Trying to Keep All the Balls in the Air

One aspect of the writing life I haven’t discussed here is what happens when your juggling skills aren’t quite good enough. I often say that the first two rules of freelancing are:

    • When you’re offered a project, take it.
    • When you get a check, cash it.

And that’s how I manage my work as a freelance author. Accept projects now, and then work out the details as necessary. Cash checks—even if the amounts aren’t right—and then address any problems once you’ve got at least some of the money you’re owed in your bank account.

Usually, those rules work pretty well. But one of the problems with being an independent is the feast-or-famine syndrome. Sometimes, a writer takes on too many projects out of worry that there won’t be enough later on. I’ve certainly done that, accepting and handling overlapping projects in the past. It’s usually an issue of long days, sacrificed weekends, and careful time management. Eventually, I push through one project and have more time to work on the next.

But sometimes you drop a ball. And sometimes you drop all the balls, trip over one as they roll around your feet,  fall on your face, and get bonked on the head by the last ball that was in the air. That’s what much of my year has been like so far.

As the year began, I was working hard to publicize Deadtown‘s release while working on two nonfiction projects, outlining Book 3 of Vicky’s series, blogging here and at Good Girls Bad Juju, and staying active on Facebook and Twitter. That was probably too much. I fell behind on one project, then the other. I mostly kept up on the promo, despite a couple of down-to-the-wire moments handing in guest posts and some missed opportunities to interact with commenters. Thoughts about Book 3 got pushed to the back burner. I had to turn down a project from a reasonably steady client (which always makes me wonder if they’ll think of me next time).

But then a series of health crises hit several people in my family, one right after the other. I wasn’t prepared for that. It’s not just the time required to offer support, drive people to doctors’ appointments, and so on—it’s also the worry. It takes a toll, in sleepless nights, lost concentration, and feelings of helplessness that you can’t “fix” those you love.

So all those balls came crashing down.

When you’re going flat out, it doesn’t take much to trip you up. And when you do fall down, there’s not much to do except take a deep breath, get back up, and try again. That’s what I’m doing now.

I’ll admit I’m not great at asking for help, but people stepped forward to help me, anyway. I’m grateful for that. I’m also grateful that the health issues different family members have been facing are either resolved or at least under control for now.

In the future, I know I’ll again get into situations where I take too much on. It’s part of making a living as a writer. But I’ll try to keep a little more in reserve and remember that I’m only human, with very human limitations on my time and energy.

Juggling is part of the writing life. Thanks for your patience as I toss those balls back into the air and find my rhythm again.


About nancyholzner

2 responses to “Trying to Keep All the Balls in the Air

  • Mary Win

    What a perfect description of free-lance work for any kind. One of the phrases I always use is time budgeting. Each aspect of life gets X amount of time. When it doesn’t fill the time slot allotted Woo Hoo, free time. When it exceeds the time slot allotted the mad scramble begins. But in the end, it all somehow works out.

    • nancyholzner

      That’s a good system, Mary Win. I’ve been thinking lately about the need to structure my time better. I do have a tendency to let the current task expand to fill more time than it should.

      Your system reminds me of when I used to teach. I’d have a goal for each class, and I had to fit that goal into the 50 minutes I had with the students. When that time was over, they’d get up and leave. So I got really good at matching what I wanted to accomplish with the time we had. I should apply that to my daily writing tasks.

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