• The Writer’s Dilemma, Part 2: Friends, Family & Leisure

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 6 comments

    BalanceLast week we talked about some strategies for fitting more writing — or thinking about writing! — into three of six of the main aspects of life: career, exercise and sleep. Today we’ll cover three more, the closely intertwined friends, family and leisure.

    Remember, clocking in every single day is the key. You probably won’t always produce words; few writers actually write every day, despite what they may say. But if you can find some way, every day, to advance your WIP, even when it doesn’t involve pen to paper, then you’re doing the necessary work.

    But today’s strategies will be as much about creating more time as they will be about using your time differently.

    So here is the second half of our series of tips you’ve probably already heard but have likely forgotten.



    TVOften it makes us feel guilty, binge-watching TV shows and movies, reading People and US Weekly, putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We torture ourselves with thoughts like, “I should be spending this time writing.” And because of those thoughts, our leisure time is less relaxing than it should be.

    Leisure time is no less important than any other activity in life. As Yi Shun Lai wrote in her recent post about leisure and balance, “Life balance includes vegetation. It includes doing things daily that you truly enjoy, on a lizard-brain level, with no end goal in sight. Stuff shakes loose when your brain is at rest. Problems get solved.”

    But somewhere in your leisure time, there can be a compromise. When the Netflix season of Arrested Development came out, we watched every episode that first day. And it was fun, sure. (If also mildly disappointing.) However, we could have just as easily watched half of the season that day and half the next, and still had the same amount of fun downtime.

    That’s a compromise. Two hours of nighttime TV instead of three. Watching a ninety-minute movie instead of your tenth viewing of The Godfather. Reading four chapters of a spy thriller instead of eight. (Though we might hesitate to suggest cutting down on your reading.)

    And with that leftover time, go take a long walk. Leave the headphones at home (hell, leave your phone at home), and — say it with me now — think about your writing project.

    Or just sit on the couch, TV off, radio off, phone off. Just sit there and chill. You can think about your project, if you’d like. Or don’t. Just as long as you’re in a quiet setting.

    That’s the kind of leisure time that is also good for your writing life.

    [Tweet “”Sitting quietly is the kind of leisure time that is also good for your writing life.””]


    Family & Friends

    FamilyOur obligations to others can be difficult to manage. Especially if your family and/or friends are particularly needy and demanding. Again, time and balance are key here. We want to spend time with those we love, and we should. But not to the point where we forsake our personal pursuits.

    The good thing about hanging out with friends or family is that this time can be folded into your allotted leisure time.

    We have writer friends in Boston who host a weekly TV night. Whoever wants to, from their circle of friends and family, has an open invitation to stop by. They all chill out and chat for a bit over food & drink, and then together they catch up on their favorite shows.

    You see what that accomplishes, of course. For the rest of the week, these friends of ours have more time to use for writing, since they’ve already spent time with friends and knocked out some of their weekly TV shows.

    Leisure time spent with multiple friends and family members. Think of how many hours that can free up in your average week.

    [Tweet “”If you can find some way, every day, to advance your WIP, you’re doing the necessary work.””]


    Pointless Summary

    I feel silly offering such simple ideas, but again, we all need the occasional reminder that finding more time to write, or using your non-writing time to think about writing, isn’t so difficult after all.

    This week, re-frame your leisure time. DO NOT make yourself guilty with thoughts of “I should be writing instead.” Allow your leisure time to be your leisure time. Let it recharge your batteries.

    And if you can find a way to fold family and/or friends into that time, all the better.

    [Tweet “”Allow your leisure time to be your leisure time. Let it recharge your batteries.””]



    Does leisure time make you feel guilty? What are some ways to avoid that guilt?

    How do you work to combine leisure time and friends/family? Are there any other of these six categories (career, exercise, sleep, leisure, friends, family) that you combine?

    Do you agree that thinking about your writing is just as important, or at least nearly as important, as the writing itself?


    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services. And join our mailing list, over in the right sidebar, for once-per-week writing goodies in your inbox. 

    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and other publications.


    0 0 votes
    Article Rating
    Notify of

    Newest Most Voted
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    David McKinney

    I use my leisure time as an opportunity to digest what I have
    written that day and to explore options for my characters
    outside the parameters of the manuscript. What if I changed
    my protagonist to a female character? What about adding a
    scene or taking one out? My mind has permission to ramble.

    Yi Shun Lai

    One more tip: Don’t multitask. If you’re going to write, write. If you’re going to veg, veg. Don’t mix them. I don’t even take my phone with me on walks anymore. It’s too easy to let my precious down time slip away from me. This was a fabulous set of posts. guys, and a good reminder. Thanks.

    Yi Shun Lai

    Argh, argh. What I mean by this is: This is what works for me. Sorry. “Rules” aren’t really “rules” in this game.

    B Holloway

    I do’not feel guilty taking leisure time. It’s essential! Nobody can work 24-7 without going nuts. My lesiure time sometimes involves brain work like crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles, so I even feel less guilty about that. But watching TV, especially educational TV, is nothing to feel about.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x