Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Guest Post: Balancing on the Road by Megan O'Russell

It's my pleasure to host Megan O'Russell on my site today. Her day job is a little different than most, and the story of how she balances that against her writing life is a fascinating one. Enjoy! -SB

I have the privilege of two very wonderful careers. My “day job” is as a professional performer traveling across the country with different shows. I get to play on stage for a living. It’s pretty great. I’m also a writer with three different Young Adult series currently in progress and another contracted.

I am incredibly privileged to be able to work in areas I truly love. But balancing two competitive and time-consuming careers can be a bit testing at times.

As I write this blog, I’m riding in a car as my husband (and fellow performer) and I drive to Florida to put our car in storage for a month while we fly up to do a show in Alaska for a month. Once we’re done in Alaska, we’ll be flying back to our car in Florida to hop straight into rehearsal for the next show. Earlier this year, I performed on the national tour of The Wizard of Oz, where I split my time between the tour bus, stage, and whatever hotel room I had landed in.

It’s a hectic life, but I love it.

I talk to my fellow authors and so many of them have these routines for writing. They sit in the designated writing spot with their favorite beverage and tunes ready to help them find inspiration. I honestly don’t even know what that kind of routine would feel like.

While I was on tour, I spent my afternoons on the bus writing and editing. There was no desk or comfort involved. I looked like a typing pretzel. There was no quiet or soothing music. The movies playing on the bus were beyond my headphones’ ability to block. I spent time in hotel rooms and backstage writing. Any spare moment I could grab.

While on tour, I finished three manuscripts. It wasn’t always easy, but I knew what I wanted to accomplish so I powered through even as the soundtrack of Trolls played in the background.

But as hard as I worked, I had some amazing experiences as well. Landing in a city and trying to find your way to food and adventure presents a unique challenge. I needed to get my word count in, but I lack the ability to resist a Christmas market in Detroit. Having a morning off the tour bus where I could sit at a desk and work was a rare privilege. But what’s the point in being on tour if you skip a trip to world famous pancakes?

Finding a way to keep the career goals pushing forward while taking full advantage of the
experiences offered by touring was not always easy. Not going to lie, there was a brief phase when someone tried to restrict my time on my computer, and I just about hopped on a plane and flew straight home. But aside from fighting for my right to work as I choose, the ability to forgive myself and create a work budget became the most valuable tool that I have.

Burn out is very real. FOMO (fear of missing out) is incredibly real.

Life becomes a budget.

If I want to write a 60,000 word book in a month (Not that I’m implying that’s how fast something of that length has to be written), I’ll aim for 2,500 words a day. That’s 75,000 words after thirty days. With a surplus of 15,000 words, that gives me six-to-seven full days where I wouldn’t have to write any words at all. One full week of being able to say that I want to explore a new city instead of staying with my computer, taking a sick day to rest, dealing with editing coming in from my publisher.

With that freedom, I’m not panicked about running behind. I’m not freaking out about hitting deadlines. Plan to work with a surplus, not to survive a deficit. Do the numbers always work out? Not at all. But it’s a healthier base line to begin with.

And when your website crashes so you don’t have time to write and your publisher needs seven guest blogs in two days, forgiveness is the best tool you can have.

Forgive yourself for desperately wanting to find locally caught lobster instead of pounding out the rest of the chapter. Allow yourself to choose a full night’s sleep instead of pushing into the wee hours to get caught up.

We’re all only human. All the details, obligations, and wonderful experiences this insane world has to offer are larger than we could ever hope to be. It’s okay.

What my schedule and allowed writing time will look like when I get to Alaska, I have no idea. The next nine months are packed with huge amounts of performing work for me.

The 2,500 words a day will probably be cut down significantly. I don’t know what my wifi situation will look like. I don’t know how many hours a day I’ll need to be at the theatre.

But that’s okay. I’ll survive. I’ll get my edits into my publisher on time, my blogs posted somehow, and if the word counts don’t line up, I’ll forgive myself.

I’ll keep writing grand adventures and keep living my own.

Megan is a Young Adult author who spends her time traveling the country as a professional actor. Megan's current published works include the Girl of Glass series, How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin' Days (The Tale of Bryant Adams, Book One), and The Girl Without Magic (The Chronicles of Maggie Trent, Book One).

When not on stage or working on her books, Megan can be found blogging on For more information on Megan's books, visit or follow her on Facebook or Twitter

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