THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 83: Jane Green, Author

Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious—and maybe a little obsessed—about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

BY THE WAY…

  • Looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT, the novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.
  • The Balance Project interview series recently celebrated its first birthday!
  • Fortune ran a feature about The Balance Project.
  • Want to be a part of The Balance Project? Complete the interview.

No. 83: Jane Green, Author

Age: 46
Where I live:
 Westport, CT
Job: Author
Kids:
Two daughters (ages 13 & 19) and three sons (11 -year-old twins and 15)

jane-greenHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
I have always felt I have the perfect career in writing novels. I start work as soon as the kids leave home on the bus for school in the morning and am always done by the time they get home. The only time it is difficult is during a book tour, which always seems to fall at the end of the school year when there are tons of school activities and celebrations, and I can’t always be there which is hard.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think it depends on your definition of “all.” I adore having a job, being defined by something other than someone’s wife and someone’s mother. I have long felt that having something solely for myself has helped keep me sane, and I absolutely wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, but I appreciate that there are things I can’t do. I can’t look after my family, and work, and have an active social life. I can’t devote two hours a day to a yoga class or pilates. I can’t be one of the moms who volunteers in the classroom. But it is the friendships suffering that is the most challenging—I don’t see the people I love nearly as much as I would like to.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Making enough time to spend with my friends, going away with friends. In fact, going away, period. I seem to travel all the time, but for work. I haven’t figured out proper vacations at all. For a long time when the children were young I felt that although I was present physically, I wasn’t present in the way I wish I had been. I get tremendously and easily distracted, and continue to be a work in progress, although it is easier now, as the mother of a pack of teenagers, to be fully present. In fact, not just easier, but necessary…

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Making sure I give myself what I need in order to do the things I do. I can be with lots of other people and amidst noise and chaos, but only if I also have time in my day that is quiet and alone. I am much better at realising that, and working that in. Also, I have learned to say no. My days are so busy that most nights see me in bed by nine. I have learned that I am rarely missing out by saying no, and that looking after myself often requires those quiet, early nights.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance that you would recommend to others?
As something of a Luddite, I am still a tremendous believer in lists. When I am overwhelmed I write the list down on a piece of paper, keep it on my desk, and get enormous pleasure from crossing each thing off.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? I read an article once in which the journalist said she had interviewed a number of successful women and had come to discover that the key to their success was that they punctuated their day with “periods of peacefulness.” However busy they were, they made time, each day, to be peaceful and quiet, to do something just for them. I have found those words immeasurably wise and true.
From your kids? “Put down the phone.”

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
Doing the things I love, namely reading, cooking, or gardening. The likelihood is I would be cooking for friends. The older I get the more introverted and hermetic I have become, and even leaving the house sometimes feels like a mammoth task. My favorite thing of all is gathering the people I love in my kitchen and feeding them.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That the key to happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you have got; that staying in a place of gratitude can change your life and make everything bearable, and that life is where you look.

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
Self-acceptance, and being truly comfortable with my body.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Organising.

Whose job do you wish you had?
I hate to say it, but I do think I have the perfect job. If not doing this, I would have liked to be an interior decorator, but only if I could go in and do exactly what I wanted without ever having to deal with clients.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Politician. Pick one.

Favorite books?
So many! My favorites of the last year have been You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz; May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes; A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale.

What are you reading right now?
The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen.

Biggest vices…
Activity? 
The iPhone. Hours looking at, or for, absolutely nothing of any importance.
Food? Sugar.
Website? The Daily Mail.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7 on a good day.

What do you read every morning?
Whatever I can reach while having breakfast. Usually old copies of the New Yorker lying in piles of mail threatening to fall over.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: can.
I wish I: hadn’t.
My kids: make me laugh.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
From the psychology professor Robert Emmons: “Gratitude is a sustainable approach to life that can be freely for oneself. It is choosing to focus on blessings rather than burdens, on gifts rather than curses, and people report that it transforms their lives.”

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Summer-SecretsAbout Jane:
Jane Green’s seventeenth novel, Summer Secrets, will be released in the US on June 25th. She is the author of sixteen previous New York Times Bestselling novels, including most recently Saving Grace which is due out in paperback in early June, 2015. She joined the ABC News team to write A Modern Fairytale—their first enhanced digital book— about the history of royal marriages, then joined ABC News Radio as a live correspondent covering Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton. She has written a micro-series for Dove starring Alicia Keys, many short stories, and has contributed to various anthologies, as well as regularly appearing on television shows including Good Morning America, The Martha Stewart Show, and The Today Show. Together with writing books and blogs, she contributes to various publications, both online and print, including Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Cosmopolitan and Self, has taught at writers conferences, and does regular keynote speaking. A foodie and passionate cook, Green filled one of her books, Promises to Keep, with recipes culled from her own collection. She says she only cooks food that is “incredibly easy, but has to look as if you have slaved over a hot stove for hours.” This is because she has six children, and has realised that “when you have six children, nobody ever invites you anywhere.” Most weekends see her cooking for a minimum of 20 people in her home in Westport, Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their blended family.

Find out more about Jane here:
www.janegreen.com
Twitter: @janegreen
Facebook: authorjanegreen
Instagram: janegreenauthor
Pinterest: realjanegreen

 

WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NEW NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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