Editorial: Life’s Curve Balls and Writing

Okay, so this editorial isn’t really on topic but since I often get asked about writing and running ATK Magazine, I made an executive decision (isn’t it lovely to be the editor) that it does belong. You see, I’ve been in a funk – or rather I was in one for most of last fall/winter, and while I was finally able to break out of the funk and move forward, it affected my writing and ATK. Which is why I’m writing about something a little personal, not because I have any great desire to share, but because I often get asked and have lengthy conversations about how to find the time to write consistently.

Make writing a priority

The quick answer – you need to make writing a priority. The only way that you’ll find time to write consistently, especially over an extended period of time (like years), is to schedule it into your life by making it a priority. Think of it as your job even if you don’t get paid. I don’t – it costs me money to write and run ATK Magazine but it’s a labour of love for me. While it may not work for everyone, I made a short list of the things that are important to me: family, friends, ATK Magazine (and all the things that fall under that banner), music, films, food, hockey, the outdoors, reading, and writing. And as a general rule, those are the things I spend my time on because luckily, they often overlap. Like when I’m writing about music for ATK Magazine (ATK Magazine, music, writing) or eating out with friends at a Korean restaurant that I can review (friends, food, writing, ATK Magazine). Of course, not everything leads to writing (and ATK Magazine) but many of the things I spend my time (and money) on do because I made it my priority.

The long answer is a little more complicated but still basically the same. If you want to occasionally write on a personal blog, then you really don’t need to make any lifestyle changes, just write whenever you have a moment and you’re good. But if you want to write more seriously, whether for yourself – like I do – or for another publication, regardless of the size, you will need to make some lifestyle changes. And not everyone is willing to do so. Which is fine but if you want to write, you need to make time to write and the only way I know how to do so is by making it a priority in your life, hence the lifestyle change.

But regardless, even for the most committed writer, there will be times when other aspects of your life, especially other priorities, may supersede your writing. You need to acknowledge that and be okay with it. It will happen so don’t beat yourself up about it – like I did – instead, take some time, deal with whatever it is (good or bad), and move forward. And of course, if you write for a publication other than your own, you should give them a heads up. Most would be understanding of any major event like a death your family, moving, a change in jobs, new baby, etc. but only if they know. If you just stop writing or communicating with them, they may not.

Write backup articles

If you write for yourself, you have a little more leeway but you still have a responsibility to your readers. So when things are good, write some backup articles. Not boring generic ones, on one wants to read those. But timeless pieces that are interesting and relevant but aren’t linked to a particular event or time so they can be published anytime – like book reviews, skincare/cosmetic reviews, restaurant review… actually reviews of most things would work. And this is where I fell down. Actually, there were a lot of things I could have handled better but not having a few articles to tide me over any slow point was one I can easily remedy – and so can you.

Know when to give yourself a break

The other advice is to cut yourself some slack. We’re all human. We all have lives. And you need to not only acknowledge it but understand that as much as your writing is a priority, so are other aspects of your life. If it’s something that will cause a temporary impact like a move to a new house/apt, then take a few days off (remembering to tell your editor) and give yourself the time to do it properly. If it’s something that will have a greater or more serious impact like a death in your family or illness, then allow yourself to take more time to grieve and heal. That means you need to learn to say no.

Learn to say no

No to any new articles, events, festivals, anything for the time you need. And that time is individual – not only to whatever the circumstance is but also to you. We’re all different, we all heal differently. But we all need to heal. Of course, for some people being busy also helps so you need to know what works for you. But if you need time, take that time.

Knowing when to say “no” is also good advice period. You need to know how much work you can take on, how much time you have to dedicate to your writing and that includes research (and if you review concerts, events, films – attending them). And be able to say no to anything you can’t do. Sure sometimes you’ll slightly overbook yourself but don’t wear yourself out. Know when to say no. Prioritize.

And yes, I’m speaking from experience here. About all of the above. I try to learn from my mistakes. ^^

Final Thoughts

My biggest takeaways from my long-winded answer about finding the time to write. 1. Make it a priority. 2. Write backup articles for the times when life gets in the way, because it will. 3. Allow yourself a break when you need it – just make sure to let your editor know. 4. Don’t be afraid to say no. And yes, it’s easy to give you the advice. Harder to follow it but ultimately, it will help your writing.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear from you about how you fit writing into your life? 

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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