Cara Putnam

Cara Putnam graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (Go Huskers!), moved to the Washington, DC area, married the man of her dreams, worked in the non-profit world, went to George Mason Law School at night. Cara is also an attorney, lecturer at a Big Ten university, women's ministry leader, and all around crazy woman. Crazy about God, her husband and her kids. Heartsong Presents is publishing her three book series of World War Two romances: Canteen Dreams (October 2007), Sandhill Dreams (May 2008), and Captive Dreams (September 2008). Love Inspired Suspense published her first romantic suspense in May 2008. Now she’s working on the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Law (don’t ask!) and the first book in an Ohio World War Two series.

Juggling Act: The Life of an Author

Camera pulls tight on a woman lounging in a leather recliner. Soft jazz music plays in the background. She sips from a mocha cappuccino while reviewing text on her laptop that magically appeared overnight. Another gift from the writing fairy.

Folks slow as they walk by, whispering in hushed tones as they elbow each other, “Is that her? Oh my! It is.” The woman smiles benignly and takes another sip. Tomorrow she’ll have lunch with her agent, another one of their monthly appointments. The agent will surely have news of a six-figure signing bonus. Then next month, there’s the quarterly face-to-face with her editor and publisher.

The glamorous life of an author.

While I would love that, my life is much different in reality. My truly supportive husband calls writing one of my hobbies. To me it’s a passion. But it’s not the totality of who I am.

No, Cara Putman is a wife, mother, homeschool instructor to third- and first-graders, attorney, university lecturer, church volunteer, friend, daughter, sister . . . and author.

Sometimes it’s tough to juggle all of these roles and keep balance. Often when I’m under deadline, the tenuous balance disappears. But I’ve learned a few tips to help me keep everything going while I write.

1) Treat writing like a job. I have created an Excel spreadsheet that I use for each book. On it I track the chapters, word count for each chapter, and total word count. I also track my word count for each day. Usually, my daily goal is 1500–2000 words. I can’t stop till I reach that limit because I won’t hit my deadline without doing so.

2) Recognize the value in my other roles. I believe I’m a better writer because I teach and practice law. When I started writing, it was in addition to working three to four days a week in a law firm. Then I stepped back for the most part from practicing and started teaching a class or two at a Big Ten university. It’s by those interactions that I often get ideas. It also gives my brain the chance to ruminate on the plot and characters while focused on another activity. That doesn’t hurt my writing at all either.

3) Use tools to help around the house. I don’t have a maid (though I would love one), but I made the decision a couple years ago to invest in the right tools instead. For Christmas this year I
got a Roomba vacuum. I love it! The kids or I can pick up a floor, then turn it on, and leave the room, doing something else while it vacuums.

4) Get others to pitch in. As my children get older, enlisting their help is easier. They now have a list of jobs to do. When they complete them, they are rewarded and I get the help I need to stay on top of the housework. In addition, they’re also learning life skills they’ll need as they get older and someday launch independent lives. My husband is also quick to help with grocery shopping or cooking the occasional meal, both tasks that are not my favorites.

5) Plan meals. I hate grocery shopping. It makes me grumpy. And I hate the pressure of realizing it’s 5:30 and I have no idea what’s for supper. I’ve tried a couple systems, but one that I love is For $15, I can get a three-month subscription that provides monthly menus, shopping lists, and recipes. The meals are tasty, simple, and can often be thrown into a Crock-Pot.

6) Set goals. When I started writing, I gave myself two years to get a contract. I received the first one less than eighteen months later. I’ve continued to set goals that have guided me as I try to write among so many other roles. God is sovereign and controls our paths, but goals help keep us moving in the right direction. In December my goal was to take the month off and not write. As it was, I had to proof a book, write a proposal, and do the first rewrite on another book. If I hadn’t planned to take the month off, I can’t imagine how crazy the month would have been. As it was, I got two weeks off that my family and I needed. Other goals are to finish proposals and work on friends’ projects. Each goal helps me keep focused on doing the things I need to do as I partner with God in writing.

I’ve never been good at juggling actual balls. If you handed me two balls, I could bounce them back and forth, but nothing more fancy than that. However, I’ve been blessed to write books and then hold the finished novel in my hands, so God has still taught me a thing or two about juggling.

And I prefer the reality to the dream most imagine when they contemplate a writer’s life.