Spinning Plates That Crash in Silence

I don’t spend enough time writing.

Writing is meant to be my main job (with time out for teaching yoga). Yet, somehow, it ends up slipping down on my to-do list. Instead of writing 5 or 6 hours a day, I’m lucky to squeeze in 1-2 hours. If any hours at all.

I’m not entirely sure how that happens. But I have a theory.

Have you ever watched a plate spinning routine? The kind where the performer gets one plate spinning atop a pole, then adds another plate to another pole, then another, and so on? If so, it’s clear to see why it’s a common analogy for over-scheduling and anxiety.

The plate spinner runs from plate to plate, giving each a spin to keep it from falling. Whenever plates aren’t given enough attention, their motion stops, and they crash to the ground.

Plate spinning comes to mind when I think of all the things I’m managing: personal care and fitness, housework and bills, teaching yoga, marketing and selling books, writing books, etc.

But that’s actually not a very apt analogy, because there’s a key difference between my fiction writing and my other responsibilities.

When my writing plate crashes to the ground, it falls in silence.

Every other plate in my life is noisy when it hits the ground. They’re all squeaky wheels, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor, and we all know how squeaky plates get the most spins…. Er… uh… This is why we don’t mix metaphors. But the point is there are rather immediate consequences for other areas of my life.

If I don’t show up to teach a yoga class, my students will be disappointed and I’ll likely lose that job.

If I don’t go to the grocery store or do laundry, there’s soon no food to eat or clean clothes to wear.

If I don’t take care of my health, bad things happen, like fainting and breaking my foot. (Sigh)

But when my writing doesn’t happen? Silence.

Eventually someone may say, “Hey, how’s your next book coming along?” And I can sheepishly say that I’m “a little behind schedule.” Then we can nod together about how “life gets in the way.”

But what if I don’t want life to get in the way?

I want my writing plate to be as loud as the other plates. Louder even. I want it to squeak, and whine, and crash with ear-splitting alarm bells. Bells so loud that I’ll never want to stop spinning them. Uh… I’ve entirely lost track of these metaphors now. Anyway…

Writing wasn’t a silent plate when I worked freelance jobs, because there were deadlines and articles to be handed over for payment. If I didn’t write them, I wouldn’t get paid. And I’d likely lose that client.

That’s the difference I guess. I’m both the writer and the client now, and client-me may be too easy on writer-me. Always knowing that the deadlines are soft. What’s client-me going to do? Fire writer-me? Huh.

I have a feeling other people have silent plates in their lives, too. And it’s pretty likely those silent plates are the ones that represent their deepest, most personal goals. Because personal goals are easy to downplay and set aside when taking care of more pressing basic needs, like food and bills.

But maybe personal goals are the ones that should be loud. Because their crashes may be silent, but when they break, they often cut the deepest.

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