On the first Friday of each month, Novelista Annie Burrows will be drawing a question out of the jar where we've been putting all the questions about the writing process posed by readers -
This month, the question was:
Well, it's funny you should ask, Cheryl. Because right now I'd like to know the answer to that myself. The deadline for my 23rd book for Harlequin fell at the end of July, and my daughter is getting married in August. The boiler developed a leak and blew the fuses downstairs which meant my freezer went off, my dyson started making a noise which sounded as though it had sucked up an angry chicken (well, I suppose any chicken would be angry if it had been sucked up a vacuum cleaner) and then on Monday the plug socket in my study went off "Spang" (which is the word I've coined to describe the combined flash of the spark and noise of the short) when I tried to turn on my computer. The wedding planner called to say the groom's passport was in a different name to the birth certificate, which meant the marriage in Greece wasn't going to be legal, and the bridal shop sent the wrong wedding dress.
And that was just the last two weeks.
The only way to keep my sanity when a deadline is approaching is to drop some of the plates I have spinning. I cannot deal with everything. This time, the consumption of alcohol has been steadily increasing the closer the deadline/wedding approaches and my ulcer is starting to keep me awake at night.
So I've had to prioritise. Decide what is really important, and put that at the top of my to-do list. And yes, I do write to-do lists. I get tremendous satisfaction from ticking things off it. It makes me feel as if I'm getting somewhere, even if I'm adding things to do to the bottom of the list as fast as I'm ticking them off at the top.
Firstly, I have let the garden turn to jungle, although I bet not many people have 4ft tall thistles.
I have also delegated the vacuuming to my husband. The first week he moved all the furniture in the bedroom, did the stairs with the crevice tool, and forgot the door mats altogether. The second week, he looked at me with a hangdog expression, and asked if he really needed to move the furniture. I confessed I only ever vacuum under the chairs once a year. He cheered up considerably at the prospect of only flicking round the middle of the floors. He also found it easier to do the stairs with the correct tool, and now has all the downstairs mats on his rota. In fact, since he's discovered the power of the newly serviced dyson, (it was a worn bearing on the brush bar, not a stray chicken making the noise in case you're interested) he has also started vacuuming the kitchen and bathrooms (instead of me going round with the broom). I'm saying nothing. The floors are getting done, which is one chore off my list.
If you follow me on facebook or twitter, you will have noticed that I've gone quiet lately. This last week I have only scrolled through my emails to attend to the urgent things that crop up. I will just have to hope that my readers won't forget who I am if I don't constantly bombard them with little reminders of my existence on social media. I haven't even looked at the Bookbub bargains for about a week. Well, my kindle is chock-a-block with dozens of bargains already. 152 to be precise. So do I really need any more books?
I managed to deliver my book in late afternoon of the deadline day, which was my work priority. I have made sure my daughter has the correct dress, the groom a legal passport, and husband and I have full stomachs and clean clothes to wear. Although, I have discovered that if I'm careful about how I peg the washing out, it doesn't need ironing. I mean, who notices peg marks underneath the armpits?
In short, I have stopped trying to do everything myself. And the things that aren't absolutely essential are being skimped.
An author friend of mine, the late Cathering King once said to me "A woman's work is never done. Which is why I never do any."
I think that is very good advice.
Well, that's how I cope with the work. As to the life part of the question?