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Pen IN Hand
Writer As Juggler
By Peggy Bechko
December, 2007, 15:30

Sometimes life seems like one big juggling act, especially when you're attempting to nurture a career, shepherd a family and take time for yourself. This is when your writing is slow and you're doing it mostly on spec. What happens when you suddenly hook a writing job, even more than one? You have a deadline for one project looming, a new one on the line, and several shadow projects drifting in the background while personal obligations remain the same and you still actually do need some time somewhere for yourself?

Why it's almost enough to make you think it isn't worth all the hassle.

And, it might not be. Depends on how much your writing means to you.

For me it's always been worth it. But, luckily for me, I've always had support or been on my own with no one to answer to. When I went to school I had parents who supported my writing; on my own I worked during the day and wrote at night; now married I have no young children so that's not a problem and my husband is very supportive.

What about you?

Well, I can't tell you what to do, but I can say what I've done over the years. Open communication with family is the first big one. Tell them, young and old, what you need. Don't play guessing games or let's pretend. If you need a full morning to complete a project just say so, don't let those you love and who are, no doubt, waiting on you think you'll be done "in a few minutes." If you're going to run over because the juices just aren't flowing, tell them that too.

Then be sure to reward them for their patience. Perhaps an extra outing, a favourite meal, some family time together? As for that special me time, well sometimes you're going to have to forgo it. There again, it's reality. If you aren't going to give up your writing and you care about that family, some times you're just going to have to accept that the writing time is the me time. And, other times you might have to snatch that special time in shorter increments. Perhaps just putting your feet up with a cup of tea in your hand, the family cat on your lap and a good view out the window for ten minutes after the wave passes will be enough to recharge your batteries. Other times a short walk around the block, with or without dog, can do the trick. Just like all things that need balance there are times when it's going to swing heavily one way or another and you'll just have to wait for it to swing back the other way.

That's for the family, but what about when you have professional obligations and they're piling up. We all get a little frantic at times. Especially if you've been working hard, putting out proposals and queries, waiting to get something back and all of a sudden you do but instead of one job or two suddenly you're inundated. You've accepted a job, and then suddenly the one you really wanted is offered to you. What do you do? There are a number of approaches to that problem.

First, remind yourself it's a pretty good problem to have.

Second, decide how much you and your family can handle. There have been times when I've practically gone into seclusion in order to get an overload finished with professional quality and on time. If it's that 'big break you've been waiting for, I say go for it. Family conference, then dive in. Let them know that when the wave passes you'll make yourself available and make it up to them!

Realistically though, there will be times when you'll simply have to turn down that second assignment no matter how much you originally wanted it. You've got a family, a kid with an important baseball game, another with a dance recital, a husband or a wife who's already covered for you a whole lot of times, and when you really look at it, that second assignment just isn't worth what you'd have to give up. There'll be others.

Sometimes that one is hard to swallow for the ardent freelance writer but everything has a balance. Keep your head, evaluate what's before you, and most of all take a deep breath, use your common sense, and keep juggling.

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Author of Doubleday western novels, Harlequin romances, Fictionworksfantasies (eBook format), Peggy Bechko has also optioned screenplays domestically and abroad, written for an animated series and for variety of other venues. She's working on a new novel and collaborating on a animated series.

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