Workshops, Holidays, and Two Small Kids

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I’m right smack-dab in the middle of a pretty darn advanced writing workshop, and while I’ve had a few moments of panic, the usual oh-crap-I’m-never-gonna-get-this-done kinda feeling… but, for the most part, its been the opposite. I haven’t been stressed. I haven’t turned in an assignment at the last hour, squeezing out that email right before midnight. And yes, I’ve still got the two kids and the regular, never-ending house chores and required family feedings.

Somehow, I’m doing okay.

In fact, I’m doing pretty darn good.

Actually, I’ve mostly felt this tremendous excitement to really be getting down into the depths of writing, to study from absolute masters of storytelling like Stephen King and Lee Child (who then so eloquently demonstrate how very much I have to learn… which I haven’t a clue how I’m gonna make that happen any time this century… or at least until Kate starts driving, at which point that’s a whole another stage of worry).

Somehow, though, I’ve carved out this time for myself. Somehow, the whole family’s on board and giving me this chance to just lose myself and my thoughts to my craft. (Actually this translates to dear hubby who graciously takes the kids while I lock myself in the office for two hours as I try to figure out the different assignments and afterwards, I get the comment, “If I was the stay-at-home Dad we’d only have had the one kid.”)

But you know, it feels good to take care of myself again.

And this might sound silly, but for me writing is just as important to my health and happiness as exercising or nutrition or heck, even laughing. That’s what writing is. It’s a core piece of my own mental happiness and boy do I feel it when parenthood has forced me to shelve it for these looong dry spells. Which is also okay, because that needs to happen. My main responsibility isn’t being a writer, it’s caring for and raising my two kids (who also then give me fodder and a shit-load of ideas whenever I get the quiet to squeeze in the writing).

But… when I give the writing, the learning, a whole six weeks of intense focus?

Hot damn, I feel like I could climb a mountain.

Okay, not really, but it feels like just about anything is possible. And I’ve totally managed this on only a couple hours of broken sleep and a stupid cold that’s running its course through the whole family. Oh, and we’ve got that Thanksgiving thing too. At our house… which is why even though this post was written last week, it ain’t going up until the week after.

Which really brings up the question: how the heck am I doing this?

I mean, I just found out that a bunch of people in my workshop didn’t turn in the last assignment, and it was only a study assignment, not an actual writing one.

Seriously, folks. Man up. Or woman up. I think I only got three hours of sleep, total (being sick is so fun), and here I am, writing this blog post while simultaneously keeping an ear out for Eric, who’s desperately trying to find a way to hot-wire the baby gate to open and climb up the tantalizing stairs while Kate works out her My Little Pony puzzle for the 100th time.

I haven’t missed turning in a single assignment. Not for this workshop, and not for the one I took in September either (also six weeks).

So… how did I do it? How can you do it?

This is definitely going to be different for each parent-writer out there, and it’s definitely dependent on how old your kids are, but awareness is what you’re striving for.

Awareness of your schedule, your kids and their temperament, and your temperament.

This is something I learned from the September workshop. Scheduling matters. It really, really does. And that’s not to say I’ve gone and blocked out X-amount of hours for Wednesday or Friday, but it required me to look at my life, and my family, and realizing what was possible… and what would send me over-the-edge into crazy-town. And when you’ve got kids, you also need to be constantly aware when they’ve had too much (because no one likes a crying, screaming, tantruming kid in the middle of a mile-long Costco line).

You see, before even signing up for this workshop, there were a couple days where I looked at my schedule and knew I’d need help (Thanksgiving, anyone?), so I arranged for babysitting.

Also… I told a lot of people no.

I cancelled a Disneyland trip with Grandma, which was fine since Kate ended up with a fever and wicked cough that day. I also prioritized my outings with friends… should I go to our regular park date in the afternoon or the morning outing, because that pumpkin pie ain’t gonna bake itself. Not to mention that I’ve decided to completely drop Kate’s speech therapy and am doing the brunt of the work myself because I didn’t have enough going on, right?

So far, though, it’s all working. The choices I’ve made are working.

For now.

It helps too that I’m constantly learning – and I’m not just talking about writing here, but parenting. I’m learning what’s working and what isn’t (like that beast called a ‘schedule’). Oh, and being flexibility is huge. HUGE. If I wasn’t flexible, yeah, forget the workshop and any sort of writing altogether.

But you know, I’m also asking for help from the family, and believe me, that’s not something that comes naturally. But I am, and I’m learning just how human I am (you know, not super mom). I’ve got my amazing 95-year-old grandma staying with me, helping with Eric (boy does she love playing with the baby!) and chopping vegetables (a huge life-saver). Boy, do I strive to be like her when I grow up. I’ve also had people come over just so I could nap.

But the other thing here, and the most important part, is persistence. And patience. Oh, and a willingness to learn… which I guess is three things. But persistence is key. Not kidding. I AM going to keep at this. I AM going to keep finding ways in my schedule to watch these instruction videos, to take notes, and ask (or beg) a family member to help.

Me and my writing aren’t going anywhere. Sure, there’s that dusty time on the shelf while we adjusted to having Kid #2, and then with the scare and worry over Kate not talking, but I’ve always found my way back to the writing. And now, I’ve found my way back to learning.

And like I said earlier, there is so much I have to learn and I can’t wait to keep moving forward. Even if my forward is so much slower than everyone else’s, but… I’ll get there.

And while it (often) feels like I’m barely getting the work done and there’s another five (or ten) things left to do on my list, I’m forgetting the most important piece: I’m awesome.

What I’m doing, caring for these kids, helping them learn and grow, spending 3-5 hours a week on this workshop while just getting back into something resembling sleep… that’s impressive. So is finding the time to build new friendships for both me and the kids with our local homeschool group. And now also being Kate’s main partner on her speech journey.

I bring this up because I don’t always see that, don’t always see the accomplishments.

Okay. I never do unless someone points it out.

My writing mentor, Dean Wesley Smith, once told me how impressed he was that I’d stuck with the writing these past three years and that I’d kept it fun. Then, last Sunday, my hubby told me the same thing.

He was impressed.

It’s so easy to see all the things I can’t do or can’t get to, and I’ve realized how important it is to see what I can. And I’m impressed too. Really, really impressed. The fact that I’m giving myself the time and opportunity to study my craft and then to realize… Wow! I guess I’m still a writer even with these two cuties and no sleep. In fact, I’m still growing, still improving in my craft from when I got serious back in 2010… and that realization is so uplifting.

You see, right now, my job is as a parent.

A facilitator for my kids’ learning and growth.

I’m not going toe-to-toe with other writers I’d started coming up with (nor should I compare myself to them – which, to be honest, can be hard when the writing only comes in short bursts these days). But even though I’m a parent first, that still doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. I am, and even with the little bit I can do… I’m still getting better.

Still learning.

It might only be these little bits, especially with family birthdays and Christmas right around the corner, but I’ll take whatever I can get. Or should I say, whatever I can make happen because it’s only gonna come from me.

And perhaps even most important, is remembering to enjoy the time I have right now with my little family. The writing will always be there, but these moments, of Eric stuffing his face with his first Thanksgiving sweet potato or Kate practicing her newest word, ‘hi’, are only gonna happen once and I don’t want to miss it.

And that makes all of this feel so worthwhile. Worth trying and seeing what I can do. I’m glad to give myself this patience and dedication instead of just putting the writing in a drawer until ‘the time is right.’

The time, really, is right now.

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