Friday 6 December 2013

Juggling writing and life

By Melissa Gijsbers

I am a single mum. I have two gorgeous boys and I have a day job. I'm also a writer. Managing all this takes a lot of juggling.

I've read a lot of articles about writing and how to fit it in - set regular writing time, set a number of words per day, have a special spot for writing, and so on. The problem with a lot of this is that they don't seem to take in to account the curve balls that life throws in your path.

For me, as well as all of this, I have a 9 year old with glandular fever. That's a lot of juggling. There are also days when I'm so tired, no amount of sitting and willing the words to come will make them come. One day, I even tried meditating to calm my mind, this resulted in a lovely 2 hour nap, but no words on the page.

I dream of the day when I can be a full time writer, but that day is quite a while away. Until then, I must juggle.

Some of the things I do to snatch writing time include:
  • Carry a notebook - there are times when I'm waiting for school pick up or a doctors appointment or any number of other times when I'm out and about and have five minutes. Often a story idea will pop in my head and I can write it down to use later.
  • Work on something shorter - while I would love to write a novel one day, now is not the time. Instead I'm working on shorter pieces such as flash fiction, chapter and picture books for kids, and blog posts. This way I don't lose momentum and go off on a tangent the same way I would with a longer piece.
  • Keep the laptop on - I rarely turn my laptop off. This way I can write a few words whenever I have a spare minute or two without waiting for the computer to load up and log on.
It's not a perfect system, and there are days when even this doesn't work, but I'm getting there slowly. There are some days when I need a complete break and give myself permission not to write at all. It's amazing how much easier the words come when I've let myself have a rest and a good night sleep.

Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne and writes in between working as a bookkeeper and being the mother of two active boys. In August 2013, she had 3 fractured fairy tales published in Teapot Tales: a unique collection of fairy tales. She has also had Christmas stories published in Jingle Bells: Tales of Holiday Spirit from Around the World, and Tales by the Tree: An anthology of Christmas Flash Fiction. Follow her writing journey at


  1. Ahh - juggling!
    It's something I find I am continually doing, and learning to do in a new way according to the changing needs of my family.
    One thing I've found is the need to sometimes just enjoy nothing - giving my mind permission NOT to think about writing, NOT to squeeze in those few words, NOT to daydream about characters and plots. Like you, a deliberate rest seems to result in increased creativity when I next sit down.

  2. Oh, Melissa, I so identify with your comments. But do take heart, our three children did grow up and recognise the times I did need uninterrupted writer time. Look on these as your apprenticeship years. The older I get and can look way back, I realise that we also need not only to know what God wants us to do, but waiting for HIS timing is just as important. In our circumstances then, the extra demands that came AFTER that first contract I would not have had a hope of surviving if I'd been contracted sooner. Being such an undisciplined person, I do need routine to keep to scheduled writing. Nowadays there are still multiple interruptions even though there is only been Ray and I - and the grandchildren of course. LOL. But I did also find that not having people around can also be unhelpful for the creative juices to flow. How I wish all those years ago I'd been able to share with other writers my ups and downs as we can these days thanks to writers' groups and especially online ones like we have here.

  3. Thanks, Melissa, for your honest and practical blog. I can't comment about trying to write with young children around, as I was 59 when my first novel was released, although I did return to study in my thirties--and again in my forties! But I believe the experience you are gaining through the writing you have time to do now will be invaluable down the track for sure. So well done to you--keep going!

  4. Melissa, I remember when my children were younger and I'd write for two hours on a Friday morning when I had the house to myself. My life is very different now and, if anything, my family complain that I'm writing too much, lol. The balance is hard, irrespective of our circumstances. Hang in there! I love your tip about working on shorter pieces. A great way to feel a sense of accomplishment when the task of writing a longer novel seems nearly impossible to achieve.

  5. Yes, Melissa! I agree with writing just a small amount. I think we get into the trap of thinking lots of time has to be set aside but I find that 300 or so words a day soon add up.

  6. I think it's always going to be an issue, Melissa. I'm a grandmother now and also still working three days a week, and I seem to have accumulated other commitments over time, rather than shed them, as I thought I might when I started writing. I also carry a notebook with me everywhere and keep the laptop open, so I can write down thing that come to mind, even if it's sentence that forms in the back of my brain for some reason. These are good strategies to keep practicing, because you'll always need them, no matter if the kids grow up and you retire at some stage.

  7. Hi Melissa, thanks for your post. I had to smile over your 'meditating.' I think most of us could admit the best 'meditation' happens with our eyes closed, under a blanket on the couch on a Sunday afternoon. As for juggling writing with everything else life throws at us... it's an everyday challenge. I hear you. xx


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