by Christine Goff
As the mother of six kids, there was a time I thought I had this multitasking thing nailed. I could get the kids off to school, get the baby dressed, drop her at day care, get to the job on time, work a six hour day, pick the baby up and be home in time to greet the kids after school. I could clean up the house, make dinner, get everyone bathed, read to and off to bed. And I could still carve out time with the husband, to write a column for the local paper and to work on the novel-in-progress.
Then I sold my first book.
No problem! The kids were in school all day, and soon the part-time job was gone. But, I struggled a bit to factor in the before and after-school activities (art, violin lessons, sports), playdates and orthodontist appointments.
Then I sold a second series.
I think I can, I thought. I mean, the kids were all grown-up and on their own. My husband was still working, which meant I’d have all day to myself just to write. We even temporarily relocated for the job to a town where I only knew a handful of people—all of whom understood and supported my writing schedule. I had this!
Writing two series has created a whole new set of problems. The first thing being, the genres are different. The new books are thrillers—big books with international settings, geopolitical themes, espionage and, well, thrills. The original series are cozies—smaller in size and scope, gentler. Trying to write two books (especially such diverse books) in one year has been a killer! I’m currently working on the sequel to my first thriller and struggling to meet an already extended deadline.
Second, there’s been the hands-on promotion. Writing two series means two launches and double the appearances from book clubs to library gigs to book store signings and author events. This year, my thriller DARK WATERS is nominated for two prestigious awards—the Colorado Authors’ League Genre Fiction Award and the Colorado Book Award, thriller category—which is super exciting. But, it adds to the facetime commitments, times two.
Third, there’s the behind-the-scenes stuff. Every author needs to be online, designing and/or ordering swag, responding to emails. I’ve been told that in order to make a ripple I need to be on Facebook and Goodreads daily, on Twitter three times a day, and blogging. Not to mention the emails, orders and correspondence required to stay in touch with my business associates and readers.
Fourth, there are conference appearances. As a thriller writer, I should go to ThrillerFest. As a cozy writer, I should go to Malice. As a mystery/thriller writer I should go to Bouchercon. Plus there are innumerable national, international and regional conferences to consider.
Fifth, there’s the payback. As a successfully writer, I feel strongly that I need to be serving the writing community. Without an army of fellow writers, teachers and writing organizations I wouldn’t be where I am. I want to pay that investment forward by helping those coming up behind me.
Sixth, there’s life. I’m still a mother and a wife. I still have a furry friend I need to walk, exercise I need to get and meals to prepare.
And I know many of you are in the same place as me. You’re just as swamped and just as overwhelmed as I am, possibly more. I know, just like me, you’re wondering where the time goes and how you can possibly get everything done.
In trying to figure out the answer of how to strike a better balance, check things off my to-do list and be in three places at one time, I had an epiphany.
I’m not a multitasker at all. I never have been. I’m a juggler!
The fact is, we’re all jugglers. We all have a lot of balls in play. So, what’s the key to effective juggling? To know how many balls you can actually keep in the air.
According to my research, only a handful of people have reached a level where they can juggle eleven or twelve objects, and no one has ever juggled thirteen. It has to do with the speed one can effectively move their hands. This led me to conclude, in order to be successful at juggling, I would have to reduce the number of balls I’m handling at any one time.
So, what has to go?
Not family. They’re a keeper. But I can juggle them between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and on weekends, provided there isn’t an emergency. Not the books. But I can try and focus on one book at a time and devote my mornings to writing. Not the business of writing. I have to answer emails, return phone calls and get online. But I can set specific hours in the afternoon and limit the time I spend on any given task. Not the public appearances, conferences or volunteering. All are important to me. But I can reduce the number of commitments I make.
So, how did I do? I think I’m down to fourteen balls.
Advice, anecdotes and suggestions are welcome!
Giveaway: One lucky winner will win a signed copy of DARK WATERS or a signed copy of A PARLIAMENT OF OWLS. To enter, please comment and include your genre preference as either cozy or thriller. Writerspace will randomly draw the winner on May 16th. Good luck!