We walk a mile in Rachel Dove's shoes this month as she tries to juggle home and family with her writing commitments and reflects on the blessings in life...
The run up to Christmas is hectic for most people, and writers are no different. This weekend, as I sit here writing this article (way past deadline) I can see my to do list staring at me on the desk, and it's enough to make Santa's beard curl. That man can work a list, too. November is NaNoWriMo, and in all the years of attempting it, I just failed it again. If you consider not hitting the target of 50k in a month as failure. Personally, I think having 12k more at the end of the month than I had at the beginning is a good start and something of a miracle. Especially judging from the other things I conquered, like my first Masters Degree assignment and the huge pile of washing on my landing. I swear, it was so big I saw a couple of Sherpas leading a goat across it.
Working from home is amazing with a young family, but it also makes things harder too in many ways. On a good day, I can do the school run and do my errands and be at my laptop by half nine, ready to do admin, and more wordage on the WIP. On a bad day, I do the school run in my PJ top and jeans and then come home and spend two hours scrubbing Weetabix off the dining table. If I had an office, I would be able to forget about all that till I got home, like millions of people do every day. I find it hard to switch off from being a mum when I am at home, so often I take short breaks from my desk and use them to bang a load of washing in, or nip to the shops. It works well for the most part, but it's a trade off at times between work and other things on the home front.
November is the same every year, I plan my NaNoWriMo project, the 1st of November comes and...sickness strikes. This week both my children have been to the docs with various throat and chest infections, sniffles, wheezing and that's after weeks of them battling to be well enough to stay at school. Now we are into December, and my 12k is saved, ready to turn into my next book. The kids are on the mend, and the Christmas tree is up.
There are conflicting advice tips out there for writers, about how many books one must write in a year, how many words they should write, what they should write about. For me, writing is about your passion on the page, making people happy, or whichever other emotion you want to evoke in your readers. The rest is up to you, and life is important too. You have to take chances in both writing, and in life. For one thing, you won't have anything to write about if that's all you do 24/7.
So in the run up to Christmas, a day in the life of this writer is juggling the obligations of things like housework, and simple things like making sure the boys have clean school uniform, to making time for family, planning the usual family Christmas and hitting my deadlines. I failed spectacularly in November, but when I was sat in my tidy warm house, snuggling my poorly boys in my arms on the couch, I couldn't bring myself to even give a thought to my word count. One day they will be out in the world, making their own decisions and life choices, blazing their own trails and the words will still be there.
Life is a blessing, and Christmas brings that home every year to me. While they are at school, talking about Santa with their friends, I will be writing my next book, about spring weddings, lost love and THE dress. A world away from mistletoe, cold noses and awkward Christmas dating. I get to talk about summer, canapes and exotic honeymoons. An excellent contrast, because come the summer I shall be writing about a Christmas by the coast, and a very unlikely romance.
A day in the life of a writer is an odd one. Some days I have found myself in London at a fancy do, or in a magazine or article, but for the most part I get up with a house full of boys and fur babies, and get on with my day. Writing about heroes and cads all day is wonderful, I can craft the ultimate adonis, or the sleaziest scoundrel but I get so spend every day with the man of my dreams too. He even picks up the slack when I am on deadline. That isn't a pretty sight I can tell you - crusty PJs, wild eyes, the faint smell of pickled onion Monster Munch. He feeds the children, does the washing (chasing the goats out of the house) and does the school run so that the teachers don't think that the children are being raised by some kind of Stig of the Dump alone.
Whatever book you pick up, someone wrote and pored over every word, every comma. They probably didn't do it whilst being fed grapes and being massaged by Greek gods (alas) so I always take heart that even on the worst days, the days where the words won't flow and I want to kill all my characters off in an Emmerdale style fire ball, I am privileged to be able to flop on the couch and put on my favourite rom-com. To have a hot bubble bath and immerse myself in the latest book. To pick my kids up and head to the park. No day is ever the same, but every day starts and ends right where I want to be. In the place where my imaginary world meets my real one, and both are pretty great. Once Alexa learns to run the hoover round, it will be pretty epic.
Rachel’s latest release, The Flower Shop On Foxley Street is out now! For more information check out her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
Do you struggle to balance writing with real world commitments? How do you get words on the page when there are sick kids at home? Tell us in the comments or use #MileInHerShoes on Social Media to join the #PHS readers discussing this subject.