This month at YAOTL we're blogging about perseverance: and how we navigate the speed bumps that can interfere with our writing life. Across the years, there has been all kinds of speed bumps that have slowed down my drive to write, but none have had the staying power of my kids.
And the sweet irony of that is...I'm responsible for birthing my speed bumps. <3
For all of you writers who are planning to birth your own speed bumps in the future, let me share the facts, the bad news and then the light at the end of the tunnel.
The facts: My kids were almost 2, 4 and 6 when I began pursuing writing. And as much as I loved them, part of the reason I began to write was to "get away from them." I'm not saying this to be mean. But my husband and I divvied up our lives in the way that worked best for us. His burden to bear was missing out on lots of the fun that went on inside our house. And it was pretty darn fun some days. My burden was to be the one-woman-show that could rarely disengage from this one little corner of the world. But I found my work around. Writing gave me a small bit of mental space and a purpose that was my own.
The bad news: Writing with kids is freaking hard. My boys are currently 13, 15 and 17 and it took a million and a half years to get there. Or maybe it was a blink of an eye. One can never tell. And in case you're wondering--it's still hard. Just a different kind of hard. You now have to pick them up at 1am from the train or a party instead of to burp them. And when they're little the work load seems endless. Now, two of them are responsible for their own laundry. If you see them--that's why they are wrinkled LOL! But back in the day, I had endless amounts of dirty clothes, bedding and towels. No matter how much I did, everyone got undressed at the end of the night, and there was automatically the equivalent of another load. And every time I went grocery shopping--all three of them crammed into one of those race car, shopping carts. When we got home from the epic ordeal, they immediately began eating the food--making it so I'd eventually have to go back and do it all over AGAIN! And that was the tip of the speed bump. The days were long and there wasn't a lot of room left over for writing.
The light: If the days were long, the years were short. And speed bumps might slow you down, but they can't stop you if you are determined. Despite sometimes having lots of bumps in my road, I learned it was important to reinvent myself as a writer every day. What worked on Monday might not work on Tuesday. And that was okay. I grew to be flexible. I discovered how to bend.
I also learned to be more forgiving--which is a lovely gift to give oneself. I've always been harder on myself than anyone else. But you can't do this without cutting yourself some slack from time to time. And that's just the parenting part. You then have to be kind to the writer in you, too. But don't think that let's you off the hook when it comes to craft. I learned to know when I was doing my best and when I was fooling myself. And that skill continues to serve me well.
And I figured out there are some things more important than doing laundry. More than once I just bought more socks and underwear, And I was happier for having done it. When I managed to write a novel (TOUCHING THE SURFACE), land an agent (Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary) and sell my novel to a publisher with and amazing editor (Simon Pulse-Simon & Schuster/Anica Rissi) I never said I wished I'd spent more time cooking or cleaning. Instead, I still look back with pride at the gift I gave my kids by carving out a little space for myself between their lives. They got to see me have a dream, work hard for it and then watch it come true.
And lastly, those speed bumps can offer quite a bit of insight and inspiration for your writing. Writing for kids is means you should be exposed to kids. Check. It's unsurprising that most of my writing is filled with bits and pieces of these boys. I can't imagine where I'd be without them. And honestly--I wouldn't want to.
Every speed bump in your life has the ability to divert you from your passion if you let it. But if you shift your story just a little bit, look at things just a little bit differently, you might find you've been exactly where you belong all along.