance point you have to work to stay there. A gymnast will clench all her muscles to keep from falling, whereas writers use self-discipline. In order to maintain this balance, you have to write when it's time to write, rather than eating string cheese or watching Modern Family or playing around on Facebook. Stick to your schedule. Leave an hour or two for leisure, but don't let yourself skimp on writing time.

Balance is good. Balance makes us happy and less stressed and less likely to go all psycho on friends/family/the random guy in the library.

What's your balance point?


  1. I so need this. I struggle with balancing and tend to go all out on one thing, then all out on the next - instead of a little of each to keep me centered. I don't sleep very much, until after many days my body freaks out and I have to sleep above all else to catch up. Sigh. *still searching for that balance point*

    Cute new picture in your 'about me', btw.

  2. I. Am. In. Awe. Of. You.

    Back in November, during NaNoWriMo, I had my job, a basement reno, family and other social obligations to take care of, and I was able to knock off 2,000 words a day. It was soooooo hard. Really hard. But I did it. But 3,000? That is inspiring! And for you to do that with homework to deal with. Like I said, inspiring!

    Yet, in all this, balance is the key. It's what worked for me. NaNoWriMo was a killer, but I think in all of it, I learned balance.

    Thanks for the reminder! ;)

  3. Nice analogy with a perfectly balanced handstand and finding balance in writing. (Is that you doing the handstand in the photo?)

    I am the WORST at balancing my life! I cannot multitask for the life of me. I tend to work hard, super hard, on one thing while everything else falls by the, friends, health. I'm getting a little better at it, but balance is always a struggle for me. For me, I have to schedule time for fun things and relaxation so everything's not just work, work, work.

  4. Funny, I was just talking about this with a writer last night. I think it's impossible to live a perfectly balanced in life, at least for any extended period of time, because life is so transient. Everything is always shifting. I've found that balance in life is more like a teetering exercise; when you feel yourself start to fall too far in one direction you pull back, and then you might feel yourself start to fall in the other direction and you pull back. And it goes on. That's how I tend to balance. Clenching might work for handstands, but in life and writing it seems it's just an exercise in standing still. Forward movement requires you to shift, regain balance, then shift again. Like walking on your hands!

    1. That's how I feel, too, Liesl.
      And Kate, I love the new look of your blog!

  5. good point. I'm working on finding my balance right now. 2000 words a day sound doable. :)

  6. "you have to write when it's time to write, rather than eating string cheese or watching Modern Family..." um, where are you hiding the cameras in my house? Seriously.


  7. haha - i love that you call handsprings the easy stuff :)

    balance is something i constantly check and adjust. i'm not sure i'll ever have consistent balance, but when things get tippy, it's not that hard to recognize it, then shift things around.

  8. Me, I'm more like an old time wheel, but with just the center and the spokes, some short and others long. I have a million things going on, and I always start them, but I never finish all of them so the round part of the wheel can be attached to make it work.

    I'm liking the new blog look, especially the header picture.