|Starting out with one Hat|
Some days I feel a lot like Bartholomew Cubbins with his 500 hats: I take one hat off and find another one in its place.
We all have many hats: mother, father, employee, employer, writer, editor, taxi driver, friend … the list goes on. Juggling all those hats can feel overwhelming at times.
My professional hats include writer, editor, photographer, student, publisher, proofreader, website designer and manager, teacher, ACW Events Organiser, and probably others that will come to me as soon as I hit publish on this blog post. No wonder I feel exhausted so much of the time! (Well, that and ME/CFS …)
So what’s the secret to juggling so many hats? I wish I knew! But here are some of the things I’ve learned. What works for me may not work for you, so feel free to offer your own juggling tips in the comments below.
1. Organisation. I have all of my different projects listed on a To-do List – though I confess I don’t always look at it! Nevertheless, once something’s on the List, I can generally keep track of it. Tasks are listed in order of priority, from ‘Urgent’ down to ‘Would like to do … someday.’
There used to be a time when I didn’t need lists. These days they’re essential – my ME/CFS brain doesn’t retain things in the way it used to – but I’ve discovered there’s a great satisfaction in being able to cross something off, which I do even on a Word file so that I get the buzz of seeing something achieved before deleting it permanently.
2. Deadlines. I’m deadline driven. I’ll admit it. Give me a deadline and I rarely miss it.
3. Scheduling. This is how I meet those deadlines. On the publishing side, there’s usually an end date by which a project must be completed. I’ll set mini deadlines for each stage of the project, and when it’s something that involves other people, mark the dates by which I need to send the project on to the next person/stage. I usually find these by working backwards from the end date, deciding how long each stage will take, adding an extra week or two to allow for the possibility of me having a bad patch and generally trying to reduce the pressure on myself as much as possible. By having all the projects on the same page, I can see what needs to be done first and whether I need to do some juggling with the deadlines and mini-deadlines of different projects to keep them all on target. The writing side, however, is more problematic.
4. Self-imposed deadlines. Anyone else find these don’t have quite the same authority as those set by external sources? Especially if the project isn’t going to contribute to paying the bills? For me, writing falls into this category, unless it’s a piece that has been commissioned (which usually means it’s contributing to the bills). This is where a writing buddy – or a writing group – can play an important role. Being accountable to someone else, even if it’s just because they’re desperate for the next chapter of your book, can really help in meeting those ‘flexible’ deadlines. When I wrote my children’s novel, I sent each chapter to my editor as it was written. While she edited that chapter I wrote the next. That accountability got me through the mid-book slump and on to The End.
5. Flexibility. Some days my brain stalls on the next task on my To-Do List. Sometimes I skip that one and move on to one that feels more manageable. Often doing something gentler is enough for my brain to recover and I can come back to the task at the top of the list.
6. Trust. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the hats demanding their place on my head at the same time, I take a step back and remember that I’m not alone in this journey. When I don’t have the strength to get everything done, I know God is in the midst of it all with me. He has called me along this path and he won’t abandon me now. He knows my limitations and knows how far to stretch me. He doesn’t ask me to do more than I can – unlike myself!
7. Rest and recharge. Some days even an ‘easy’ task from my To-Do List isn’t possible. Then I have no choice but to refill the well. That might mean reading, watching a DVD, doing a jigsaw puzzle, knitting or stitching, going for a walk, meeting with a friend. Or it might mean sleeping. Pushing myself through the barrier works sometimes, at least in the short term, but more often than not, because of the ME, the cost is too great in the longer term. I’m not very good at balance or at accepting limitations, so I do push through more often than I should; but I’m learning not to feel guilty about taking time to take care of myself.
And you? However you manage your commitments, I take my hats off to you!
Adrianne Fitzpatrick has around 25 years’ experience in the publishing industry as a writer (for adults and children), editor, teacher (of writing and editing), photographer, book designer and bookseller (both new and secondhand books). She has had numerous short stories and articles published; and her first novel, Champion of the Chalet School, was published by Girls Gone By Publishers in 2014. Adrianne has worked with many authors to see their dreams of publication come true, so it’s not surprising that she has started her own publishing house, Books to Treasure, specialising in books for children.