Miranda Kenneally

Mexican Food Cures Writer's Block

Balance

Recently, some people have asked me how I manage my time. That’s a hard question to answer, because I don’t hold myself to any strict schedule. I kind of go with the flow and it’s worked so far. (Knock on wood: this mindset will bite me in the ass at some point.)

I generally wake up everyday at 7:15 and I have to be at work at 8:15. I rush through a shower, coffee, breakfast and get to the State Department by around 8:13. Sometimes my clothes are wrinkled and I can’t find anything to wear. Some days I don’t have time to fully dry my hair. I generally check my email and Twitter on my phone on the way to work. I’m lucky in that I only live about ten minutes from the office.

At work-work, I try to work very hard until noon. Sometimes it’s slow, in which case I will see what’s up on Twitter and Facebook. During lunch, I might write whatever book I’m writing or finish reading a book I started the night before. Occasionally I go out to lunch with friends.

I normally leave work at 5:30. I’m lucky in that my bosses think having a balanced life is important – they want me to leave work on time. Of course, there are times they ask me to stay until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. Those nights hurt my soul. Two nights a week I go to the gym and work out with a personal trainer. It’s great having somebody to pressure me into staying in shape. The other nights I generally try to go home and write, but sometimes I go out to dinner with my husband. I probably eat out way too often, but I try to eat well for the most part. (I love mac n’ cheese and french fries) My husband helps me with a lot of chores, like taking my clothes to the drycleaner and grabbing groceries after work.

On weekends, I run errands, go to the gym both days, and try to write a few thousand words. But here’s the thing – if I’m not feeling what I’m writing, I try not to force it. Instead, I go out for a walk, I read a book, I watch a movie, I do whatever. I use that time to do something else and clear my mind. It’s important to have that balance. I generally find that the minute I leave the house, I figure out what’s wrong with my story. Or I come up with some funny scene or plot twist I want to try. I’ve heard that some writers force themselves to sit at a desk and write. I don’t do that. It would drive me insane and make me get down on myself.

I admit I am a big multi-tasker. I often see people online saying they need to “get offline and write.” I figure if I have the words to write at the moment, normally I’m excited and have to get them down on paper. At moments like that I don’t even feel an urge to go online. But if I am in a lull, what’s wrong with being on Twitter? I also admit that even though I’m not a terribly social person and might go out with friends every now and then, I do like having noise around me while I’m writing. I like having the TV on. I often read and watch TV at the same time, too. It unclogs my brain.

One time a lady asked if I have kids. When I said no, she said that’s why I’m able to have a writing career. She insinuated that if I were to have kids, I wouldn’t have time to write anymore. I hate that mentality – if you love something, you should find the time to do it. Right now, writing is more important to me than having kids.

I’d be lying if I said life is always puppy dogs and margaritas. Some nights I feel like complete crap and don’t want to do anything when I get home. Some nights I leave piles of laundry sitting around. Other weeks my kitchen sink looks like a toxic waste dump. Some Friday nights, I have to down a Red Bull just to stay awake past 8:00 p.m. I never end up having enough time to answer all my emails. Sometimes I completely flip out because I’m worried I won’t finish a book in time, or that my readers will hate what I’ve written. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do great work, and when I don’t, I get down on myself. The same thing happens at my work-work at the State Department. If I make a mistake or get behind on something, I take it out on myself.

Anyway – what I am trying to say is that I try to keep a balance by just doing what I love.

How do you balance your priorities?

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