Writing while Mom-ing is challenging, for certain, but I don't know if it's more challenging than writing while doing anything else. When I wasn't a mother, the first twenty-eight years of my life, I wanted to write, and, arguably, I had the time. I certainly had many hours a day that were mine to fill as I chose, but as often as not, I'd choose something else-reading, tennis, dating, movies, hiking, teaching something extra, hanging out with friends, traveling, studying, talking, sleeping. I regarded writing as something one did when the inspiration struck. Sometimes when I look back at that time of life, I feel like I wasted a lot of time. Other times, I think that I needed to do what I did then to know what I know now. In all that navel gazing, I garnered experience and knowledge that serves me now. So who knows?
When I had one child, I continued to write sporadically. I wrote detailed and beautiful journals about mothering, essays about family and life, and a fair amount of poetry. I even published some of this work, but I still didn't take it all that seriously. It still wasn't a vocation, just a hobby. I would be a writer "someday."
Then, as life does, it took turns. I moved, divorced, moved again, married again, moved again, and had a second child. After my second child was born, the urge to write, too often ignored in the past few years of upheaval and turmoil, cried loudly to be filled. My husband (the second one-the RIGHT one) believed in me, and understood that I needed to write to feel right in the heart of me, so he helped me find a local critique group. I began to write much more regularly. Just knowing that someone was expecting me to have pages ready when it was my turn was enough to make me write them.
I learned a lot during that time, but I still really struggled to make serious progress. I was teaching full time, mom-ing two lovely daughters, and building the foundation of my new marriage. There was a lot on my plate. Maybe I wasn't ready yet. Maybe I still didn't take myself seriously. I'd been working on one novel for four years (and one that I later abandoned for three years before that).
Then, suddenly, I was going to be forty-two (I know I should have known it was coming, but it was still a surprise). For some reason, forty-two was the year that bothered me, the way that some people are upset by turning thirty or forty or fifty or other milestone years. Douglas Adams wrote in Hitchhiker's Guide that forty-two was the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. So, I decided that forty-two was the year to either make a go of being a writer for real, or to let it go.
So, I committed to a daily writing habit (using the Magic Spreadsheet gamification tool to track myself) a few months before that forty-second birthday and in all the days since (I've just turned forty-four), I have only missed ONE day of writing. At first it was really hard. My initial goal was two-hundred-fifty words a day. It doesn't sound like much, but if you write two-hundred-fifty words a day, you can have a novel-length manuscript in about a year. I was ready to start finishing things a little faster. Life was feeling shorter. And it worked beautifully for me. I've finished three novels since then and have first drafts of two more.
Besides that daily writing habit, which keeps me "in the flow" of my story all the time and saves me hours of floundering away trying to remember what my vision was in the first place, my other tricks have been learning to write amid chaos and noise and in shorter sessions. Some days, I write for thirty minutes on the Mom couch at the kids' krav maga lessons and fifteen more after the youngest has gone to sleep. Some days, I write early in the morning before anyone else is up. Some days, I write in a car moving down the highway (my husband is driving on these days) ignoring everyone else in the car until I feel carsick and have to stop.
Now for those who think I am ignoring my children and husband for this, you're only half right. How many times have we all read or heard that good mothers are happy in themselves? Some degree of selfishness is necessary for personal happiness. And my writing is my selfishness. That doesn't mean I don't still give.
And, as a mother of daughters, I would argue that it's VITAL for my girls to see their mother reaching for and working toward her dreams, and their parents balancing each other's needs and wants in a healthy give and take. We are their model for love and marriage, and I want my girls to find relationships that support them in their personal endeavors and help them be all that they can and wish to be. Being a writer is being a better mother because it's being a better me.
I agree that it's so important our children see us striving toward our dreams. Great post! (And for the same reason, turning 42 bothered me too!)ReplyDelete
Thanks, Christine. Was it Douglas Adams for you, too?Delete
I don't think time is ever wasted. As Benjamin Franklin said, sometimes you have to do something worth writing before you can write something worth reading.ReplyDelete
True! Maybe that's why I didn't do much with those earlier years.Delete
I definitely agree with you on how it's important for your children to see you working towards your dreams. My sons are elementary school age and I want them to learn that it takes dedication and perseverance to make your dreams come true. It doesn't just fall into your lap(unless you're really that lucky). You need to put a little work into it.ReplyDelete
Bryants never give up! (and I bet Wilks don't either)Delete
You've written every day since your birthday?!! That's amazing! Congratulations on finding your groove. I strongly agree with what you said...your girls need to see that you can be a mom and take care of your self too.ReplyDelete
Thanks! It's a balance I'll want to see them strike someday, too.Delete
It's absolutely imperative that you carve out time for yourself. When I was actively parenting, from time to time I'd get criticism from others who thought I should give my kids 100% of my time and attention.ReplyDelete
Maybe some parents can do that, but I know that having my attention focused on other people all of the time eventually wore me out.
You know what they say, "When Mama ain't happy, NOBODY happy." That's very true, and if you don't engage in the in things that you love and enjoy, you won't be happy, and likely neither will your spouse or your kids.
There are several moms in my life that are true helicopter parents and I'm sure they find me horrifying, but, yes! Personal happiness and fulfillment matter, too.Delete