Friday, 27 September 2013

Spinning Plates

Does your life feel like a well-planned series of events, or more like a sort of organised chaos? Mine definitely tends towards the latter! In my working, writing and home life, I feel like someone spinning an endless collection of plates. There I am now, hurriedly running around giving each a nudge, to stop it slowing down and smashing on the ground.

Part of the problem is a lack of priorities. In my job, I have to manage several development projects at once, all for different people, which means that they each think theirs is the most important. Outside of work, should I spend time on my book, or writing blog posts or networking on social media or attending to SCBWI tasks? And where do my family fit into all this?

I was talking this week to an author who’s under contract, and they were saying that they live with the fear that it will all turn out to be a terrible mistake, that their editor is suddenly going to ring them and say “Sorry – we thought you could write this book, but we were wrong.” And I could empathise with that, because I constantly feel like I’m about to make the one mistake that will bring the whole dinner service crashing down.

Maybe this is just the way it feels to be an adult? There was a musical in the 1960s called Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, and I’ve always thought the title was a great metaphor for the way my life seems to spin around, with little respite from the blur of tasks and responsibilities.

Perhaps the answer to this anxiety and stress is to make my life less complicated. There have been a few blog posts recently (specifically this one) that have been encouraging authors to cut back and concentrate on their core activity – writing fiction. But that’s not so easy if you also have a full time job, etc. I really enjoy the activity of blogging and I’m not sure how I would feel if I left it behind.

Currently, I’m averaging one new book a year. Perhaps if I gave up blogging and some of my other activities, I could boost that to a book and a half, maybe two? But there’s still no guarantee that those books would get published, and my online presence would virtually disappear. Is it better to have a couple of books a year that only get read by a handful of people, or one book and a hundred blog posts (here and on Words & Pictures) that would attract a much wider audience?

I don’t have an answer to this conundrum, because answering it requires me to address the broader question: “What do I really want to achieve from my life?” And that’s a deeper meaning-of-life type problem that I probably need another twenty or thirty years to answer. So for now, I guess I’ll just keep on spinning those plates and trying to do a bit of everything.



  1. Your blogs would be very much missed if you stopped, and I find your 10-min blog round-up v useful. Perhaps the answer is to blog less frequently when the plates are teetering?

  2. I've started skipping the odd blog. Might just write them every fortnight or something. There was a point where I missed about 3 or 4 in a row and it was very difficult to get back into it.

    It's hard to get the balance right and I don't even have kids.

  3. I think you're right. It's just being an adult. It all adds up. But you're allowed to put down a few of those plates now and then and devote yourself to just one thing that might make you happy.

    1. Re blogging - over on Notes from the Slushpile, we find that nobody really misses us when we're too busy to blog. I'm sure we'd build a bigger audience if we blogged daily but real life is too important to miss at the moment.

  4. Phew, I thought you were going to say you're stopping - SO glad you're not!
    I think brevity is the answer:
    I read every word of Mark's post, looked at the fabulous pictures on Anne-Marie's, read the titles, skimmed Rosie's to get to the picture of Meryl Streep and saved the Space on Bookshelf review for when I have time to look at the novel but read all of Cameron's answers.