I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, March 25, 2011

Finding Balance as a Writer

Spring Break arrived and along with my two-sided To Do list, family coming in, and trying to fit in a quick three-day trip to Six Flags, I still wanted to work on my writing craft. But I felt guilty about stealing away to my study to write when the kids were home. I wanted to have balance.

Let’s just say I decided to be true to my goals and enjoy my time with my kids. I just returned from the MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat where we used movie analogies to learn about writing.

So I decided to maximize my time and watch some of the episodes of the TV series “Heroes” (my teenage boys wanted to watch) and pick up some clues on how to describe the characters' emotions and the elements of creating storyworld. Notice, I never said I was going to check what my teenage boys were into watching and, yes, I did call out the elements when I saw them. (Backstory, greatest fear, greatest dream-- all MBT language).

While the show is a bit gorier than I prefer, I was intrigued. When my boys had to leave the room for a little while, I kept watching. (Um ... no, I didn’t even think about hitting the pause button.)

Of course, I had to explain what happened.

Son: “Did they show that guy died?”
Me: “Umm, no.”
Son: “Well, then how do you know?”
Me: “They inferred it.”

Can you visualize my son giving me the universal teenage look of “Huh?

Me: “Well, it was all about the character's facial expression and the dark lighting in the scene. When they paused the scene and moved to another. The type of music they played. But, no they didn’t actually say it.”

Ta-da! I did what I set out to do, balancing time with my kids and working on my craft.

Go ahead, watch a few movies with a pen and paper in your lap or cradling your laptop. Freeze the TV and consciously watch how directors “showed” you what the character felt. Examine the actors' expressions. How did they use lighting or setting to create the mood?

This is a great way to balance family time while improving your craft. No guilt about being off in your writing room while the kids are on Spring Break.


Alena T.

Photo by ngould/stckxchng.com


  1. Alena~

    Great post! And great reminder about balance. I sometimes have issues with this, but it is usually my writing that loses. But you showed me that it hasn't been losing as much or as often as I thought. I almost always have a notepad in my lap when watching movies with my hubby and sons. I love to take notes on movies (I learned that from Susie too!) but I hadn't really thought I could "count" it as writing. I have mostly taken my notes on pacing, motives, and stakes. Thanks to you, I will definitely be taking a closer look at facial expressions, lighting, and music for show and tell. Thank you, Alena...you rock!

  2. So, as I was typing my comment, I was also watching the show "Eli Stone" on Netflix. I don't know if anyone else has seen it, but it's a cute show about a lawyer who has visions that help him represent the underdog and win. In the episode I am watching, the main character is having flashbacks to the past and sees life through the eyes of his father. In the 1980's. The director used music to show us when we were, as opposed to telling us we when we were by playing high profile 80's songs. Given my somewhat obsessive knowledge of music from that era, I could even tell you the year. I probably wouldn't have noticed it had I not just read your post, Alena. So, thank you again, for making me more aware. =)

  3. It's Spring Break here too, Alena, so your post is especially applicable. I've had days where I didn't get near my WIP and days where I've had time to myself and my ms. Balance, balance, balance . . . Today I'm gonna look for a movie to watch together.

  4. Heidi & Beth,
    Thanks so much! We all I think, struggle with balance, especially when we have a family that needs us. My youngest is 8 and I'm sure I will learn a wealth of knowledge about character emotions with all the movies we will eventually watch together. lol!

  5. Alena, I loved your post. Spring Break here has meant some activities with kiddos and a trip. My honey and I watched The Sound of Music, and we both picked up on lighting and colors (Or lack of) in the movie. It was fun reading your post and thinking about that. I've never thought to take notes, though when watching with my family. I'll have to try that! :) Thanks for your post and suggestion for how to balance writing and family. :) Loved it!

  6. I love this idea, Alena. Never, ever thought about doing that. Oh, and Heidi, music can be worked into your wip! It'd be neat to write a flashback and wrap it in music--going in, have whatever year top song and coming out of it in a present day song...or ever tv show. Love the way these post spark ideas!

  7. Great post and advice! Can't wait to see my husband and kids' faces when I pull out my notepad to take notes on our Friday night movies! Thanks.

  8. I enjoyed your post. I did the same thing, spending time with my family but also paying particular attention to the character growth and plot. I plan to blog soon on what I learned. (I'm glad your take was different than mine so I still have something to post.) Congrats on making the best use of your time all the way around!

  9. Thanks for sharing your post. I find myself analyzing the plots - have for years. I never thought of writing it down. There's my "duh" moment for the day!

    I'm constantly beating myself up for not spending as much time working at writing as I think I should. I'm starting to learn that it isn't all completely about typing words into a document. As you pointed out in this post, learning about writing is working. I'm trying to remember that.

    We had a teacher's conference at school today. While he was giving the devotional, an idea for a new story popped out at me. I jotted down some notes about it. Viola! Balance!

    Thanks again for the tips!

  10. Great, Alena. You're putting your strokes where needed most & I LOVE the picture on this post. I'm convinced by personal experience that family investment grows w/ huge compound interest and gives us LOTS of good seasoned wise material to write from in later years. I know your fruitful writing time will arrive in future.