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  • Writer's pictureS. E. Shinault

Balancing Act: How I Juggled Writing With A Full-Time Job

When I started to take my goal of publishing a novel more seriously, I had already been at my corporate office job for a year. Now, after just over seven years at that same job, I recently resigned. It's been a rather bittersweet period. It felt strange packing up my belongings and emptying my desk. A lot of memories, you know? In the weeks leading up to my last working day, I experienced a swell of differing emotions: excitement, anxiety, nostalgia, relief, and unbridled anticipation of what the future holds. While I can't know for certain what will lay just around the corner, I do know that I plan to treat this new season in life as an opportunity to prioritize my health, my family, and my writing.

As you might have gathered, it hasn't always been this way. You might ask, "If you were taking your publishing goals more seriously, why did it take so long for you to act on it? Why wait until now?"

Well... that's a fair question. I'm not certain why I waited so long. Perhaps it was a combination of things. Lack of time, motivation, and energy. Various daily obligations. Having some hint of a social life with friends and family. Maybe it was just plain ole' procrastination. Not to mention, everywhere I turned, distractions and responsibilities abounded, all vying for my attention. I was lucky if I managed two solid hours of writing on a weekend. Frustrating was an understatement. But, the truth of the matter is, even for a writer, life never fully revolves around writing (unless you're already a rich, well-established author who's made scratching out books a career, in which case, tell me your secrets). I had to work for years to pay the bills, help provide for my family, and keep up with a household. Add in things like socializing, church, and the occasional fun thing, that never left a lot of time for my passion—writing.

You might think these sound like a bunch of lame excuses. And I would agree with you. There's a saying that goes something like this: people will make time for what's important to them. So, even in the midst of everything, I still tried really hard to make that time. I'd shut myself in a room, put both earbuds in, and try to get down as many words as I could. I also got into the habit of bringing my laptop to work every day so I could write or edit on my lunch breaks. On a good day, I'd cram a productive 20 to 30 minutes in while simultaneously stuffing my face. On a bad day, I'd glower at my screen, battle with impostor syndrome, and question my entire existence. (Okay, maybe that last part is a bit dramatic, but the discouragement was real.) Good or bad, this habit helped me make progress in the end, and for that I'm grateful.

Yet, it never quite felt like enough. I was never able to move at the pace I wanted. I could never get into that coveted flow state. There just... wasn't enough time.

I don't write all this to complain. While I do experience plenty of frustration at all the busyness, I also recognize that I live a very full, blessed life. Sometimes, it's just a matter of perspective. Still, at least to me, it was very obvious that one of the biggest obstacles to meeting my goals was working a full-time job, sometimes equaling out to more than just 40 hours a week. On top of it, it wasn't work I loved. I simply had to muddle through the drudgery every day. Sometimes the only thing that kept me going was my desire to write and the dream of one day getting published.

I definitely wasn't perfect at finding that balance, even when I really tried. In fact, I probably failed more than I succeeded, and I expect there will be plenty more failures down the line, even without a full-time job to tend to. But it didn't stop me then, and any new changes that come won't stop me either. As long as I'm being disciplined more often than I'm being passive, it's still progress.

I wouldn't call waiting as long as I did the "wrong" decision. Though, I'm known among my circles for being very indecisive, a flaw I freely admit and continue to work on where I can. A lot of my procrastination resulted from my own feelings of inadequacy. That, and the copious financial barriers to getting a book published. But over the course of the last seven years, I feel that my skill as a writer has improved, and though I know there's still plenty to learn, I finally decided it was time to take that leap and give this self-publishing thing a go. Otherwise, I would have kept putting it off, finding excuse after excuse, no matter how valid it seemed at the time.

And let me tell you, despite the immense challenges I've faced, my journey toward publishing has been one of the most rewarding things I've taken on. I've learned so much. Now, the dream I've had since I was a nerdy little 7th grader is feeling more and more like a reality. All the writing and editing I've put in over this last decade? I'm viewing it as preparation for meeting that goal. While I know my novel isn't going to be perfect, and I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, the experience I've gained through these years of struggle (and let's admit it... stalling) is absolutely priceless.

I started "The Rending" during NaNoWriMo 2017 and finished the first draft by April 2018. Then, I let the novel sit for a long time, working on other writing projects here and there, before I started asking myself the big question: What novel do I want to try to publish first?

It was time to take action, so I did. In the last year and a half, I've worked with editors, researched non-stop, built and maintained an author platform on social media, launched my website, and diligently worked on getting this novel ready for readers' eyes. After years of hard work, I'm on track to publish my novel. Maybe it will do well, maybe it won't, but by the end of the year, I'll at least be able to say I accomplished what I set out to do.

Would I have been further along on my publishing journey if not for working full time? Possibly. But, I don't really regret the time I've spent honing my skills as a writer, and living each day as it has come. It's definitely been a marathon, not a sprint.

Actually, make that a slow-but-steady crawl over a tightrope. This whole spiel is about balancing life and writing, after all.


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