Find Book-Family Balance with the Me-You-Us Theory

What do you do when the book you are writing takes over your life and your family starts to feel left out? So you put aside your book to be with your family. So you start to resent your family because they’re taking you from your book. So you start to feel guilty because you really do love your family, but your book ….

Stop it! You’ll go crazy trying to balance impossibilities, you’ll lose your family, and your book still won’t get done.

Let the Me-You-Us Theory guide you to sanity and publication success. It worked for me. It can work for you as well.

Editing Four Books at a Time after Day Job

One of the most difficult periods of my long, happy marriage with my life partner, Emily, was when I was editing my Voices from the Underground Series, a four-volume collection of personal histories about the underground press, the independent, antiwar press from the Vietnam era.

The series had come out once in 1993 as an oversized, 600+-page book that was laid out in an 8 ½” x 11″, two-column format, the content equivalent of four books. It had few images so it was dense with copy.

This new edition, which was published in 2011 and 2012, broke the complete original collection of stories plus three new stories into a series of four separate books, which all had to be updated. Stories were rich with photos and images that all required copyright clearance. It was the most intense, concentrated period of freelance editing and permission gathering I have ever experienced.

I had a full-time job at the time, also as an editor. I drove a long way on several connecting freeways from Ann Arbor into Farmington Hills, a suburb on the northwest side of Detroit, to be underpaid and disrespected. I had to psych myself up every day to get through the day.

While I was working on Voices, I arrived in Farmington Hills two hours early and edited at the Panera down the road from the company. At the end of my work day, I’d return to Ann Arbor and stop at the Panera that was on the route to my home to edit until closing.

By the time I got home most nights, Emily was in bed and about to turn off the lights. I’d kiss her. We’d share about five minutes of our respective adventures for the day. Then she’d go to sleep and I’d grab a late dinner.

I put in as many hours as I could on weekends.

A Theory Is Born

You don’t have to warn me that such behavior will stress out even the best of relationships.

Emily was my hero during that time because she gave me the space I needed to do what I had to do to finish four books at the same time. To my credit, I had early on in our partnership begun preparing her for this very situation.

Here’s what happened: When I first realized that Emily was going to be a major part of the rest of my life if I didn’t screw up, I introduced her to my Me-You-Us Theory, which states that a successful relationship includes three partners: the Me, the You, and the Us; and each has to be fed regularly to keep them all healthy.

A corollary states that at any one time, one may dominate and the others will have to adjust. I was in my Me, and Emily trusted that I would come back.

On my part, I was always aware that Emily was missing me. I was missing her, too. So I worked harder to support the You when we were together, which had the desired effect of making the Us stronger. I saw whatever movies she wanted to see, ate at the restaurants of her choosing, or stayed in and watched TV if that was her mood for the evening.

Mostly we went out with each other but no one else, to reconnect. When we socialized, Emily often spoke for me because, even though I was present in the physical plane, my mind was elsewhere. I can shut down my laptop but I can’t always shut down my mind, even for small talk.

Finding Book-Family Balance

The Voices from the Underground Series put the Me-You-Us Theory to the test and I can say that it is a good theory; but it takes a lot of effort and trust on the part of both partners to make it work. Because there will come a time in your relationship with your book when it becomes possessive and demanding of your time.

When your book starts to take over your life and you fear you’ll go crazy if you don’t give into it, remember: You’re in your Me. Tell your family members you love them and you’ll be back. They’ll understand.

If they’re like Emily, they’ll take advantage of that time to pursue their own personal and professional growth.

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This piece was adapted from Ken Wachsberger’s You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. The complete book is available and ready to guide you here. For book coaching and editing help, email Ken at [email protected]. Subscribe to Ken’s blog here.