Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of two well-received novels, Dear Carolina and Lies and Other Acts of Love, blogger at Design Chic (a blog she founded and works on with her mother), wife, and mom of a four-year-old boy. Like most women, she wears so many different hats. In this week’s Q&A, Kristy shares her thoughts on how to strive for some balance without being too hard on yourself, and designing a happy life.
- How did you identify your passions and follow your dreams?
I tried a lot of different things! I’ve always loved writing, but I’m also extremely passionate about food, science, interior design and yoga. I always thought I would be a journalist because I could combine all of my loves and write about everything, but I also worked in finance for a while. I never, ever expected to be an author, but decided (when I was nearing my 25th birthday!) that I wanted to check something big off of my bucket list. I never expected it to change my life. I fell completely in love with writing novels and have never looked back.
- What does the term “work-life balance” mean to you? Do you think “work-life balance” is possible?
My husband and I have a small son, so, at the moment, most of our “life” is about him! I am a mom first and it has been easier, actually, to have a small child because, as I travel quite a bit promoting the books, he can tour with me. All of that will change when he starts school. I’m also a big goal setter and am always striving to be better, but I realized that I am probably not going to keep up my stringent exercise routine when I’m on tour for thirty days. And I’m not going to have green juice every day or manage to eat organic in tiny towns I’m visiting along the way. And I can’t chair a volunteer event the month before a new book launches. I think so much of work-life balance is about simply finding what makes you happy–not to the point of being totally selfish, of course, but I think paring down is essential. We all have so much coming at us all the time that, at some point, you have to learn to say no. (If my mother is reading this, she will laugh. I am horrific at saying no. But I’m getting better!)
- What do you wish you do differently in how you manage your day and time? What do you feel you don’t have enough time for, or wish you could tackle better?
I so wish that I was a morning person and loved to go to bed early. I imagine how I would get up at 5, work out, then work for an hour before my son got up. But I get my best ideas at night and often stay up too late! I also cannot function at 5 am. Maybe if I drank coffee? Honestly, I spent a couple of years really struggling with fitting everything in and trying to be everything to everyone.
Something about turning 30 sort of tempered that in me. I give myself a lot more grace. I’m usually on very tight deadlines, my mom and I have a wonderful design blog and I have a great family. If I can fit those three things in–and sweat a little–most days, I feel fine about things. Don’t get me wrong, I continually have a massive to-do list, a list of goals, a list of new habits I’m trying to form. I’m incredibly Type-A. I know that one day I’ll have more time, but I’m not wishing today away. I’m very happy with the way things are!
- Do you have advice for someone (especially young women) starting a new endeavor and grappling with issues of following her passions, doing meaningful work and making a difference, while managing her time to find some “balance?”
Again, in the spirit of honesty, I don’t believe that passion and balance can live alongside one another one hundred percent of the time. When I think of passion, I think of true love. Just like when you’re falling in love and all you want to do is be with that person, when a wonderful idea strikes, all you want to do is explore it. And I think it is one of life’s great gifts to give yourself that time.
When I am truly engrossed in a new book, I might stay up until 4 am writing until I can’t keep my eyes open. I wrote almost all of my debut, DEAR CAROLINA, in the middle of the night when I was up for feedings with my newborn son! I think we get very caught up in having to get it all right. Keep the perfect house, be the perfect wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, fashion plate, dress size, career woman… It is so much pressure!
My advice is, when passion strikes, go for it. If you don’t work out for a week or call your friends back for a few days or cook a beautiful meal for a while because you are immersed in something that lights you on fire, it will probably be okay. What I have learned as someone who has sometimes felt like she is beating her head against a wall trying to achieve balance is that “balance” and “happiness” are not synonymous all the time. I’d choose happy any day of the week.
TIP: For some work-life balance, take the time to unplug and read Kristy’s new book, Lies and Other Acts of Love, in the sun with some Iced Tea Lemonade.