In one of my earlier birthday posts this week, I talked about the whole work ethic, and how it was necessary for me to work twelve hours a day for months after month.
None of this would have been possible without a decent support system in place. After all, we still had to eat!
I have already mentioned that before starting this adventure I was a keen and enthusiastic cook. I could spend hours deciding on what to eat, which new recipes to try, etc. And it wasn’t unusual for me to spend two or three days preparing food for a dinner party. It was a passion – and one that pretty much died a death along with Sir Hugo Fletcher in Only the Innocent.
One thing that I have always been useless at, however, is being a ‘housewife’ – ie the person who polishes the silver (if we had any), vacuums under the beds and picks everything off the dressing table before dusting. I am, and always have been, completely hopeless. I blame my mother, who much preferred doing the Guardian crossword than having anything remotely to do with cleaning (and was much more fun than any other mum that I knew, too).
So for as long as I can remember, I have had a cleaner, and as my husband is infinitely better at washing up than I am, that was another task sorted. But I do (or rather, did) shop and cook.
All that went to hell in a handcart round about last November. I was so focused on marketing and promoting my book that I literally couldn’t bring myself to think about anything practical at all.
Fortunately for me, our cleaner works exclusively for us because when we were running one of the houses as a business, she had to work very long hours during the summer, and normal hours in the winter. With the decision to stop renting out one of the houses for the summer, we had recently had to cut back her hours. There just wasn’t enough for her to do without the paying guests.
She was beginning to think that she would have to find more work, but before she had a chance to do that I started to panic about the whole idea of going to the supermarket when I could be working! It was almost like a disease – some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder. I must work. I must work.
The trick for me in the end was not even trying to do it all. I couldn’t work the way I was doing and try to look after the house, and try to cook delicious meals every night and do the supermarket shopping. So I offloaded the stuff that was easy to offload. We increased the cleaner’s hours and pay, and she has become much more of a housekeeper than a cleaner. She organises my life outside the office.
My husband has been the star of the show, and he has taken responsibility for all of it. He decides what we’re going to eat – and sometimes even cooks, although years of my passion for cooking have dampened his enthusiasm and he’s a bit out of practice – but he goes with the housekeeper to do the shopping. She cooks a few times a week as well, and when things are particularly hectic, she is happy to cook every day.
For many, this may not be the way to go. Most people need balance in their lives – I just don’t happen to be one of them.
I have read many articles by other writers who say they have no interest in marketing at all. There is a thought that time is better spent writing, and with more books out there the marketing can take care of itself. There is a lot to be said for that.
Another author I know who is very prolific hands over all of his marketing to his wife and son. The son is responsible for all social media activity, the wife for any specific campaigns. He simply approves what has been written, and gets on with writing his books. It is fair to say that he also holds down a full time job, which I find awe-inspiring.
Other, better established authors, often have a PA and a team of publicists behind them. I’m not there yet by a long way (although somebody to sort out the car crash that is my office might be useful).
The important thing is to make sure that you are doing what you enjoy, and that if writing and marketing take over your life, it’s because you are happy with that. This all reminds me of when we were running one of the houses as a holiday let. It set out to be a hobby, and became a chore. I have a very strong suspicion that marketing might ultimately fall into that category too. And it’s at that point where I might decide either that I’m not going to do any more – I’m just going to write and see what happens, or I will pay somebody else to do some of it.
It may seem a luxury to pay somebody to clean my house and do my shopping – but I know that had I not focused all my time and energy at the outset on marketing, and now on writing, most of the good stuff that has happened this year would just never have come to pass. For me, it’s been worth it.
And it has helped me to justify my one brilliant time saving (and very expensive) device. I bought myself a Thermomix! And here it is for those who have never seen one (the majority, I should think, as they are not sold in shops). Now that winter is here, the one bit of cooking I do is make soup for lunch every day. Using this fancy bit of equipment, it takes less than five minutes of my time – the machine does the rest. It weighs, chops, cooks, stirs and liquidises. I just chuck in peeled vegetables in great big pieces (onions and carrots in half, for example) tell it to chop it, lob in a bit of olive oil to sweat the veg – set the temperature and leave it. Go and do a bit of work, come back, and throw in some stock, tell it to cook it and set the timer, and then go away again. Blitz it (depending on the soup) and serve. My total input can be counted in seconds. Now THAT’S a good deal. (By the way, it does a lot more than soup – I could go on all day.)
Ultimately it all comes down to weighing up the time you waste doing stuff you don’t want to do versus the cost, all offset against the potential gains. This was my recipe for harmony in a very unbalanced life – but for each of you it will be different. If I had carried on trying to be housewife of the year (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – cook of the year), most of the things that I have talked about in my previous posts would probably never have come to pass. The decisions were right for me.
And as a reminder – the purpose of these daily posts is to celebrate Only the Innocent’s first anniversary and to pass on some of the lessons that I learned during my first year as an indie author. Only the Innocent is available from Amazon UK for just one week for £0.99 (only two days left) and I would love you to spread the word. For other formats, please visit the Rachel Abbott Website.