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Balancing Writing and Performance (Part 1)

The term “balance” is a tricky concept. My efforts toward life balance sometimes leave me feeling like I am standing atop a seesaw leaning first to one side, and then to the other to prevent one side from toppling over from too much weight while the other side flies upward from having no weight at all. How can we get anything done when we don’t know where to start, having several projects and tasks that need attention?

When a person does a lot of things well (s)he finds there are many who will bid for his/her time and energy, making boundaries difficult to set. Balance may feel like an elusive ideal that cannot be attained without excluding one important area for a period of time. This truth is crucial to understand. Unless one plans to author sixty books, for example, writing will not be a perpetual priority, but it must be attended to while the book is in progress. It may therefore be given attention at the exclusion of several other things that will regain their previous attention after the manuscript has been turned in. While steady progress toward an enormous goal like finishing a book manuscript is necessary, so it is necessary to prioritize the smaller but no less important tasks that also need doing.

In order to maintain this life adjustment, a writer must persevere as often as possible to make steady progress toward the goal of finishing the monumental project of writing a book. Books often come with deadlines imposed by a publisher, so finding ways to make the daily quota (again, at the exclusion of other activities like laundry, housecleaning, cooking, lawn work, gardening, etc.) can become burdensome when other work is clearly being neglected. Here is where asking for help becomes paramount! Dividing up tasks into achievable daily goals may also permit a few minutes per day to be spent in order to make sure work does not pile up to an insurmountable burden. The more individual projects one takes on, the more difficult this balancing act obviously becomes.

I am currently an author and musician with a separate, full-time day job (Director of Music Ministries at a local church). I just released my first book for a mainstream, international publisher (Peggy Lee: A Century of Song, Rowman & Littlefield) and am in the throes of writing my second which has an impending deadline. I am also a freelance performer, arranger, composer, music journalist, educator, podcaster (“The Singer’s Muse” launched on WGJC radio in November!), and community volunteer. I have learned the importance of setting boundaries to make writing time and music practice time sacred. Always trying to make room for the Spirit to orchestrate my days, though, I notice the occasional, unexpected phone call from someone who needs a lift and I look forward to accepting that as my Spirit work for the day.

I am thankful to be moving forward in a lot of ways, in spite of our current state of the world. Ib ve completed one third of my second book; I am slowly writing pieces for five publications that have requested guest articles by the end of the year; I am designing a research presentation for an international jazz conference audience in January; I am practicing, arranging, directing, and producing a newly commissioned concert to be performed and recorded later that month; and am continuing my work as a church musician and director, guiding scores of singers and musicians through this awkward time of pandemic when gathering to play and sing are still not encouraged. Creativity, as always, is key to fulfilling my commitments! Instead of meeting to rehearse my choirs and other ensembles in the traditional sense, we are meeting virtually. Coming up with meaningful activities for our online gatherings continues to present creative challenges.

One thing I have learned not to do is compare myself to anyone else. Comparisons are ALWAYS bad for self-esteem and will wind up causing me to feel somewhat inadequate when I am MORE than adequate for the tasks God has legitimately given me. As I look around it is clear which tasks are from God. God-given tasks have real meaning and value. They involve investment in othersb lives for good. They are ongoing opportunities that keep flowing in because I have done similar things before that have prepared me for the next big opportunity. Hallelujah when clarity arrives to guide me to the right or to the left when faced with an important decision! Where there is joy in my work, there is God.

The full version of this article will be featured as a guest blog post on Lori Ann King’s website

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