If you want to be a parent and if you want to be a writer, a successful one (insert your own definition of success here), I think it’s really important to acknowledge and accept where we are in our lives, and in our children’s lives. There’s only so much writing that can be had when our primary focus is our family. There’s only so much sleep we can skip before you know, we actually need to sleep.
And, as we all know, there’s certainly only so many hours in the day.
But sometimes (okay, often) it’s not so easy to have this perspective. Often you need to actively look back on the road you’ve walked to see just how far you’ve come. I mean, it’s really easy to have that deer-in-headlights look when someone asks that innocent (and very on-the-spot question): How’s the writing coming?
I mean, how can you not think back to all those days where you didn’t write? The days where your brain was utter mush and you were doing all you could to get kids fed, bathed (mostly bathed), and off to bed? Oh, and also keeping calm and patient when boundaries were being tested… or when your oldest was so excited at the aquarium that she totally bolted and you needed to follow (read: run) because there were a few shark exhibits and touch-tanks within range.
You’ve got your own stories for your family and for 2015. Yes, go ahead and take a hard look at those. See just what you had to face, what opportunities in parenting you might have missed, and challenges that you actually overcame. Got it? Got a strong picture of what Your Life was Like?
Now, flip it.
Flip that statement of what you didn’t do, of how you didn’t write enough, to what you did do.
You wrote. With kids. With all the house crap and a to-do list that is NEVER done.
I’m not kidding. Celebrate however you want, either internally with a hard, good pat on the back or do a little dance with your kids (also, all kids seem to love when parents let loose and do a little dancing).
As parent-writers we need to do this. We need to see where we are in the lives of our families, to see beyond that list of stories and novels we wanted to write and couldn’t get to, the list of book blurbs and covers and interior design still waiting in limbo.
This hit me the other day, after reading some year-end blogs and how many writers were putting their main focus for the new year on writing (as opposed to publishing), and it made me pause. Made me think about what I wanted for next year, 2016, as a writer. I couldn’t help but feel discouraged because it felt like I had so much to do, so much catching up in terms of writing because there was so much I didn’t get done in 2015.
That was my first thought and it pulled me down. Hard.
I mean, what was the point? Why should I even try, right now with what is going on in my life? Even though I’m in a secure and comfortable place with Kate and her speech delay, even though I’m at peace, sometimes it still feels like I’m battling dragons to keep everyone’s negativity and judgment away. How I’m now taking long, hard looks at so-called friends who choose instead not to celebrate when Kate said ‘Mommy’ for the first time, but instead questioned Eric’s speech (who, by the way, is quite vocal, is only 13 months, and who my husband and I have never been worried about… But hey, thanks for that! Thanks for trying to put a whole new line of fears into my life as mom, because I seriously didn’t have enough all on my own.)
Why I should put in the time and effort to write when at the end of the day I only had four or five new short stories written at the end of 2015? After all, that’s nothing special. Nothing to sing praises about.
But I paused, right in the middle of folding Kate’s Frozen pants, nice and stained at the knees and butt (my little girl, a climber she is), and actually thought back on 2015 as a whole. I shoved out all those nasty voices and thoughts and took an honest look at what happened in 2015….
We welcomed baby Eric, which is a huge dynamic shift all its own, but throw in my surgery and you’ve put a whole new twist on adding a new family member. We had all those all-encompassing fears brought on by so-called professionals and ‘experts’ when we learned that Kate had a speech delay. Then I wrestled my way out of those fears (or mostly, apparently) and decided to trust in myself, as a parent, and trust in Kate. There’s more too, smaller little rolls, but that made each day difficult at best (ahem, Eric, not sleeping for six freakin’ months!).
And I was shocked, shocked, at how much I’d actually gotten done.
I didn’t *just* write those stories. I started a novel. I started this blog and actually have pretty regular posts. I’ve taken two intense online writing workshops. I had a story published in the amazing anthology series, Fiction River. I’m building new friendships with other homeschoolers and learning more about parenting and trying a different path than the one I’d been raised on.
I’ve also taken on the role as Kate’s speech partner, which feels like a giant responsibility, especially with all those doubters and judgers shedding a floodlight on me, waiting to see me screw up (or to see my baby Eric start following Kate’s speech path because then they can ‘definitely’ point and say: Yeah. It’s the mom’s fault. She’s clearly not reading enough or talking enough or getting her kids around other kids enough…. Because, yeah, the actual research completely backs up their judgmental claims.) Yeah. Goal this year: find new friends, happy friends. Haters can take a flying leap.
Oh, and on top of all that, I survived another Christmas, which is no small feat when you and at least two other family members are super-introverts!
So you see, it would have been so easy to simply look only at those handful of short stories and say, “The hell with it. Clearly, writing with super young kids is a no-go.”
I could have focused only on the negative. I could have only looked at what I didn’t do, in terms of writing.
But that would have been a lie for 2015. Because it’s really not about the result. It’s not just about the ‘completed’ status of those stories, but the actual journey. Funny enough, this is one of the first philosophies I learned in Kung Fu all those years ago.
It’s about the process.
And the process of writing is actually pretty darn good. In fact, every time I sat down to write I had fun. I let myself play a little, let myself get lost in my made-up worlds, and came out the other side a happier person. A happier mother.
And everyone loves a happier mother (certainly my kids). Heck, I even have more patience (or a longer fuse) for putting up with other people’s uninformed judgments and expert opinions… although, I’m still finding myself new friends.
I started looking back at 2015 with a depressing weight, but now I not only see it for the success it is, it’s also moving me to make 2016 an even bigger success.
I’m committed to waking up early before the kids are up so I can give my subconscious a chance to peek out and tell some stories. I’ve got some online workshops planned in the next couple months to keep on learning and pushing myself. And, now here’s the big one: I signed for a workshop on the Oregon coast for 2017.
The reason it’s a big deal is because I’ll have to write a ton before I go. Like, a story a week. Seven weeks in a row. That’s normally totally fine, no worries. I could totally hit that, no problem, before kids. Now though, there’s some maneuvering required. Some very early mornings and begging family for babysitting while I squeeze in one hour (or even 15 minutes) at a time to get those stories done. I did it once before, but that was just when I had Kate. Not Kate, plus Eric.
Also, the kids will need to come with me to the workshop (they’re just to young to be apart from mom for a week). So, I needed to talk my mom into coming with me and babysitting (she said yes, by the way).
But, I’m committed.
I’m committed to my writing and to myself. And you know, I think my family is too even if they’re to young to understand. I think still, they know.
So here’s to 2016 and the writing – the dreams, the goals, whatever it is for you – and what we can get done, right at this moment. Because really, this is the only time that matters, the one happening right now.