Overloaded Lives

Do you have any margins left in your life?

Or is your life marginless?

For a long time, I’ve known that something was wrong. People everywhere, of all ages and walks of life, are frazzled. People are anxious and depressed.

And why is that especially important to writers? Because tired, frazzled, anxious, depressed writers don’t write. Or when they do write, they can’t write well.

I have been re-reading some favorite books lately. One such book isĀ Margin, by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. In this book he talks about the fact that most of us live marginless lives now.

What’s “margin”? Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. Margin is having something held in reserve for unexpected situations.

Bring It On!

Instead, most of us live overloaded lives. The cost of overload is seen in health problems, financial debt, family and friendships going by the wayside, and having very little or no time for solitude and renewal.

Because of exponential progress in technology and other areas, things in our culture are changing faster and faster. We have more and more choices. Along with all the progress comes increasing stress, change, complexity, speed, intensity, and overload.

However, despite all this speed and change, human beings have relatively fixed limits. We have physical limits, mental limits, emotional limits, and financial limits. Once the threshold of these limits is exceeded, overload displaces margin.

Why Now?

The book details how many conditions we have at play today that are different than at any other time in history. We have run out of room to breathe. We have run out of time to sit and think. And I think this overload – this living beyond our limits – makes writing extremely difficult.

Can anything be done about this? You can’t stop progress, can you? Maybe not, and maybe we don’t want to, but can we regain our emotional health and physical health and relational health? Is it possible to redirect our over-extended lives? Yes, it is, according to this author.

How About You?

As we move into summer, give this “margin” idea some thought. We’ll be exploring some ways to regain margin so that you have more emotional energy, more physical energy, and more time–when you can write, if you choose to.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

What is one way YOU try to avoid (or deal with) overload?

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6 Responses to Overloaded Lives

  1. Vijaya says:

    Summertime is a perfect time to recharge — sleeping in, swimming, long walks in various parks. We find that end-of-the-school-year activities drain us, so we simply do not participate in many of them. My Indian background is an asset when it comes to R&R. Some people would call me lazy, but culturally we prefer a slower pace of life, and it is by far the richer. It is really the stillness that allows one to observe and write.

    I’m looking forward to the writing retreat this weekend, soaking up yours and Paula’s wisdom … I have the BIGGEST smile on my face as I type. Can’t wait to meet you both and the other like-minded writers.

    • kwpadmin says:

      I am sooo looking forward to meeting you in person too!

      You are much wiser than many of the parents today, and your whole family will benefit from not knuckling under to the pressure to attend each and every event. (Although I’m glad you’re coming to OUR event this weekend. :-) )

  2. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    I would love to be at your workshop this weekend! I will be thinking about it and hope that by doing so, some of your ideas will enter my brain by osmosis. Good luck and enjoy.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I’m motivated both by your post and by Vijaya’s comments about a slower, richer life. I became keenly aware of margins this winter, when I took a writing project with tight, inflexible deadlines. Even with my other responsibilities (kids, husband, ailing parent), I could meet the deadlines just fine. The problem was, there was no margin. I felt this whenever something unexpected came up — first, when my dad landed in the hospital, and later, when I had a health scare of my own. I learned a lot from that experience about the importance of not packing the schedule too full.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Rebecca, that is so true. When there’s no margin, there is no time to get rejuvenated at all, and if one more thing comes up that can’t be ignored (like the two you mentioned), it’s only a matter of time till burnout sets in.

      I wish this wasn’t a lesson I keep having to learn over and over! :-(

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