Guest Post: An Open Letter To The Writer-Moms, by Tonia Marie Harris

“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.

XOX,

Me (Tonia Marie Harris)

* * * * *

ToniaBio: 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/

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12 comments

    1. You did a wonderful job, Tonia! This was everything I expected and more. You’re an inspiration. Thanks for all the hard work, support, and friendship. And here’s to being Brave In 2014! 😉

  1. Wow. That was great advice. I sometimes falter at finding time to write each day. Then the guilt sets in and it is days before I write again. That, I know, must end. Thanks for the post.

    1. First, thank you for reading and commenting. I think guilt is a trigger for most of us. It’s why people go back to smoking- one or two cigarettes, and boom, you’re a smoker again and the guilt makes it worse and then you’re back to a pack a day. (I make the comparison because I quit for over a year and started again. I get the guilt thing, oh boy…)

      I’m not in the school of “write every day”. I used to be, but not anymore. There are days you don’t write, but you’re working out a character arc in your mind, or a plot conundrum. Those days you don’t write happen, I know.

      I think part of that school of thought is making the writing a habit, so you’re thinking about it and working, even when you’re not.

      We just have to remember that one day, or three, of not writing doesn’t mean we’re not writers anymore. That’s where the compassion comes in. The laying aside of the guilt and putting your rear back in the chair.

      Best to you.

  2. This comes at an excellent time for me, especially as my 3yo is working towards dropping his afternoon sleep… my writing time. Oh, the guilt, the guilt at considering sending him along to more kindy *just* so I can write…. Yet, if it was for a “real job”, sure, I’d feel bad still, but it would look acceptable from the outside.
    I realise there is all that advice about writing anywhere and everywhere, and I did when I was working full-time. I wrote in lunch and snack breaks and before and after work. I wrote while standing at the stove cooking dinner…
    Problem is, my writing time now is also my THINKING time. You see, I have never succeeded in settling my son down to play quietly by himself for an hour or two. There is always a “Mum, can you help me…”, “Mum, I’m going to…”, “Mum! Look at this!”, “Mum, what are you doing?”, “Mum! I just…!”, and the only TV that captures him for long periods is Peppa Pig or Humf, which means every 5mins is punctuated with a “More?”… not so great for deep thought.
    Even when I take him to the park and I have to follow him around everywhere, otherwise I face nagging “Muuuum, come oooon…” He’s an attention hog, and doesn’t play well with my characters at all. Needless to say, I am exhausted by my one-on-one time with my son. Love him to bits, but… the introvert in me craves a little space! And the writer who wants to please what few fans she has wants to get this book finished and out!!

    Guilt is a mother’s closest friend… perhaps not her best friend… maybe a stalker…

    1. Oh my goodness, you spoke a truth I understand on so many levels. My toughest year was the year before my son started preschool and decided to never sleep. He not only skipped naps, but was up every other hour doing the night. I made it through somehow, and still managed some writing. I don’t know about a lot of deep thinking though, lol.

      I’m a classic introvert as well and am learning to conquer the guilt about needing my space. Learning, mind you, not succeeded. I love what you said about guilt being a closet friend, and a potential stalker. Yes.

      The good news is they get older. The bad news is they get older.

      That’s why I avoid the word “balance” not because I don’t think it’s achievable, but because once I’m consumed with the word, I’m too busy trying to be Super Mom and balance everything to remember what I was looking for in the first place. If that makes sense.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. It’s always heartening to know we’re not alone with our guilt, dreams, and urge to pull the stalker out of the closet and hide in their ourselves. 😉

      1. I guess it’s a reminder that while children are, yes, children, they’re real people, too… and it is possible for a child and mother to have a clash of personalities.
        Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than an out-of-the-blue “I love you, mum”, but there is little worse than craving (*needing*) a little “just me” time and not being able to get it.

        It is so heartening to know we are not alone.

  3. Such a wonderful post, Tonia! And thank you, Brian, for giving a voice to the writing mom. I’m not a mom yet, but I have the upmost resepect and awe for all of you working writer mom’s out there. Tonia, you are amazing and brave, a wonderful friend and a talented writer. Take time to be good to yourself.

    1. Thank you, Heather! It’s friends like you and Brian that help keep me committed and inspired.
      Right back at you about the respect and awe. I’ve watched you push through like a true warrior queen over the last three years and commend your bravery and persistence.

      I can’t thank Brian enough for letting me share this post here. I love the writing community.

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