Monday, July 19, 2010

The Life-Writing Balance

By Nicole Seitz

Here's a photo of me in North Carolina during the only snow of my children's lifetime. Problem was, we live in South Carolina. Yes, I missed their first snow. By the time I drove home, it was melted. I drove out of state for a book signing that was virtually snowed out. Cold? Yes. But sometimes this can be the life of a writer.

If you're a writer, you understand the obsession, the focus, the TIME that the writing life takes out of you. I'm talking....writing around the clock, some of your best ideas in the shower, thinking of characters when you're at the park or the beach, listening to the cadence of the elderly or the slang of youth just so you can use it in some future book as dialogue that "works." Sound familiar? Oh yeah, baby, you're a real writer.

I've written books, characters, plot lines, scenes that breathed themselves to life through me. It's amazing. Humbling. Awe-inspiring to experience it. The more authentic the experience, the better is comes through on the paper and the more people are touched when they read your writing. But if we're talking about writing struggles, I think we've covered the fact that it's hard to write. It's hard NOT to write. Hard all around. But you know what's harder? Figuring out the life-writing balance.

My fifth novel will come out in February. In the last several years I have gleaned that writing is something I have to do, been gifted with, charged with. But what about everything else in my life? I have also learned the difficult juggling act between writing and family. I had an unexpected hospital stay this year, and you know what I thought about while lying there, unable to attend the SC Book Festival? Books? No. Family. My family.

Here's what I've learned (as if I didn't know it before): Family trumps writing every time. Yes. I do feel the Good Lord gives me the words and allows me to touch people through my writing, and I don't discount the importance of that--but I have experienced first-hand the seductive pull of writing. Don't be fooled. It is addicting, yes, because writing allows you to tap into something much larger than yourself--STORY. You think about it every waking moment, don't you? My personal favorite is in bed when I'm about to fall asleep. Some people count sheep. Me? I say my prayers, then get into my character's heads and see where they might take me tomorrow, struggling to remember so I can write it all down at a decent hour.

But alas, for me, I have also been blessed with a family, a husband and children who need me to be fully present--with them. Story people or real people? I'll admit, it always hasn't been an easy balance. But my stories are in my head. My family is made up a real people--put in MY charge.

In this crazy roller coaster ride from book 1 to book 5, I've learned plenty about writing. What I did not expect is how much I would learn about life itself. We live each day as if it's a gift. We treat each person in our life as if they are treasure. After all that, if we have carved out time aside for it, we open ourselves up to Divine inspiration and work ourselves 150 percent so that other wonderful lives might be touched by ours.

The struggle for me has not been the writing per se, although it goes without saying, that hasn't been easy. The struggle for me has been how to live the rest of my life with that same sense of passion and overdrive that my writing life demands of me. Day by day, I take it. Each day, each story, each moment with family--is a gift.

May God bless your own journey.

Nicole Seitz is the author of THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS, TROUBLE THE WATER, A HUNDRED YEARS OF HAPPINESS, and SAVING CICADAS. Her novels have been nominated for awards and won some. She is also passionate about art and illustrates the covers of her books. Her next novel, THE INHERITANCE OF BEAUTY, comes out in February 2011. Nicole lives with her husband Brian and two children in the Charleston, SC area where she runs a web design firm and will begin teaching art at a local private school in the fall. She is currently working on her next novel.


Tiphany said...

Nicole, This blog was beautifully written. I pray that you continue to maintain that balance and always put your precious family first...however, I can't wait for your next book!

Julie said...

Your words were very encouraging to me today......thank you for writing them!

Sharon Leaf said...

Oh, Nicole, this balance of writing and family never ends. You are so,right...when it's all said and done, family comes first. What is our legacey? Our books, or our family? Both. But family is our living legacy. Thank you for this ensight that hopefully touches every young--and older--writer. Love to you.

River Jordan said...


Just spend time with the Adorables (my granddaughters) at the beach building sandcastles and playing with them. No writing, no facebooking, no twittering. Just the moments of being with them and soaking in life. I wish I had been as aware at your age that Life trumps Writing although it is something we are called to. Thanks for sharing.


Susan Cushman said...

Well said and from the heart, which doesn't surprise me. Even for those of who us waited 'til our kids were grown to get serious about writing, the balance is still a problem, and family still trumps, whether it's young children or an 82-year-old mother with Alzheimer's and a 28-year-old daughter with a wedding in the planning stages and grand-babies being born hundreds of miles away. Yes, carving out the time to write at any stage is hard. Thanks for sharing your journey. (and btw, the cover for the new book is great, although I loved seeing your original art on all the others!)