Balcony Space can Improve Your Writing Life
Balcony Space & The Writing Life
by Rochelle Melander
Business leaders have to be able to view patterns as if they were on a balcony. It does them no good to be swept into the field of action. —Ron Heifetz and Donald Laurie, The Work of Leadership in Harvard Business Review (December 2001)
Balcony space describes taking a position sufficiently distant from day-to-day operations and worry in order to see the larger picture. The opposite of balcony space is reactive space, in which the leader must constantly deal with the immediate person or problem that confronts him or her. —Gil Rendle and Alice Mann, Holy Conversations
Balcony space happens when we set aside the large and tiny tasks of our day, let go of the emotional dramas that threaten to overwhelm us, and climb up to the metaphoric balcony, where we can get a better view of the whole. From the balcony, we can see the patterns of both our writing and our life. From that view, we can decide what works, what doesn’t work, and how we might make positive changes.
For me, balcony space is like time on an airplane—the people and responsibilities of daily work and home life disappear. I don’t have to worry about my phone buzzing every ten seconds or the dogs barking at me to take them on a walk. Balcony space creates time, space, and energy for me to ask new questions, dream new possibilities, and discover new solutions.
As a writer and writing coach, I try to make time for balcony space about once a month. Often, I can only manage to get a way for a few hours—but spending just two hours on higher ground can teach me something valuable. If you’re a professional writer or wannabe, you will be more successful if you regularly examine your writing career from the balcony. Here’s how:
Step One: Get out of the space where you regularly work. Find a place where you are away from your day-to-day life (and won’t be interrupted)—a coffee shop, library, park, restaurant, art museum, or spa.
Step Two: Get a big-picture view of your work.
+Review goals. Write down or review all of the goals you set for this year and the plans that you made to accomplish them. These questions might help:
*What were your New Year’s goals for your writing career?
*What writing projects did you hope to finish by the end of the year?
*How much money did you expect to make from your writing this year?
*What other writing related tasks did you plan to take on (e.g., writing workshops, reading, research, and so forth)?
*What sort of a plan did you set up to help you meet your goal?
+Compare your goals with your daily schedule and writing products. Use these questions to reflect:
*How have you been spending your time?
*Do your daily actions match up with your goals?
*What work have you produced so far this year?
*Are you making satisfactory progress on meeting your income and writing project goals?
*If not, what other projects have emerged as priorities for your work?
*Are there any energy drains or unexpected commitments that have taken up your time?
+Reevaluate. For some of you, your actions will match the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Congrats! For many of us, though, we will need to reevaluate our goals and how we spend our time so that we can get back on track. Ask yourself:
*What am I doing that is working?
*What am I doing that is not working?
*Do I need to change my goals in any way?
*What do I need to do differently in order to meet my goals?
*How will I put this plan into action?
*How will I know if I am achieving my goals?
Step Three: Implement the new practices you created while on the balcony.
In order to benefit from balcony space, we need to let go of our old habits and invest in new practices. That can be tough. Most of us are pretty attached to our daily routine, and it often takes courage and a big kick in the pants to change. Now that you have been to the balcony, you know what you need to do. So do it!
If you have trouble implementing the new practices, take a look at your environment. You might need to change something to make it easier for you to create a new habit. For example, after my last trip to the balcony, I decided to revise the children’s novel I wrote during National Novel Writing Month in 2010. In order to make that happen, I end each day by leaving the novel file open on my computer. When I wake up my computer the next day, it’s the first thing I see. I cannot avoid working on it.
A Final Note I hope your time on the balcony is fruitful for you. If it is, leave a comment below and let us know:
*Where you went for balcony space.
*What helped you get a new view.
*What changes you made or will make because of it.
WANT TO USE THIS TIP IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You may, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) is the 10th book authored by Melander, who teaches professionals how to write fast, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at https://www.writenowcoach.com and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at http://www.writenowmastermind.com
I like the idea of making this a regular thing, even if only for a couple of hours. I have tended to do this only semi-annually, but doing it more regularly will help with more subtle course corrections. Last year, I grabbed a hotel for a night (made less expensive by the bidding feature on Priceline) and shut myself in for some balcony space. The front desk staff noticed my address on my driver’s license when I checked in — “oh, you’re just up the road from us” — and asked what I was going to be doing there! 🙂
Thanks for this, Laura! How fun that you went to a hotel to do your balcony time!
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