HOW DO I FIT IN WRITING WITH LIVING?

In the lead up to the launch of Serenity Press’s upcoming Writing the Dream anthology (available for pre-order here), I’ll be sharing guest posts from some of the contributors. Thanks to Deborah Burrows for this short and sweet post. 

They say if you want something done, then give it to a busy woman. So you want to be a writer? Let me share my story with you.

I am a busy woman. I accept that others are also busy and many have lives just as hectic and crowded as mine, but the fact remains – I am a busy woman.

I currently work seven days each fortnight as a senior government lawyer. That means I have cases that I must take through to trial and in the process I draft the court documents, see witnesses, deal with clients (and quietly fall to pieces as deadlines loom. . .)

As well as the day job to pay the mortgage, I am contracted to write a 50,000 word non-fiction book for the National Library of Australia entitled “A History of Nursing in Australia”. This is due to be submitted on 31 December 2016. (Actually, that’s not too far away. . . Eeek!)

I am finishing the final edits for the first novel in my new Ambulance Girls trilogy. My publisher wants me in the UK for publicity purposes in February, and what that means is that I must take my precious annual leave in dreary February with its cold, dark days. No spring flowers, no summer evenings, no autumnal gold . . . Gah!

I am writing the second novel in the Ambulance Girls trilogy. This must be ready for submission in August 2017. I’m at 15,000 words, so only 85,000 words to go . . . I expect to quietly fall to pieces as the deadline looms.

The third novel in the Ambulance Girls trilogy is due for submission in August 2018 and I’m sure I’ll come up with a storyline soon . . . Of course I will!

I have a husband who expects to see me occasionally (selfish brute!) and family and friends who seem to want to maintain links with me (can’t they see I’m a busy woman?). And then there’s shopping for basic essentials, cleaning the house, cooking meals . . .

Cue scream now!

The reason I’ve shared my ridiculous schedule is to explain the problem facing all writers: life goes on around your writing. Somehow you have to fit in living as well as writing. And really, you’d always rather be writing. What they don’t tell you when you start on the writing journey is just how abominably addictive it is.

I wrote my first three novels when I was working full-time or 0.9 as a lawyer. As I wrote A Stranger in my Street my mother’s health failed and, sadly, she passed away just after it was accepted for publication. During the writing of Taking a Chance and A Time of Secrets my husband was fighting a serious illness (now all better, thanks for asking!) As soon as A Stranger in my Street was published in June 2012, I was expected to publicise it: in the two years between its first publication in 2012 and May 2014 when I left to live in England for a couple of years, I gave nineteen talks at various libraries, writer’s festivals and charity events, was interviewed for newspapers and radio and attended seven book clubs. And my publishers also expected me to maintain a website, a blog, a Facebook page and a twitter account. Phew!

No matter what life threw at me I couldn’t stop writing. I could fit in two hours writing before I left for work each morning. After work it was straight to the computer to twiddle with a scene that had been bothering me all day. I wrote on weekends. I wrote on holidays, in airports and on airplanes. It wasn’t a chore, it was a compulsion.

So don’t think it’s going to be easy. After snubbing your family and friends, losing sleep worrying about how a scene will unfold, spending long hours inside the house on the computer when the sun shines and all the world outside seems to be laughing and dancing and singing with the untrammelled joy of not needing to finding just the right words to finish just one more paragraph – after all that you may have a manuscript, but then you need to find a publisher. And don’t get me started on that!

Deborah Burrows is a lawyer, historian and writer from Perth. She is currently spending two years living in Oxford, England and enjoying the opportunity to research the experiences of Australian women in wartime and writing full time. Her first two novels, A Stranger in My Street(published in 2012) and Taking a Chance (published in 2013) incorporated her mother’s stories of living in Perth in World War 2, and dancing with American servicemen. Her father’s exploits as a commando fighting in East Timor and New Guinea with the famed 2/2nd Independent Company were an inspiration for A Time of Secrets.