“I had to learn that I was a better mother and wife when I was working than I was not.”—Madeleine L’Engle
Dear Writer Moms,
Brian asked me to write a post for the writer-moms out there. He wanted me to share some tips and ideas, share a little of how I managed to corral three (sometimes four, I babysit, too) kids, three animals, and a husband all while putting some words on paper. (Thanks, Brian. Brian is awesome, by the way.)
He asked me during a time when I was watching every single ball drop and roll like bruised apples around my feet. The holidays were over, but due to the vindictive Polar Vortex, the kids were home for an extended holiday. Four kids with cabin fever, a wonky water heater, a puppy that pooped all over the floor no matter how many times we braved the cold later… my body fell apart. Yeah, it went like that.
I can’t count the number of times I opened my manuscript, or the encouraging email from Brian and sighed. I just wanted to take a nap.
This isn’t about me feeling sorry for myself. And it’s not about you feeling sorry for me. If you’re a writer/mom, you know this: There is joy, abandon, chaos, lost sleep, and gratitude in knowing that not only are we working with a purpose, but we’re also passing this invaluable legacy on to our children.
Yes, there is a messy glory in that.
Looking back, I still managed to write three short stories, add three new scenes to my book, and revamped my blog with the theme #BeBraveIn2014.
Brave. That’s one of my words for the New Year. Two more words are: Persistence and Commitment. The last one, and one I find truly important is: Compassion. All these words are intrinsic to Being Brave for me.
Brave is stepping outside of our comfort zones. Persistence is finding our inner warrior chick and plowing through the rabble to keep putting those words on paper. Commitment supersedes motivation. Because we don’t write when we don’t *feel* motivated, but we do write when we see it as our duty, or a pledge to ourselves. We make it a priority in our lives. Sometimes putting it before the stack of dirty dishes and piles of mutating laundry.
Compassion is something we often reserve for others, but we need to give it to ourselves first and foremost. We’re artists, stay-at-home-moms, working moms, moms who care about the world around us, balancing budgets, making dinner and taking kids to their softball games/ ballet lessons/ Tae Kwon Do championships, etc.
We falter (Never fail). Sometimes, at only one thing. Other days (or weeks, or what seems like years), we feel like we’re faltering at everything and letting everyone we care about down.
While I was faltering, I turned to my writing community. Many of whom are mothers and struggle with the same things we do. The days when all the words and all the plans fall together like an inspired mosaic. The days when the rain clouds follow us around, but the words are vapor sucked up by time and circumstance.
Like the late, great Lou Reed once said, “I think it’s important that people don’t feel alone.”
Writing, and often motherhood, is lonely work. But—we’re not alone.
Practical Tips from Amazing Women:
“Train yourself to write anywhere: car, waiting rooms, skating rinks… Give yourself permission not to be Super Mom every minute of the damn day. I’d also tell someone not to beat themselves up if they can’t follow the popular advice, “Write every day.” Write when you can and don’t give up.”–Marta Pelrine-Bacon, author of The Blue Jar
“I make one night a week writer’s night and I meet my writing buddy for a little chat and some writing and critiquing. Having a partner knocking it out of the park sure makes me want to write more!”–Micki Lindquist
“Try to shake yourself free of your “best time of the day” to write. I’ve never been able to do the write wherever you can thing, but for a long while I was insistent the my best writing came at night. Since then, I’ve found that I can grab a half-hour of writing time during lunch, and that’s become my writing time. (And I’ve discovered that I’m a LOT more coherent in the middle of the day than I am at night.) I agree with Micki above–make one night a writer’s night. If you can get out for one night–even if it’s every other week–either meet up with a writer friend for inspiration or go out alone. I used to go to a bar around the corner and read for a while. I met a lot of people by talking about what I was reading, and I sometimes used the time for editing as well.”–Jeannine Walls Thibodeau
“It’s hard to remember what it was like when my son was little. I think I started writing when he was about 4. He was always good about keeping himself occupied (except when I wanted to take a shower. What is it with kids?) If I wanted to write, I gave him lots of snacks and a pile of toys or put in a DVD/tape that lasted at least a couple of hours. I think once he wanted to “write” too so I set him up at his little table with paper and crayons. We worked on our stories together.”–Valerie P. Chandler
“I use time after my 3 y.o. has gone to bed for the night, with the understanding (read: blessing) of my husband that I get time to write every night. I try to keep it to an hour, so I can still spend one-on-one time with him, too, but he understands if I’m on a roll and it takes longer. It’s hard to manage, but it gets daily writing time in. Also, try a weekly Date Night with your spouse (or at least a trusted friend). Wait until (s)he agrees before you reveal that it’s not a date with him/her, but with your Work In Progress. Give yourself 3-4 hours, if you can work that long in one sitting, to just recluse yourself. It doesn’t have to be a night-time venture, just anytime where you can swing a large chunk of time to be absent from your regular life and full-devoted to your characters.”–Danielle Davis
“My system: one hour a day, no excuses = a first draft in four months.”–Jo Eberhardt
The piece of advice I want to leave you with is this: Remember that the same reason you commit yourself to writing is the same reason you commit yourself to raising your children to be good, quality human beings.
In the end, it’s all about Love.
Me (Tonia Marie Harris)
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Bio: Tonia Marie Harris writes YA speculative fiction and poetry. She wants to be a ghost-hunter when she grows up. Chocolate is her kryptonite. Find out more on her blog: http://passionfind.wordpress.com/