This week I’m thrilled to introduce you to Australian author, Louise Allan.
Louise is a writer, former doctor and mother of four. Her debut novel, The Sisters’ Song, will be published in January 2018 by Allen and Unwin. In 2014, her novel was shortlisted for the City of Fremantle—TAG Hungerford Award and she has also been the recipient of a Varuna Residential Fellowship.
Louise also blogs, and runs an interesting series ‘Writers in the Attic’ where writers of all kinds are invited to submit an essay on anything writing related. It’s a fantastic insight into writers’ minds and the contributions are beautiful. You can check out Louise’s blog here.
Now on to a fascinating writing day in Louise’s life.
A Day in the Life of Louise Allan
Here’s a rundown of a day in my life. I’ve picked a day, any day, but this is probably the only day in my entire life that will ever be like this one. All of my days are different, every single one of them. I’ve tried to squeeze my life around a routine but it just doesn’t work for me. I could say it’s because of my family commitments, which aren’t inconsiderable and they’re also ever-changing, but I think it’s also because I’m a ‘fits and starts’ person. When I get the urge to write, I go at it as if I’m possessed and my brain is exploding out of my fingers. After the writing frenzy has finished, I’m exhausted and need time to recover.
At the moment, I’m in a recovery period. I have no deadline and nothing is taking my fancy, so I’m using this time to slowly work through the little writing jobs that have accumulated, as well as sort the other jobs around the house that need to be done.
So, here’s a day from last week. It’s a typical day in that it is messy, and that’s about the only thing that is typical about any of my days.
5:45am: Alarm goes off and I’m awake. This is something that is consistent. I get up and out of bed quite quickly, due to the lure of coffee.
6:05-7:00am: I’m in the attic, coffee cup already empty. I resist the temptation to check my emails and the overnight tweets from POTUS because they will just distract me and I’ll want to reply. (Please note, my self-discipline today is because I’m keeping a diary.)
I write most of a post for the series about the genesis of my novel: The Story Behind the Story. I’ve been having trouble writing these posts lately, so I’ve decided to just write and not edit or re-read, and I’m really pleased with how my writing goes this morning.
7:00-7:15am: Although I’m in the middle of a good writing session, my sons are leaving for school and my husband for work, so I go downstairs to say goodbye. My sons start early most mornings due to music commitments. They’re old enough to ready themselves for school, except for their hair—I want to tell them to brush it before they leave, but I resist that temptation, too.
7:15-8:00am: I make another coffee as I tidy the kitchen. My daughter comes out to say goodbye because she’s off to uni. I express surprise because she’s on holidays but she mutters something about orientation as she walks out the door.
I put a load of washing on. I spot the unmade beds, and the dog fur on the mats and in every corner of the house, but I banish all thoughts of making beds and vacuuming, and I head back to the attic.
8:00am-8:30am: Back upstairs with my third and final coffee for the day—that’s my limit or I get the jitters. I check emails, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and post a lovely photo to Instagram to counter my fury after reading POTUS’ latest tweets.
8:30-9:30am: Back to writing but I’ve lost my train of thought on the earlier piece, so I start another one. That, too, goes nowhere, so I decide to sort out the transfer of my webhost, something I’ve been putting off doing because I know it won’t be straightforward. Sure enough, I get barred after too many attempts to log in because I’ve forgotten my password. I’m not allowed access for five minutes and while I wait I look up the secret hiding place where I keep all my passwords and think to myself that I should have done this before I tried logging in.
9:30-10:30am: I try for another writing stint, but because I’ve lost my momentum, I decide to continue writing the application for a writing residency for next year.
10:30am: Pot of tea time. I catch up on social media and emails while I wait for the kettle to boil.
10:50am: Back in the attic with a pot of tea. I’ve had enough of writing the application, so I return to the blog post.
11:20am: It’s cold and windy and threatening rain, but the dogs still want to walk, so I change out of my pyjamas and we set off.
12:10pm: We arrive home at the same time as the groceries are delivered, so I unpack them.
12:30pm: I grab some soup in a thermal mug and head into my sons’ school where I’m helping to sew costumes for the school production.
3:30pm: I arrive home with my younger son—elder son has hockey training. Son has a quick bite to eat and at 4:00pm we’re in the car again, off to a violin lesson a half-hour drive away. I have an hour’s wait in the car while my son has his lesson, and as the rain beats against the windscreen, I open my laptop. I’ve lost all inspiration for the earlier blog post I started, so I start another one about the research for my novel. Meanwhile, I text my daughter and ask her to pick up her brother after hockey training.
6:00pm: Back home, I cook dinner, we eat and I tidy up.
8:00pm: My husband arrives home from work—he’s on call this week, so is later than usual. I get his dinner from the oven and head back up to the attic. I tell him I’m going to finish off a couple of things and have an early night. He laughs because I say that every night and never do.
Back in the attic, I’m tired. It takes me thirty minutes to add three paragraphs to the residency application, then I faff around reading blogs and commenting.
9:00pm: I have a shower to wake myself up, and head back to the computer. I’m struck by inspiration, and write 863 words on a post about the setting for my novel! Then I faff some more.
11:10pm: My husband comes up, sees me at the computer and laughs quietly to himself. I pack up and head to bed with the novel for book club, ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ by Karen Joy Fowler. I read about two sentences and fall asleep.
As you can see, my days are often completely tangled, where I feel as if I’m flitting about all over the place, constantly being interrupted and sidetracked, unable to settle in, and therefore not getting much writing done. However, I added up my writing time for this day, and despite all the distractions and intrusions, I squeezed in 4 ½ hours of actual writing.
A couple of months ago when I was editing my novel, I worked in a frenzy. I rose at 6, went straight to my computer and worked right through the day until school pick-up. I ignored all housework, except for the laundry and cooking, and each evening I disappeared again until midnight.
I let all commitments slide—I didn’t walk the dogs and I certainly didn’t help sew costumes. I suspect I wouldn’t have stopped for meals except I had to feed the family. But, I got a lot of work done. I must admit, I loved working like that, totally committed and excluding all else. But it’s unsustainable long-term, and it wouldn’t be fair on my family to do it all the time.
I live in hope that one day I’ll be able to work consistently and develop a routine. I’ve just spat my tea as I wrote that! Who am I kidding? Besides, my inconsistent, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants working style seems to suit the family and I’m getting the job done! Why would I change?
Louise’s Favourite Thing About Being a Writer
I have two favourite things about being a writer. The first is being able to let my imagination go, just like I could when I was a child. It’s utterly liberating and never boring.
My other favourite thing is being able to dig beneath the layers of a story or a scene, or even a feeling, and discover a truth. I love ‘Aha!’ moments, and I’ve learnt so much from writing things down, more than I could have just by speaking them.
I never want to change jobs again.
Thank you so much Louise for sharing your day and insights into writing. I love that Louise’s days are never the same, but she always makes time to write or focus on a writing related activity. That’s one of the things I love about the juggle of writing, raising a family, and well, life – each day is different.
If you want to connect with Louise here is where you will find her:
And don’t forget Louise’s debut novel, The Sisters’ Song, will be out in 2018.
Next fortnight, I’m hosting one of my favourite authors Kylie Ladd, who has just released her latest novel: ‘The Way Back’.