Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Does anyone really know?

Confession: I haven't written a word of fiction in five months.

Ahem. I should clarify.  I haven't written a word of intentional fiction in five months. My journal is stuffed with pages where I blindly convince myself I have no desire whatsoever to write fiction and really want to be a butcher, baker, candlestick maker, landscape designer, dressmaker or hatter, anything less painful and more fruitful than plucking away at the computer every day.

My house has never been cleaner than it is now. My children are happier, my laundry is neatly folded and lately my meals are bordering on culinary masterpieces. You should see my yard! Even with all the adversity I've experienced lately, from the outside it still looks like I am doing very well.

But the truth is, and this is really painful to admit. I need writing.

There, I said it. Out loud. For the whole world to see. Well, at least the five people still reading this blog. (Thank you faithful followers. I'm sure you are still hanging on because I owe you money or a lunch date.)

So here is the REAL question (the gut wrenching question I do not have an easy answer to): How do I write and still be the mother I want to be?

My own mother wasn't around much when I was a kid and she walked out completely when I was a teen. Her absence has left a hole in me that I will never be able to fill. (We have since reconciled and now enjoy a very healthy adult relationship but you never get back those years.) I promised myself that no matter my personal sacrifice I would always be 100 percent there for my children.

I mean really be there not just in body but in spirit.

But I also need to express my creativity. Otherwise I feel like an auto-bot going through the motions, waiting for the cake to rise or the bleach to activate on the whites.

Unfortunately when I write, I fall into a kind of hypnotic state and I am largely unaware of what is going on around me. Perhaps my expectations are unrealistic, because I also need a clean house and daily exercise and garden time and time with my husband. But how can I make the life I need work with the life my family needs? Shouldn't it be the same thing? And if so, how in the world do I accomplish it?

If anyone out there has a REALISTIC* solution to my problem. I'm listening.

*I'm already waking at 5 a.m. to run so rising any earlier to write isn't realistic. And if I worked my children any harder on household chores I'm certain I'd be arrested for violating child labor laws. 


Anonymous said...

Granted, I don't write. But I am a mother with interests and hobbies that don't involve my children, so here's my best advice.

Set a timer for a specific amount of writing time. Two hours, 45 minutes, whatever you need. When that time is done, you stop writing. No excuses.

Take this to Heavenly Father in prayer and "discuss" your plan. If you decide you're going to have balance in your life, He will assist you in regaining your creativity every time you set that timer. You train of thought will plug right back on track the next time you sit down to write.

You'll be blessed for prioritizing and putting your family first, but not neglecting your talents.

Kate said...

I could have written this post. It's something that haunts me. I have to be the Mom I want to be. I've finally come to the conclusion that I can't write until this baby is born and at least six months old.

I can't write when the house is a disaster. I've never been able to do that. I love being involved with my children, and they , too, have extraordinarily long chore lists. They are awsome children--the best.

I simply don't have the energy with this pregnancy to do it all. And I don't see it returning for a very long time. But I can't be the Mom who shuffles her children around. Childhood comes only once for them.

A time and a season is my mantra. I have to be a wife and mother first or I'm constantly feeling guilty, and more importantly unhappy with myself. I covenanted to be a parent. Writing is icing on the cake. It will come in time. Childhood doesn't come around again.

Sorry about the epistle. I've been pondering this a lot lately.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Many writers struggle with this. I did, too. But now my kids are grown and don't seem to need me as much. Although there still are times.

How about making a deal with the hubby that two nights a week you need to write? See if he won't spend time with the kidlets and give you some time for your craft. He might find he has a happier wife.

Just a thought.

Hoontah said...

What wonderful advice! From all of you.

Jill, I have done the timer thing and it can work. At least some of the time but it is so hard to find a time that doesn't interfere with something else.

Kate, I am so with you. I am acutely aware the childhood only comes once and I don't want to miss it.

I know there will come a time when my children will be grown and gone and this won't even be an issue. But how do I handle it in the meantime so I don't feel like I'm starting a career when most people are retiring?

Kathi, I am so blessed to have a tremendously supportive husband. He is probably a more capable parent than me. So it's not that I don't have the help available, it's just that I want to be two places at once. (Oh alright, I want to be ten places at once.) I'm struggling with finding a livable balance.

Elena said...

I find that I'm a better mom, happier, and more able to dig up the emotional energy required, if I take at least some time every day for creative work. It doesn't have to be much. Even 20 minutes a day. Martine Leavitt thinks it's good for kids, teaches them respect for you and independence, and she had seven children. She used to get out the crayons and markers when she was writing and everyone would have creative time together; or she'd bring a notebook into the bathroom while watching kids in tub. I bring my writing notebook to the pool and write while my kids swim (if yours are old enough). There are ways to work it in and still be a good mom.

I made the mistake of not doing anything for myself when my kids were little and I think they're maybe all a little psychologically scarred by that. So was I.

You could join our one-page-a-day blog if you want. We all commit to write at least a page every day. Most of us have kids and it's a struggle, but one page isn't much. Let me know and I'll send you a link.

Alyosha said...

I could have written this post. Except for me I took an entire year off writing, plus six more months of easing back into it. Oh, and it's not like I was a superproductive writer even before that. Elena was smart to pass on Martine's advice--it's good for the kids to see Mommy write. But I also believe in the time and season thing--I needed that year off, and now I'm glad to be back. And you should totally join our blog!

Charity said...

Ah, that is the question isn't it? And when you find the answer, it tends to change a few months later.

I do feel like it is important for our children to see that we have dreams, set goals and work hard to achieve them. It's healthy and will help them in the long run. Balance. It always comes back to the balance thing. ;)

I'm "mostly" taking the summer off of writing. I am still working on the synopsis and query letter because I want to be ready this fall--but nothing new, no heavy revisions.

Personally, I tried to do the 12-2pm time slot for writing, 3 days a week. It kind of worked. I did nothing but housework, errands and played with my toddler the first part of the day. For 2 hours I wrote, or worked on writing related goals (which sometimes meant reading!). Then the older kids came home and I played mom again.

I think the hardest part is mentally turning off the writer. Physically, I go through the motions, but still feel guilty that my mind is still on my characters instead of my sweet children. This is where I really need to find the answer.

Prayer is all I have left, and it seems to be working. Good luck!

Mary Campbell said...

Hi Kristi, I agree with everyone else - it's important to have something for yourself. When I first started writing I had a set schedule for when I did it - during naptime. Now my 2yo doesn't take naps and I can't seem to work it back in. If the kids are around me I have a hard time focusing. But because I don't fit the writing in - I'm becoming depressed again. I've let everything go - my house, my yard, my kids - I can't seem to find the energy for any of them. I'm a more disciplined person if I have a set schedule to write - especially if I write in the morning - I feel good about accomplishing something and then I want to accomplish more things. You don't seem to have that problem, but you do seem to feel less satisfaction in your life if you don't do some writing - so you probably do need to schedule some time. Sorry I wrote a novel.

We weren't able to make it to the Manti pageant this year - I'm sad - I really wanted to see you. Oh and do join the One Page A Day blog - I'm apart of it. It does help me feel motivated to write at least one page.

Melinda said...

I'm still hanging out here because you do own me lunch!

L.T. Elliot said...

I don't have advice to give (especially since such excellent advice has already been given) but just know that I'm here, if ever you need me.

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