Mar 1, 2010

My Juggling Act! by Fleur McDonald

I’m finding that a lot of people ask how I juggle being a mum, a farmer and a writer.

Well, after a quick trip to the laundry, that I thought was empty (I thought wrong!), I think the most honest answer is, I don’t do it very well… but I’m getting better at it!

When I first started writing, I would get so obsessed with the story I was working on, that everything else faded into the background. I would ache to sit in front of the computer – I had to! There were characters that needed to come out. Never mind that the kids told me for the forth morning in a row, they didn’t have any socks and Anthony had mentioned that his work-shirts were all dirty and hadn’t I noticed the garden had suddenly turned into a jungle and what was I going to do about it?!

I’ve since understood that I need to manage my time better. I can’t send the kids to school, in the same shirt, three days in a row – the teachers will notice! (Although they are all very nice and wouldn’t say anything!)

I now try to limit my writing to early mornings (between 4:30am and 6:30am, when the kids wake up) and later in the afternoons.

Even if my characters are threatening a revolt, the mundane part of life still happens, kids need feeding and the farm and our animals still need looking after. After all, the farm is our main job.

So, if Anthony leaves early, which he often does, especially in the summer, I get up with him, make his lunch and once he leaves, I hit the computer. Often in these early hours, I answer emails and write ones up, that I need to send. I might write a blog or two and then re-read over the section of writing I’ve written the day before. I then make some notes of what I want to achieve over the day and write down my ideas, so I don’t forget – you wouldn’t believe how many brain waves, I’ve had that I’ve lost, because I didn’t write them down.

No matter what stage I’m up to, at 6:30am on the dot, I have to stop. The kids need to get up and be supervised. Lunches need to be made and the day, discussed!

Once they’re on they’re on the bus, the main aim is to tidy the house and garden (if I’m not working on the farm), hang out a load of washing and do all the boring things! If I even go near my office, I get distracted by Facebook, more emails and other authors websites!

All that done, I hit the keyboard. (Once again, without going near the internet.) If I’ve had a good run, I might get two or so hours worth, of good, solid writing in. I need to set the alarm on my phone, half an hour before I’m due to stop, so I can, once again, write down any ideas that I haven’t got to put down. That way, I don’t feel like I’ve left anything unfinished. There is nothing worse, than glancing at the clock and realising you’ve got two minutes to make it to the school bus and it takes you five to get there! I just feel that I need to go straight back to the computer… that doesn’t benefit my kids then and they feel like I love my computer more than them.

And there are, of course, the days, that all my good intensions fly out the window and I get stuck at the computer from the minute I put the kids on the bus or I’m in the sheep yards all day. Those days, I carry a pen and notebook with me, where ever I am!

So for any of you, who thinks writing might be glamorous and I just swan in, sit down and start typing… I wish! But I do try to get those three words together – mum, farmer and writer! They are all my passion.


Born and bred in Orroroo, the mid-north of South Australia, Fleur's Mum and Dad were fuel distributors and with her dad she spent some of her childhood in the fuel trucks heading north, meeting all sorts of wonderful Northern characters.

The first year out of school she headed to the southeast of SA to do some jillarooing and then went to WA for her second year. She met her now husband when she first went to WA. In 1994 she attended Marcus Oldham Farm Management College to study Agribusiness.

They now farm 8000 acres, about 110km east of Esperance. Prime lambs and cattle being their main enterprises, but they do a small amount of cropping.

They also run two studs — Angus Cattle and White Suffolk Sheep.

They have two children, Rochelle, eight, and Hayden, seven.

She is the author of Wilder Eukaplytus, Red Dust and the upcoming Blue Skies.

You can learn more about Fleur on her website:

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