All in the balance

I was inspired recently by a talk at the online Bookseller Children’s Conference, where the founders of small, independent publishing company Magic Cat discussed how they have navigated 2020 with all the unexpected challenges it has brought.

As part of their response strategy to extraordinary times, Magic Cat owners Rachel Williams and Jenny Broom put together a ‘balance board’ showing the things they could not control, such as bookshops closing their doors and the impossibility of international travel; and those that they could control, such as the quality of books produced by the company and creating a refreshed, thoughtful, business-savvy digital presence. What can writers learn from this, during the pandemic and beyond?

You’ve got the power

It’s useful to start by thinking about our own power – and remembering that we have some! For all the things we can’t control (how an agent or editor responds to our work, whether people will buy our books, what reviews may be like) there’s something in counterbalance that we do have the power to curate or develop – or even ditch, if it’s no longer serving us. We can, for example, create a new daily routine that prioritises a restorative walk; schedule time to update our book listings for PLR to help boost income; or take a break from social media to help preserve precious writing time.

“Wobbles and muddles
help us adapt, learn and grow”

A better balance

A second useful strand is balance – a concept that’s rarely held up to the light and acknowledged as the incredibly difficult thing that it is for humans to achieve, either physically, emotionally or on a practical level.

We learn the basics as toddlers, falling often, seeking comfort, trying again and eventually (if we are lucky) becoming proficient at standing, walking, jumping, hopping, skipping and running; and perhaps later on cycling, dancing or skating.

Learning and growing

As adults we amass an amazing range of ‘balance skills’ across all areas of our lives but, when something’s askew, it is all too easy to heap criticism on ourselves. But without wobbles and muddles we would never adapt, learn and grow. We’d stay static, afraid – and how then can creativity flourish?

If you’re in a jotting mood, write down how you’ve shaped your writing life as external circumstances and your own obligations and aims have changed; how you’ve identified competing forces, reviewed priorities and adjusted routines. You may be better at balance than you think.

Image credit: Nicollazzi Xiong at