Chasing My Tail by Jessica Redland

10527383_331005803724929_5378621437399779308_nAs regular visitors to our blog will know, we post every Wednesday and Saturday with the occasional Monday post like Christina Hollis’s this week. And sometimes we completely rebel and throw in another random day. Because we like to mix it up like that.

As a group of ten, we all take turns to contribute to this blog. We all bring guests to the Saturday Spotlight and there’s a rolling ‘rota’ for the book group and for Wednesday posts. This week, Saturday’s guest has been organised by me and I’ve just received her article and pictures. I thought I might as well get ahead of myself and schedule them ready for Saturday.

While I waited for wordpress to load up, I glanced at the calendar on the wall by my Mac just to double check that I wasn’t a week ahead of myself. I have one of these family-planner things with six columns. There are only three of us in our family (other than the cat but he really doesn’t need his own column) but I need the other three columns to organise the other key aspects of my life – Brownies, Writing (mine) and Write Romantics. I am the ‘Keeper of the Calendar’ and keep on top of what’s happening when and by whom. I love this role and the other WRs jokingly refer to me as Brown Owl for keeping them on track with what’s coming up on the blog and when we have free slots. Organisation has always been one of my strengths.

Until recently.

P1040080You see, when I glanced at the calendar and assured myself that my guest was indeed this coming Saturday’s guest, I spotted my name in the Write Romantics column. Why was my name there? It honestly took me a good minute or so before I registered that my name was there because today is a Wednesday and today’s slot is mine! Oops. Between organising everyone else, posting the Wednesday Wondering (which I always pull together) last Wednesday, and keeping on top of my guest slot this Saturday, I clean forgot that I had a post to write. A post that I should really have posted this morning. Is it still morning somewhere in the world? Maybe. But that’s really not an excuse.

My excuse is, quite simply, that I’m chasing my tail at the moment and I have absolutely no idea whether I’m coming or going. Like several of the other Write Romantics, I have a day job. I work full-time hours as a Learning & Development Advisor at a factory, although I’m very privileged to have had a flexible working application accepted so I work my hours across four long days and have one day a week off to write. My job is pretty busy and sees me travelling to our Grantham site quite often, attending careers events at local schools, or running all-day training workshops. The days I’m back at my desk can be a frantic email-catching-up frenzy and prep for the next outing. This week has been one of those weeks with two days in Grantham then a day in the office today.

bootcamps-headerOutside of work and writing, I’m a Brown Owl running a pack of 25 Brownies and have done so for nearly five years. If I’m honest, I don’t have the time to do this (as it’s so much more than just the weekly meeting) but I love it and wouldn’t want to let it go. I’m also a bootcamper. On a Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, I get up at 5.20am and head down to the seafront for a 6am hour-long bootcamp. I’m overweight so this is a big thing for me. To try and motivate myself to control my diet, I maintain a blog about this which I update after every single session. I really enjoy doing this and it helps me. But it’s time-consuming. I have an 8-year-old daughter, a cat, and a husband. And somewhere in amongst all of this, I write. But there’s so much on my writing plate at the moment. I submitted the final line edits on my debut novel ‘Searching for Steven’ last night (published by So Vain Books on 3rd June), I’m a quarter of the way through a final edit of my second book, I’m working my way through a second draft of book 3, I’m writing a short story to give away free as a teaser to book 1 and I’m blogging on this site and my own. I attended a scriptwriting workshop on Saturday just to throw something else in the mix and I’m meant to be doing a distance learning professional proofreading course but I’ve had to completely let that slip as I simply haven’t found the time to do it. I will emphasise that most of this work is self-imposed. My publishers haven’t put any pressure on me at all to get books 2 and 3 completed but I want them done as, after twelve years of living with this trilogy, I’m so ready for new material.

My sacrifice up until now has always been that I don’t watch (much) TV. I have programmes I love like Strictly, Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge but I watch very little else (although I’m currently following Broadchurch). I gave up on the soaps years ago when I realised I couldn’t watch them and find time to write. It was quite liberating. If you don’t watch much TV, you don’t see adverts for programmes coming up, so you’re not enticed into watching something you’ve seen trailered. But now it feels like even giving up TV isn’t enough and I’m not sure where to go from here. My desk is a permanent mess although, surprisingly, I can find things. In fact, the whole house is a permanent mess with piles of stuff ‘to be organised’ or ‘to be relocated’ everywhere. This was all fine until I started dropping the ball. I double-booked a couple of guest slots and I missed my own slot today. This isn’t like me and I hate messing up in this way.

So what’s the answer? Well, my starting point is that I’ve booked a day’s holiday for tomorrow. My flex day is usually a Monday so I’m off next Monday but I worked on Monday this week so I have this week’s flex day on Friday. Which means I have five days until I’m back to work to get control of my life again. My daughter is staying with my mum for a few days which means complete peace and quiet tomorrow. On Friday, I’ll be collecting her but will certainly get at least a morning to organise myself and write. And she’s back at school on Monday so I have a full day then, although Brownies is back after the half-term break and I’ve just realised I have the newsletter to compile. Argh. Had forgotten about that too!

Hubby is out tonight so I’m taking advantage of an empty house and hoping to just get myself organised. If I can do the bitty stuff tonight (the internet banking, writing the Brownie newsletter, tidying my desk), then hopefully I can take a full day tomorrow to finish my edit of book 2 and put a big tick in that box. I can brew my short story a bit more over the weekend and then write that on Monday. Then all I have left is book 3. Piece of cake! What on earth was I worrying about. Chasing my tail? No. Not me. I’m in control. Always.

Now where’s that to do list I wrote about three weeks ago and what have I forgotten to do off it?

Jessica xx

PS Would love to hear from you on ways of balancing a huge workload, particularly if you work and write. How do you do it? Please click on the comments tag at the end of the words below this post.


18 thoughts on “Chasing My Tail by Jessica Redland

  1. Crikey. I feel absolutely exhausted reading this, Jessica!
    I don’t know how you do it, quite frankly. All my kids have left home and I don’t have half the commitments you have, and I STILL can’t keep up!
    You always organise our Write Romantic activities so beautifully, so don’t feel bad about one late blog post.
    I don’t know what to suggest really. You love Brownies and Bootcamp. You’ll never give up writing. And you need to spend time with your family. Unfortunately, giving up work isn’t an option – yet!
    Have you thought about giving up sleep? 😉

    • Hee hee, Sharon! That’s another problem. I wish I was one of these people who could get by on 5-6 hours sleep a night but I love my sleep and 8-10 hours is preferable! I’m sure I’ll get the balance eventually. Thanks for your kind words xx

  2. I remember when I was really struggling to meet deadlines when I worked. Someone said to me – you’re in charge of the schedule, the schedule isn’t in charge of you. Great advice, but I don;t always follow it. Having read your blog post I’m off for a lie down in a darkened room.

    • That’s such great advice, Lizzie. Maybe that’s where I’m going wrong. Perhaps the answer is being a bit more realistic with my time while I still work full-time and trying not to take on so much. As Sharon says, I’m not going to give up any of the things I love so something has to give and that’s perhaps the speed at which I try to get through everything. Thank you. Hope that lie down in a darkened room worked out for you 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and commenting xx

  3. What a brilliant post Julie!!! You sure do do a lot, but its all really interesting and feeds your imagination and makes your books lovely and rich – I know this cos I’ve read one, and am waiting for others!! I’d love to read about being a Brown Owl, which my sister wants to do when she finishes being a midwife/health visitor. for me, I prefer teenagers. I’m sure you’ll knock that timetable into shape in not time!! Thanks for a lovely post 🙂

    • Thanks for your lovely comments, Lynne. Being a Brown Owl is fascinating. I’ve never read it but there’s a book called ‘Brown Owl’s Guide to Life’ or something like that. I must add it to my TBR pile. Tell your sister it’s a very rewarding thing to do … which is why I’m not prepared to let it go xx

      • I’m the same Deirdre! I am a prize winning faffing abouter these days too. I do find making timetables helps 🙂

  4. Jessica, you are truly an amazing woman. Like the others who have already commented, I feel like I need a lie down just from reading about you chasing your tail.
    Perhaps today, you don’t catch that tail…instead, you have a long bubble bath, a glass of wine and a night off. You deserve it, Brown Owl.
    Helen R xx

    • Ooh, bubble bath. That sounds very enticing. I have to say, I’ve had a lovely day writing all day and I think it will make me a better mum tomorrow because if I can at least get a few hours in on the morning, I’ll feel I’ve accomplished things and can then have fun with the munchkin on the afternoon without feeling anxious to get back to my book. Thanks Helen xx

  5. None of us know how you do it, Jessica, but I think the old saying that ‘if you want something doing, ask a busy person’ is so true! You are a brilliant Brown Own to the real Brownies and the WRs, but I suspect at some point (as your writing career continues to develop) you might need to hand over some responsibilities… x

    • You could be right, Jo. I’m very fortunate in that I have a team of 5 supporting me but they’ve all got so much going on too with health issues, new jobs, life in general. They are amazing at taking on the running of sessions, though, and I’ve actually had a full half-term off from running anything which has been incredibly rewarding. There’s still lots to do but I’ve been grateful for the support they continue to give. At some point, someone may want to take on a little more. Can I let go, though? I’m my own worst enemy there too! xxx

  6. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I was far better at organising my time when I had the 9 – 5 day job at the uni (which could become 8 – 8 at examination board time and start of year). Now that, in theory, I have all those hours at my disposal, I can faff about like nobody’s business and before I know where I am, the three hours I might have spent writing has magically whittled itself down to an hour and a half… Funny that. 🙂

    • Hee hee Deirdre. I know what you mean. I have a writing friend who is a single mum. While her daughter was at nursery and for her first couple of years at school, she didn’t work and she had stacks of time on her hands yet I got more writing achieved whilst holding down a 14-hour a day job and a 4-hour commute than she did. It always amazed her where her time went. If you have time, you find other things to fill it. I’m under no illusion that, if I were in a position to write full-time, I wouldn’t be nearly as effective with that time as I am on my flex day where I know I have six hours while munchkin’s at school for pure undisturbed writing. And the occasional nap 😉 xx

  7. Great post, Jessica. You are an absolute star to carry on with Brownies. I have a friend who ran Cubs for a few years and I know how time-consuming it can be (and how little others appreciate that).
    I too watch very little TV – it’s the only way to create time. But with work, family and writing, the house is getting more and more out of hand. If I retired tomorrow (ha!) I reckon it would take me a decade to harness it in …

  8. Jessica I take my hat off to you! I am full of admiration How on earth do you remember what you are doing and when? Don’t answer that you don’t have time.

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