Years ago, I used to write a newspaper column called Balancing Act. Back then, I was balancing the competing needs of four children, a husband, two dogs and a cat, and my full-time news editor job.

Now I’m balancing something different.

Two books.

Make that three.

One just published – my picture book Alexandra Rose and her Icy-Cold Toes. One due for release in September – my debut novel Wherever You Go. And the book I’m supposed to be writing next.

It’s late Sunday afternoon and I feel like I might fall off the balance beam at any moment.

The first book is going okay. All I need to do is help market it, so I’m writing blog posts and contacting libraries, and so on. I had a bit of a helping hand from Sarah, Duchess of York, who chose Alexandra Rose and her Icy-Cold Toes for her Storytime channel on YouTube. Have a watch – it’s a bit of a giggle (but here’s a hint – skip to 2.29 unless you really want to hear chatter about how good the rain is and meet Mr Nutcracker):

The second one is in a good place. Wherever You Go has been typeset and is in the proofing stages. It looks fantastic! And I’ve been receiving some author endorsements that have made my heart sing, like these:

“A deeply affecting, beautifully written story, sensitively told, that tugs at the heartstrings. Readers will love the evocative descriptions of food peppered throughout.” – Vanessa Carnevale

“Unfolding with clear-eyed, soulful understanding and with deep respect for her characters, Mulligan’s debut is a novel for those who crave stories about real people grappling with real life. A tender tale crafted with love and steeped in the healing togetherness that comes from sharing great food.” – Kim Kelly

Monique Mulligan has such a beautiful way of putting words together. She never fails to give me shivers.” – Lily Malone

On Friday, I chatted with my publisher’s PR angel and I’m excited to see what happens next as publicity gets underway. And I made a book trailer – I hope you like it:

But it’s the last book that has tilted me off balance.

Because the question is, which book?

I’ve started writing The Story You Tell, which will be a standalone follow-up to Wherever You Go. It makes sense to focus on it, because in many ways my mind is still in the world of Blackwood. So much so, that when I went to the real-life inspiration for the setting last weekend (Bridgetown, Western Australia), I kept referring to the town by the fictional name and pointed out landmarks such as ‘Amy’s house’, ‘Amy’s café’, and so on. I even met two people who I swear stepped out of the pages of the book into the town – a real-life Frank and June (the man was called Frank and was a tradie and a talker, like my Frank and the June – who was really Jan – made me want to change my character’s hair colour).

But I keep getting drawn back to my Wildflower manuscript. And I don’t know if that’s because I’m putting off writing the first draft for The Story You Tell – writing first drafts take me ages – or because my instinct is guiding me towards a story I’ve already written.

Do you ever feel like that?

From a marketing point of view, it makes sense to follow Wherever You Go with another title in a series. And it’s not like I don’t have an idea, a starting point – I do. I have 12,000 words of a draft.

I’m just feeling a little confused.



Honestly, my head feels foggy and I want to do nothing for a while.

Sometimes, I’m not so good at listening to myself.

On Friday, I cleared a pile of to-do items from my list so I could write on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, I spent the entire afternoon updating a website.

Today, I went for a walk this morning, thinking that would clear my head. When I came back, I worked on the website some more, wrote a blog post, answered a few neglected emails – all of which were important tasks – and finally opened The Story You Tell in Scrivener. It’s been two months since I last worked on or even looked at this draft.

It’s time to cook dinner (I promised I’d make paella) and I still haven’t added a word to the manuscript.

I still can’t decide if this is the one I want to work on next.

I have no freaking idea how writers can promote one book, edit another, and outline a third all at once so they can publish a book a year. It’s mind-boggling and awe-inspiring … and not my way.

My body and gut is saying, ‘Take some time out.’

And you know what, I don’t feel guilty for having an entire afternoon to write, and doing other things instead.

I know my limits and there are only so many things I can balance.

And right now, one of them is me!

I need to give myself breathing space so I can listen to my gut.

There’s nothing wrong with taking time out from writing. Every time I finish a manuscript, I take time out from it. It helps me get perspective because it’s all I’ve been living and breathing for so long. I have author friends who take months off after a book is published and the book tour is wrapped – they focus on other things in their lives for a while.

Sometimes you need a break from writing so you can feed and fertilise the creativity within (because if you don’t, you risk burnout).

Taking time out doesn’t mean you’re not committed to writing. It just means you’re committed to you (and you can trust your instincts better when your mind isn’t clouded).

What do you do when you need time out?



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

2 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for this, Monique. I can really relate to your need for down time. I’m currently editing my adult novel, but often find myself painting or writing poetry in the hours when I could be writing. Perhaps this is a creative safety valve? A way of distracting the conscious mind from a deeper inner world, and will eventually feed into the novel I’m writing (I hope so ;).
    The Brazilian author Clarice Lispector once shared a similar feeling. She described it as the sense of “emptying out”, something she often experienced after completing a work of fiction. Clarice believed those quiet reflective times were crucial to her creativity, an idea that has remained with me whenever I feel a need to take some time for myself 🙂

    1. It’s lovely to hear from you Katy, and know that I’m not alone in needing a creative break of a different kind now and then. I do believe that allowing yourself time out encourages creativity to grow whereas if you push on, you can stifle it. That ’emptying out’ is a beautiful way to put it. I think that’s exactly what I’m feeling but didn’t have a simple way to put it.

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