Don’t Be Balanced

If you’re like me, you’re probably looking for balance, balance in your creative life, in your work life, in your social life. You want to know how to balance your creative writing with your blogging and platform building. You want to know how to make money while also pursuing a career in writing. Oh and you’d like to finish reading a book every once in a while, too.

Balance

Photo by SuperFantastic

Balance is About Stasis

The thing is, I’m not sure we need more balance to be more creative. I like what Keith Jennings says:

I don’t believe in living a balanced life. Balance is about stasis. But our lives are dynamic. And full of tensions.

I prefer a life of harmony over one of balance.

Harmony describes a collection of notes co-existing in tension with a root note.

That makes sense to me.

Relationships are a portfolio of positive and negative tensions.

I love that.

Think about harmony for a second. Harmony is when someone is singing one note and you sing a different note that sounds good with their note. Then, they sing a different note and you have to change your note to match theirs.

It changes. It’s dynamic. And the change creates music.

The Root Note in Your Writing

I was talking with a friend who is struggling to find balance between his job, his writing, and his blog. “How do you find balance?” he asked.

I joked, “I mostly don’t!”

But what I wish I had said was, stop trying to find balance. Instead find harmony. Pick a root note, a priority, a center for your life, and harmonize with it. If any activity, project, or social obligation doesn’t harmonize with your root note, throw it out.

What activity, project, social obligation isn’t bring harmony but dissonance to your life? How can you bring harmony to your life?

Who do You Serve

The way Keith finishes this post blows me away:

Writers serve one thing: stories. That’s the root note of their creative life.

Everything else is packaging, performance and merchandising.

What’s the root note of your creative life? Attention, money, art? Who are you serving? Yourself, your audience, your stories?

If you want to learn more about balance, harmony, and creativity, subscribe to Keith Jennings’ weekly newsletter, Root Notes.

PRACTICE

No practice in the comments section today. Instead, spend some time serving your stories. Work on your work in progress and give it everything you have.

Have fun!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Steph

    Love it, Joe!

  • Rachelle Eaton

    This is a great metaphor. Balance implies an equality of all things, no matter their importance. Harmony means prioritizing, choosing, towards the end of beauty.

  • Maybe balance isn’t what I need but I do require order. Both my personality and my boss require it to an extent, then I’ve got this blog that really shouldn’t look like I duck taped it together (especially since duck tape is really hard to use through a computer screen).

    Katie

  • mlhatcher

    Balance for me right now is out the window. There is no balance. I am doing my best to stay above the water line and keep some kind of focus on what is priority, which right now is my children. What comes out of that is where my heart takes me. See, I am currently in a battle of the heart, my wife has said we are two different people and we have over the years drifted apart. Simply put, she is not happy and wants out and I am having to deal with where that puts my heart. When I cry out, I take the residue of what is left over and for the most, bleed it out on the keyboard, whether it all shows or not, I am in a bunch of mixed emotions that are trying to find their way through all the mess. In the process, I am seeking understanding in all this. I still love my wife, this will not change, but harmony, for us, is far far away.

    • I’m so sorry. Bringing harmony between two people, especially if they can’t agree on the root note, is so difficult. It certainly adds a layer of complexity to the music making. But when two people can work together, the music gets that much better. Good luck.

    • I’m so sorry. Bringing harmony between two people, especially if they can’t agree on the root note, is so difficult. It certainly adds a layer of complexity to the music making. But when two people can work together, the music gets that much better. Good luck.

    • Ml, you will find harmony, at the moment your life might feel like dissonance, even cognitively depending on your beliefs. In time as your life changes either apart or reconciled that discordant note you have been hearing will dissipate and harmony will be restored.

      I have been up to the point of “I am done” this year which has most definitely been seen and felt in my writing but as a result of intervention in some amazing Godincidences I can truly say I am married.

      I am not saying your wife will change her mind, nor am I trying to foist my belief system onto you. Whilst in this turmoil and tension your best writing may be written.

      John Cooper Clarke (Brit poet) said in reply to someone who said “I can only write when I am depressed” – “Well I hope you can never write” Wellness of person tensions with mood writing.

      I write in opposite, so when I was in my dark “I can’t be married” I wrote of love, of that comfortable, slippers and pipe love. Now I am back to not writing about love at all, not couple love.

      I have been bedridden for three (extremely long days and longer nights) it has caused tension. I have all the time in the world to write but can’t think of a thing to express! Today I am hoping to try and make it out of the house and breathe some fresh air, meet in fellowship with humans, not children or husbands and really hopefully shop because supplies are running low.

      Finally (rambly) embrace the tension, harness the emotions, capture the nuance of atmosphere (from all points of view – in laws, children, wife, you, neighbours, shared friends, unshared friends) Detach the writer in you and gather the wonderful material that is being presented to you.

      And praying for you

  • I’m excited by how this connected with you, Joe! Thank you so much for paying it forward!

    As authors and artists, we live and work in the tension of options. Options, not the lack of them, cause us to get blocked or burnout. Even the proverbial “blank page” is a barrier, not because of some void it causes, but because of the onslaught of options it forces us to face.

    Olympic atheletes, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners, missionaries—you name it—aren’t “balanced” people. But they do live in harmony with some greater purpose they define or accept. I like that. I can get out of bed and go do that.

    Appreciate you, Joe! You are a very talented Creative.

    • Keith,

      Loved your latest Root Note (I’m now a subscriber). I was the guy asking Joe about balance, and he forwarded Songs and Stories to me. This concept really resonated with me, as I’m a passionate person who has found balance to be impossible/stifling. I’ve always thought that the best things come out of tension.

      I hope you don’t mind, I quoted you quite a bit in my post today. Thank you for your work.

      • Yvette Carol

        What a sweet lovely harmony you three have created together here!!

  • Wow. That is such an amazing perspective that I had never considered before! Definitely will spend time contemplating how that looks for my life right now. Thanks!

  • Wow. That is such an amazing perspective that I had never considered before! Definitely will spend time contemplating how that looks for my life right now. Thanks!

  • What an innovative idea! I subscribed to your blog’s RSS feed last week and since then have found your posts to be informative and encouraging–thanks!

    Anita

  • What an innovative idea! I subscribed to your blog’s RSS feed last week and since then have found your posts to be informative and encouraging–thanks!

    Anita

  • Love this, and great quote. I’ve been struggling with a balance all week and think I sometimes do better when I focus on one project more than the others for a while.

  • Love this, and great quote. I’ve been struggling with a balance all week and think I sometimes do better when I focus on one project more than the others for a while.

  • Dharma76

    VERY well said. As a writer, wife, homeschooling mother, and worker of part-time dayjob, life is less like balancing than like running from room to room with a fire extinguisher. Finding my center and sticking with that central root note will make me feel less out of control.

  • Dharma76

    VERY well said. As a writer, wife, homeschooling mother, and worker of part-time dayjob, life is less like balancing than like running from room to room with a fire extinguisher. Finding my center and sticking with that central root note will make me feel less out of control.

  • Nicole

    I so needed this! For me, I’ve made writing a part of my life these days and along with that, so has blogging. But there seems to be an internal debate with writers on the necessity of blogging. But I have found harmony with blogging and writing because first of all, blogging gives me extra money. Being that I’m unemployed these days, I like that. Second, weekly I post creative writing on my blog and while those pieces will probably never see formal publication, I still think that every word written builds skill. And I figure as long as I am writing regularly, than blogging is okay. I have maintained the balance because I don’t go on as many social networking sites, and to me that is a pretty good trade off. Writing will always have my priority. And allowing for blogging time is just icing.

  • Nicole

    I so needed this! For me, I’ve made writing a part of my life these days and along with that, so has blogging. But there seems to be an internal debate with writers on the necessity of blogging. But I have found harmony with blogging and writing because first of all, blogging gives me extra money. Being that I’m unemployed these days, I like that. Second, weekly I post creative writing on my blog and while those pieces will probably never see formal publication, I still think that every word written builds skill. And I figure as long as I am writing regularly, than blogging is okay. I have maintained the balance because I don’t go on as many social networking sites, and to me that is a pretty good trade off. Writing will always have my priority. And allowing for blogging time is just icing.

  • Excellent post! I love the idea of harmony as opposed to balance. The idea of balance has long irked me. Probably because it was a principle not in line with my nature and always lurking beyond my grasp. I also love the concept of a root note that sets the tone for your life. I think I need to evaluate.

  • Excellent post! I love the idea of harmony as opposed to balance. The idea of balance has long irked me. Probably because it was a principle not in line with my nature and always lurking beyond my grasp. I also love the concept of a root note that sets the tone for your life. I think I need to evaluate.

  • Harmony is the way of life. What a beautiful post Joe. I am thinking about my life in several part harmony at the moment, how one thing feeds the other.

  • Keith is genius, have already replied via rootnotes.

    But just had to say

    Keith is genius, and just like I did

    Joe you went on and added to it, wd

    • Yvette Carol

      Oh, did you Suzie? I gave up on it because I didn’t think you could comment on any of the posts. There didn’t appear to be a space for comments on the last one I read anyhow….

      • I replied direct to the email, have to admit it was my first. I emailed Keith to ask how to do it. Felt such a dummy when he said reply !!!!

        I miss keitharsis but new paths, new aids, anything to keep us churning, hey

        • Yvette Carol

          Ah well now I feel like the dummy!! Thanks…. 🙂 Ha ha. Yeah I feel the same way about Keitharsis, and I was only a new convert before he let it go too. Onwards & upwards I guess

  • Mhvest

    This is so well said Joe. I never thought of harmony rather than balance. It makes so much more sense, and it encourages flexibility.

  • My root note is writing. This year has been a discovery that I was attempting to serve others rather than stories. I didn’t know that was happening until after it had been ongoing for quite some time.

    Course corrected. Time to be awesome.

    • Yvette Carol

      Ha ha! And… a courageous course correction to be sure

  • “stop try­ing to find bal­ance. Instead find har­mony. ”

    Brilliant. The rest of the article is great, too, but that little nugget could go on a gravestone.

    • Ironic. I actually stole it from a gravestone, Bronson.

      😉

  • Valerie OBrien

    This post has awakened a concept that I’m quite familiar with, but have completely ignored! And I have always wrestled with trying to balance my creative passions with life. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post!

  • Yvette Carol

    Bless you Joe for not prescribing a practice today! I feel bad when I don’t have the time to do every practice…. I seem to spend every day scrabbling to find the time to keep up with everything coming in over the internet as it is. What a constant juggling act!! Balance, yeah that would be a fine thing if it were at all possible. I constantly seek it too, as most others here have mentioned, and yet it remains ever elusive. I like the idea you and Keith have mooted here, of the root note and harmony. It’s more attainable and I think we need that. I know that once I had fixed my root note — stories of course — in my life, a whole lot of things came into focus. Clarity is a thing of rare beauty. Today, with luck, I too will get back to story 🙂

  • jc.piech

    This really rings true for me! You know when you hear something that really strikes a cord, and it kind of refreshes you? That’s how I felt reading this post 🙂 Thank you x

  • Oh my dear, do I try to be balanced. I have a pile of 1000 + pages of articles to read, I critique one manuscript a week for a critique community I am in, I blog, I work as a content editor and it steals 140 hours a month from my life, I try to read to stay on top of things, I have a social life and on top of that I am trying to write a book.

    I like it how people who don’t write look at me, and say “Oh, you write, well good for you.” And I see, how they think “now she has it easy”. And they don’t understand how demanding writing is. How many sacrifices it requires. And finding such a balance is a sacrifice too. Because if your life starts to resolve around one thing, other things are pushed further down the line.

    Therefore, if you don’t mind me saying, harmony is for those who have found the thing that is the most important for them. Because it’s like dedicating your life to it then.

    I see how my life could be easier if I traded balance for harmony.
    But I think I am still holding on to the balancing act with the attempt to harmonize at least a part of it.

    Thank you for the post, though, my eyes are now open 🙂

    • Yvette Carol

      Oh boy Sorrento, you hit a nerve there! If or when I ever start a blog I’ll do a whole post on that one. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve weathered that condescending look that follows, ‘oh, you’re a writer?’ That ‘must be nice for some’ countenance. Man! Don’t get me started. People have no idea!!! That’s why I love that quote that did the rounds on FB a while back that said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people” Thomas Mann

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  • Mike Zserdin

    I love the “root note” idea Joe…a benchmark or cornerstone of all our projects…great thoughts.

    Mike

  • I hope everyone who reads this signs up for Keith’s newsletters. The only complain I have about them is that he does not send it out often enough.

    • Yvette Carol

      Me too!! I am a big Keith Jennings fan. For me personally I subscribe to blogs I can participate in as a way of creating online community and interacting with others who share similar interests. I still read root notes because Keith is a genius. However a lot of days if I only have a small quota of time for social media then it goes to the interactive sites every time 🙂

  • Linda

    Very nice post. Give ourselves permission not to “compartmentalize” to the point where it takes more time and energy to figure out if you’re spending your time in a “balanced” fashion, than actually DOING. Your take on harmony also brings to mind focus. Focus on what you’re best at, what’s most important. The rest is all enhancement.

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