6-22 The Fascinating 1920s with Lauri Robinson

Thursday, September 28, 2017

This Is My Circus and These Are My Monkeys...

aka Balancing Writing With Having a Life

Have you ever felt completely discombobulated and out of whack with competing the demands of your writing and family life? Welcome to my world! I’m a writer, a freelance corporate communications specialist, wife to a jack of all trades type of bloke, and mother to two active (you might even say hyperactive) little boys who are constantly climbing trees or bouncing off the walls. Discombobulation is practically my middle name.

Balancing family responsibilities and writing, especially when working from home, can be difficult. In fact, it’s a constant juggle and it can be hard to get the balancing act just right. This is putting it mildly. To put it more bluntly, this is my circus, these are my monkeys, but they’re not very well trained and honestly some days I wonder why I joined the carnival at all.

Juggling all the balls

Lately I’ve been feeling as though I’m juggling balls, or maybe spinning plates and several of them have dropped. The thing is, they don’t drop quietly. They smash with an incredible noise into a billion itty bitty pieces, which someone also has to clean up. That someone would be me!

Keep those balls in the air!

My first blog for Romancing the Genres was a round-up on the fabulous Romance Writers of Australia conference in Brisbane. After a less than stellar start to 2017 from a creative writing perspective, after attending the conference I was inspired and switched-on, ready to forge ahead with an exciting new project.

Only I returned home from that conference to The House of Germs (™) a place where no-one could move, wipe their own noses or do anything except lie down and rest, or let the paracetamol do its job to ease the aches and pains. I was on nurse duty, 24x7 hours a day. Even on my birthday... *cue violins*

I did actually manage to get my blog post done for Romancing The Genres, but it was a race against time, as I could feel the fever overtaking me and the brain fog becoming thicker. A couple of days later I succumbed to the full lurgy and I couldn’t even concentrate on reading, let alone writing.

What I found was, it’s surprisingly difficult to maintain a regular writing habit or even compose an email when your whole household is under the weather. Even my poor husband succumbed to what was either a strain of the flu or a horribly determined respitory infection, since he was laid-up in bed for five whole days.

When the wheels fall off the wagon

Since my little boy started Prep (first year of school) at the beginning of this year, we've actually had three rounds of serious viruses/ear infections/chest infections. Add to that, the change in schedule and the time needed to help my little one settle into school, and I found my writing life veering off track.

Also, and this is no small thing, my own health is a bit wobbly. By that I mean, I have two autoimmune diseases and if I don’t watch my overall health including diet and stress-levels, I tend to get run down, exhausted and then sick. Add to that, my own descent into hell (ahem, I mean peri-menopause, with horrible monthly symptoms) and my new freelance business I’m trying to get off the ground...my creative writing stalled.

I'm fine...what do you mean I'm on fire?

I had grand plans to complete re-writing and editing on my second full-length novel this year. I even had a proper schedule written in advance. Only it didn’t turn out that way. That draft is still sitting there, waiting for editing with fresh eyes. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see what needed to be done, or write the new scenes that are probably needed. Not with two kids who just swapped germs for what seemed like months.

After many months and a few doctors’ visits, I think I’m okay, the kids are okay, husband is okay. Fingers crossed.

Getting the show back on the road

I’ve been thinking about my situation for the past couple of months, often in between looking after little sickies or fighting through headaches and cramps of my own. I’ve realised I need to go with the flow and just do what I can, at least for now. I’ve started writing a novella, a shorter and more manageable piece of writing that I hope to actually finish!

I’m a hybrid author which means I’m both traditionally and independently published. My debut romantic comedy novel, Girl on a Plane, was published by HarperCollins UK in 2016, but I’ve also been experimenting with self-publishing shorter pieces.

Thinking about my current situation and lack of real mojo on the full-length novel editing front, I was keen to try something different. I also wanted a new product out in the market this year. That meant writing fresh. This has been great for me, to open up a new document and type words that I haven’t read a thousand times already.

I’ve been excited to brief a cover designer and contact a freelance editor and to set myself some tangible deadlines. My motivation has come flooding back. So what if it’s not a full length novel up next? I’m getting the show back on the road, getting back into a daily writing habit and still managing the daily juggle.

Tips for getting back in the swing

I’m working fast at the moment, aiming to complete a Christmas novella soon. In other words, I’m back on the trapeze and swinging!

Back in the swing...wheee!

Tips that helped me get back in the swing of writing are:

  • Working on something fresh and new
  • Making a nice cup of coffee or tea to get into the writing mood and sitting in a sunny spot with my laptop (not my cold office at the moment)
  • Listening to songs from a new playlist before I start to write
  • Writing in short bursts of about 30 minutes at a time, then taking a short break
  • Mixing up creative writing with other tasks like folding clothes, cooking, anything to get up and walk around
  • Setting a weekly word count target rather than daily because some days it’s just not happening
  • Contacting an editor and setting a real, actual deadline!

P.S. I’ll have new release details next month if all goes well.

About Cassandra O’Leary

Cassandra O’Leary is a romance and women’s fiction author, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things.

In 2015, Cassandra won the We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK. Her debut novel, Girl on a Plane, was published in July 2016. Cassandra was also a 2016 nominee for Best New Author in the AusRom Today Reader's Choice Awards, a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist in the First Kiss contest, Romance Writers of Australia.

Cassandra is mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous.



Savannah Blaize said...

This was a great post Cassandra. I feel your pain, as I too have been struggling this year, trying to keep writing when my heart was not in it, and I felt defeated by this current manuscript.
Even after returning from the RWA conference with great intentions and enthusiasm, my writing has ground to a halt again. I am reading a craft book at the moment to try and help me get back into the swing of it.
I hope your health stays on track, and this new project lights the flame for you again. It is a lonely existence being a writer, and we all feel pressured from time to time, with many demands taking up our time. You have had a hard year, more than most. Keep your chin up, and your beautiful sense of humour.

Sarah Raplee said...

Boy, can I relate to everything you said in this post. Been there, done that. In fact, still doing that!

you have two wonderful qualities that will get you through, Your sense of humor and persistence! I truly believe persistence is 90% of what it takes to succeed as a writer. And to be willing to try new approaches to problems in our writing and our lives.

I'm so happy you've joined us here at RTG, Cassandra!

Judith Ashley said...

Cassandra, just what I needed to read today! Yes, what do you mean I'm on fire! especially loved that one. This has been a challenging year. I've recalculated my writing goals several times already. I was so close to getting my current wip finished this month but then Life happened and with company coming tomorrow for five days, I only have tomorrow to write - oh, and I've a blog post due Monday. It's time like these when that persistence Sarah mentioned, along with a sense of humor, is what saves the day.

Cassandra O'Leary said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm glad the blog is resonating with others. I can't believe it's nearly the end of the year, I have to finish and publish a novella, organise a kid's party and do my taxes...and I have another sore throat bug. Urgh. I might just read for a while!

Maggie Lynch said...

Your comments will surely resonate with the majority of writers. Life happens constantly. I've known writers who tried to write through divorce, death, sickness, economic difficulties, returning to work, and even good things like marriage.

Some are able to do it because writing is their escape from the real world. Others are consumed by whatever the Life change is and can't concentrate until it's done. I tend to fall into the latter category--though if a shut myself away from the world I can put the Life change aside for four or five days and just write. But that means literally shutting myself away--leaving home, leaving all my daily tasks and telling everyone only to call me in an emergency.

The one habit I've worked hard to break is to let my feeling stuck in a book stop me from writing. That is a hard one. Because I have a graduate degree in procrastination and in justification. I can justify not writing in so many ways. I have to market. I have to blog. I have to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or G+. I have to meet a friend for breakfast or lunch. I have to go out to a writer's group conversation or do it online. I have to...you name it I have to do it all, except write.

Now, when I'm stuck I force myself to write anyway. In fact, I don't allow myself to do all the other writerly stuff until I've written at least three hours. Sometimes I write sentences like. "I am a procrastinator. I can't think of what to write, but at least I'm writing." :)

Heres to all of us who try to balance it all and not give in to our procrastination techniques along the way. Thanks for a great article.

Dora Bramden said...

Writing while in the thick of family illness would be very difficult. Here's to you picking yourself up and getting back to it. I like to make a cuppa before beginning to write also.