I should be sleeping right now. But I’m typing.
Because, here’s the thing: I love to write. I always have. It’s been my dream from childhood. Real life dreams can rob us of our sleep at times. But they feel worth it, don’t they?
Along with writing, I had other dreams. To my great luck, they have come true. I dreamed of getting married. Then I did. I dreamed of becoming a mom. Then I did: three times over. Throughout it all, I dreamed of becoming a serious (or at least, frequent) writer. To that end, four years ago, I started a blog, and began this new chapter.
What follows are a few pointers I’ve learned along the way – tips from my time balancing the constant demands of a young family, with the solitary pursuit of writing:
- Voice text yourself notes. During the school year, I have a routine. On the drive home, with the baby in tow, I voice text notes to myself into my phone. My eyes are on the road. The baby is looking out the window, or at least not yelling (usually). I do this to trick my brain. I talk, and words magically appear in digital print. This way, when I sit down to write a post, I have a “rough draft” already in place to work with. I completely skirt the terror of staring at a blank page! Haha! Take that, writer’s block!
- Don’t take time from your husband. He works like a dog to provide well for you and the kids. If he likes talking and connecting in the evening, guard that time. Manuscripts will never kiss you and tell you it’s going to be alright. Nurture your marriage. Whether you wallow in obscurity and rejection letters, or hit the big time, you’ll want your man there beside you. Don’t neglect him just to double down on your work. Collaborate with him about when would be a reasonable time for you to write, that doesn’t steal from your first dream-come-true. If something’s gotta give, just make sure it’s not his place in your heart. He needs you. He chose you, just as you chose him. In my experience, there actually IS enough time in life for him, and for you. Just keep in communication.
- Guard your children’s privacy. It’s easy to see these funny/mesmerizing/exasperating little people as endless fodder for your writing. Because they ARE. But I try to remember that they didn’t choose to have their potty-training escapades and their full given names released into the public domain. It’s my first job to protect and care for them. They will grow up into insecure teenagers, and eventually, professional adults. They have a whole future that I must consider. In my writing, I try to remember to keep the focus on my own processes and discoveries in motherhood. When they are mature enough, they can choose for themselves what they want to disclose to the world. Now is a time for me to protect their privacy, even as I write of my own journey in these rich, intense little years.
- Guard nap time. Yes, everything else needs to be done. But in our home, when the baby goes down for his nap, the mama flips open her computer. In the summer, the older kids are home, and play quietly or watch a show. Just to be clear: every time I sit down to write, it’s a struggle. I am interrupted often. I become irritated often. I have enough practice to know that my edits won’t mind if I neglect them for a time. However a little heart that I often snap at will scar over with childhood issues. I have to be a parent, even as I’m a writer. At the same time, a 6-year-old is big enough to respect mommy’s writing time, and to find her own snacks, and play quietly while baby is napping. It’s a balance.
- Collaborate. Which is just a word that means: connect with other mommy friends who write. One of my best friends is a mom and also a YA fantasy fiction author. Now, I write zero fantasy fiction. I’m in the non-fiction, christian living category. But we jive easily about writing, story-boarding, fleshing-out concepts, and all those delicious ideas. Writing is a lonely sport. When the vast majority of people in your life don’t understand this obsession, it’s a warm campfire to have kindred spirits that do.
- Maybe don’t do it right now. I mean it. As a friend says, “If it’s right now, it will be right later.” If you cannot spare even five minutes, then don’t. These little years are INTENSE. Mental health is at the forefront with PPD, hormones, sleeplessness, and the great re-definition of life as you know it with tiny people entirely dependent on you. Something as vulnerable as writing and publishing takes tremendous courage and mental fortitude. It’s entirely normal to choose to be a private citizen within this cocoon of these little years. Then, as they get a little older, when you feel like you are surfacing, reasses the situation. The older you become, I suspect the more weight your words carry. I look forward to becoming a wrinkly, captivating, prolific old bird.
But as I have to remind myself: don’t give up on your first dream in order to chase another dream. Your children and husband need you right now. They are your dreams-come-true. As such, they take time, and cold-hard work. Welcome to getting what you want! If anything, living with your eyes open to this reality will prepare you for the future. When you jump from dreaming, to becoming a writer, to writing, then publishing, you will see that a dream-come-true is cold-hard work. They only difference between a dream, and just a job, is that it satisfies your heart. But look around you: the kids will not be this young forever. You will not be building a life with your husband in this stage of life ever again, I suspect. So if you need to put down your pen and jump into the mix of life with them, please do so. Writing will always be there when you need it. This is the advice every old woman and every older writer has ever given me in this stage of life. So I’m kindly passing it on to you.