John D. McDonald was the first person I noticed using the plate-spinning act as a metaphor for juggling all the responsibilities of life and career. Years later it came briefly into vogue as a way to describe multi-tasking (which I always consider a way to do multiple things poorly; aka it is only worthwhile if none of the tasks actually require full concentration. Sadly, the task list of most people who employ the technique fails to meet that qualification.)
Being a full-time independent contractor/designer is like the clown version of this. Every time you manage to finish with one plate and put it away, someone hands you another one. You never seem to be quite able to put all of them away, so every time a plate or two needs extra attention, you can't help but be aware of the increasing wobble of all the ones in the back.
And like John D. MacDonald's example, if one plate gets in serious trouble it cascades. You only have enough time and hands to tend ones that are spinning decently...not a stack of plates that are all starting to teeter as one job goes into extra hours and deadlines on four other jobs are getting critically close.
Actually, the past two weeks more plates have gone down than have gone up. Peter Pan is closed, the show across town is struck, the Suomi is built. I have a grenade order with up to 16 hours of machining to go that is down to about 14 days before shipping, I have rental microphones going out in about six days that are going to need two days of work cleaning them up and testing them first, and I have a show going into tech in about two weeks as well. Last night I completed most of the lighting restore for the show that struck, and today I hope to complete that, then finish off an order of stage marker lights since the last parts just arrived on Friday.
Which means I'm pretty much due to add a few new plates.