by Anna Bell
I love deadlines. I’m one of those sick people that thrives on them. In the past there was nothing I liked more than burning the midnight oil in the run-up to meet one. Yet suddenly with a small child and a baby on the way, I’m learning that I’m not really the master of my deadlines anymore.
I’ll freely admit that I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to plan my time and set myself writing goals. I think as a writer when you’re working for yourself, you have to have a certain amount of discipline, or else things slide. One of the hardest things for me about becoming a new mum a couple of years ago was making this transition, and accepting that my time was no longer my own. My baby (now little boy) dictated what I did with my time and although I’m technically a full-time writer, I no longer keep anywhere near full-time writing hours. Over the last couple of years I’ve got pretty good at squeezing in writing time to the smallest of nap windows, being extremely disciplined (or failing miserably) with social media, and I meticulously plan my work so that any time I get in front of the keys is productive. Yet what I haven’t got so good at it is coping when I’m thrown a curve ball.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the deadlines I had before baby number two arrives. I needed to finish edits for my forthcoming book and I wanted to get a draft written of the following book. This time last week I was flying high. I’d written 25,000 of the second book, and my editor had sent my edits to me. The good news was I’d been given a thumbs up on the book and had to make fairly minor changes to characters and storylines to strengthen it. Nothing that would cause me any sleepless nights, or so I thought. I was given a generous three week turn around and thought that wouldn’t be a problem. I was optimistic that I was going to get everything done before the new one came along.
Cue my little boy being hit by a stinking cough, cold and temperature. To write it seems so laughable – a simple virus that on some of the days you’d think I’d made up if you’d seen him running about playing with his toys. But it has played havoc with everything. Naps are sporadic. Nighttime sleeping is even more a game of roulette – twice last week we were up watching Peppa Pig for an hour at 3am with both of us wide awake. And of course, with my low pregnancy immune system I was bound to catch the same thing, and when I did those random nap time writing sessions were replaced with me taking a much-needed nap. Evening writing sessions are out the window as I feel like I’ve got fog living in my mind; instead, I head to bed before it’s dark. Suddenly I’m a week behind schedule – all for the common cold.
I feel so pathetic that something so normal and everyday could cause such mayhem with my deadlines. It makes me wonder how writers who have actual life problems cope; those that are grieving for family members, those whose family members have serious medical conditions. I think that it’s only when things happen that it reminds me how self-employed you are as a writer. Only you can write what you do, and there isn’t anyone that can jump in and take your place.
All I can hope is that once this pesky illness is out of the way, I can find my rhythm again. Have you ever had a pre-deadline meltdown?