Spinning Plates…on a Rollercoaster

I’ve written several times before about my quest for balance—balancing my writing life with my mommy life, in particular. I have learned one thing from all this searching:

Balance is a pipe dream.

Balance can’t be found, largely because I don’t control all the variables in my life that I need to balance. Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, something changes. For instance, I am now used to having 6 hours a week free to write. Then summer will come and that time will vanish like a mirage. Or my kid gets sick. Or I do. Or technical issues stop my progress. Always something unplanned gets in the way.

So my new metaphor is spinning plates. You’ve seen what I’m talking about—the people in circuses who spin plates on top of thin sticks and then run around frantically spinning the ones that are slowing down so the plates don’t fall off.

Yeah, that’s my new life metaphor.

See, I don’t just have two things to balance—work and mommy. Each item has sub-items which become plates of their own. The writing has my fiction work, non-fiction work, blogging, sometimes editing for others, social media, and querying. The mommy has school, play time, dressing, feeding, washing, entertaining the child, among others. Household duties include everything from cleaning the house (that plate falls a lot) to doing the finances. And that doesn’t include other family and friends. Plates everywhere. Lots of running back and forth.

Inevitably, some fall.

Usually just one or two fall, and the crashing is cyclical. The social media will fall for a few days, then I’ll pick that up and the finances will fall. Then the finances are back up and the querying falls, etc. Eventually every plate gets picked back up, but it is rare I can keep them all spinning at once.

As if the plate-spinning wasn’t hard enough, I’m doing it on a roller coaster. It’s no secret that life has its ups and downs. Sometimes everything is going smoothly and I feel like my dreams are within reach. Then, sometimes just days later, I feel like everything is completely out of control and I’m a terrible mom, terrible, wife, and terrible writer. Usually the down time is when many plates have crashed to the floor simultaneously. All that shattered porcelain gets me depressed (did I mention my aversion to cleaning?).

But the thing is, I’m stubborn. Some people prefer the word “determined,” but stubborn fits me better. There’s nothing like life saying, “You can’t.” to get me saying, “I can.” Most successful writers I know are like this.

So, I’m stubborn and I pick up the shattered plate pieces, and I glue them all back together (I’m too cheap to buy new plates) and start them spinning again. I begin slowly, one at a time, and add them back as I can. But eventually, all the plates are back up, all are spinning, and I am once again on the upswing of the roller coaster.

What a wild ride!

What about you? Is stubbornness your key to pushing ahead when things are tough? Or do you have a different secret you can share with us?


  1. Good post Kerry! As I read the wisdom of the Pipe dream,” I came up with a different metaphor: a Bongo Board. Do you remember those? A three-foot board that rolls back and forth over a grooved cylinder. You can actually balance to stillness on it, but that’s hard to maintain. Because we are living human beings, we’ll eventually flinch and throw it off balance.

    But with practice, you can still control the motion to some extent, and find balance in that motion as you roll from one extreme to the other. And you will experience, from time to time, a moment of calm and stillness before the cycle repeats. And should you fall off, you can always get back on if you choose.

    This metaphor suits me better than a roller coaster because I need more control to enjoy the ride. And exercise. 😉

    Of course, I also spin plates while doing this.

    And I think all who are editors at heart believe in the power of glue to reassemble what’s broken…


  1. […] have often lamented the inherent imbalance in my life since my child was born. I would either spend all my free time writing, thus getting behind on my […]

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