Kate Allan

The online diary of Kate Allan, author

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Balancing writing and 'real life'

A very interesting column posted on Romancing the Blog yesterday by author Julie Cohen.
She says, ‘How do you balance your writing you and the workday you?’.

Julie Cohen is a teacher and writes romantic fiction and tells how she has been recently outed by the children at her school who found out her secret by googling. (They obviously don’t read The Times newspaper or they would have found out a lot sooner.)

Like me, Julie writes using her real name. But even with a pen-name I don’t know that you can keep your fiction writing secret. Unless you literally stay at home and never go out and about. The world these days is too small.

I’m always meeting people who know people I know. And this has been increased I think by the internet, allowing you to find out where old contacts are now, and communities such as the aptly named A Small World.

But back to Julie’s original questions. Like Julie, I work full-time. More than full-time actually because while I often ten minutes late in the morning as I use an unreliable train provider, and come into a London station suffering near paralysis between 7.30am and 9am each morning because of redevelopment work, I almost never leave on time in the evenings. And I have to catch up with work things often at the weekends. My typical working day, including travel, is 12 hours long, five days a week.

I love the challenges in my job, I love talking to people, meeting new people, thinking about commercial problems and of new ways to solve them.

At the moment I’m trying to use my spare time as wisely as I can to leave room for writing, but it is hard. Housework has had to go, and so I employ a cleaner. Clothes go to the laundry, and my groceries arrive from ordering them online. Being time efficient is second nature. My only downfall is being an internet community junkie and meeting people in pubs for wine and conversation…. The hours tick by and the next thing I know it's 1am in the morning…. and I have to be up at 6.30am.

The other side of balance is easier probably than people think. I have a work-style I built up over the years and it’s pretty close to the real me and it gets results - humour, new ideas and relentless enthusiasm. My most successful conference presentations were the ones involving Pigs in Space, and a game-show based satire on the secrets of one of Britain's leading retailers' success.

People in business are people. They don’t respond to dry dust, they respond when they are engaged and where there is honesty and trust.

Countless things I’ve learned in business I can use for writing.

And at work I’m using countless things I’ve learned being a writer.

Only a few days ago someone asked me if I was leaving my job as soon as my novel was published. And I had a literary agent who couldn't understand why my writing career plans involved continuing working.

Hello? This is the real world, and I love it! Look, I haven't the time or the energy to hide and cover my traces. There are too many things I want to do.

Oh, and by the way, Paul Kilduff manages to be a bestselling author of thrillers and vice-president of a leading US investment bank.

Authors actually work harder at getting things done in their life and are masters at cost/benefit prioritisation and results-orientated time management. They've got to have these qualities or they would never have got their books written and published. As well as doing whatever else they do.


  • At 4:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Kate: I read this post with great interest. Your insight will be a useful grounding tool as I, and other aspiring writers, continue our own journeys. You are to be commended for your focus, your work ethic and your ability to balance reality with the dream.



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