Once upon a time, I used to be That Girl—the one with a free-wheeling lifestyle, a low(ish)-stress job with lots of time off in the summers, and unspoiled figure, and even a travel budget. Yeah, I kind of hate me now, too.
When I started writing, I had hours to fill—days, even. And fill them I did, with sparkling prose which will never see human eyes apart from those of my mother, my always opinionated husband, and that first oh-so-lucky literary agent. Writing was satisfying in ways no other creative endeavor had been before. An added bonus: no insane Hoarders-edition craft nook bursting with fabric and poorly-sewn skirt projects abandoned at zipper stage! Memories of my prowess in seventh grade poetry and short story composition surfaced. This was it—my calling. Maybe I could actually, like, do this for real?
I continued this way for a while, and I learned about craft. I learned about submissions, got a critique partner, entered contests. I learned my writing was nowhere near ready to send out into the world, and how to make it better. Of course, once it was better, the words didn’t flow quite so freely as they did in the days when I devoted an entire chapter to my heroine packing for a trip and listed every damn thing in her suitcase. But, I digress. The point is, I was learning, growing, writing.
Then, last August happened. I was freshly returned from a trip to my beloved Manchester, UK, having taken in a gig or music festival every day but one. I’d just visited with my twin cousins—bright and beautiful nine year old girls, who asked with leveled stares: “are you a real grown-up?” My day job started up again, and suddenly the stress and responsibility was a lot more high-ish than low-ish. There went the precious hours upon hours I’d come to rely on as part of my creative process. Then, I got pregnant: planned, inasmuch as hubby and I ever plan anything. Naturally, we were thrilled—and woefully unprepared.
The year slipped by. I wrote little, analyzed a lot. Other things happened in my life: some stressful, a few very sad, one devastating, and one very joyous—that would be the birth of my son, coinciding with my traditional good time season—summer.
So how hard could it be? It was summer, after all. Babies slept a lot, right? He could be at my side as I wrote. I could plot as I fed him. Sounded good, right?
Here are the three main things I learned from this plan.
- The plan itself wasn’t flawed. It would probably work for someone other than a hormonally-driven, sleep-deprived crazy person.
- Plotting while feeding a baby is more difficult than it looks—unless your storyline hinges on tiny fingers, chubby cheeks, and sleep-smiles. Actually, that might be a decent premise. Sure as hell sucked me in.
- Babies don’t curl up peacefully at one’s side like poodles do.
Over time, I emerged from the post-partum haze. I came up with strategies, like getting up to write after the last nighttime feeding. I’ll blame that idea for my newfound coffee addiction. That worked for a while, but things changed. Lovable Lad is now (semi, sorta) sleeping through the night, and I’m writing this on the eve of my return to my New & Improved Day Job—now, with more guilt!
What will this year bring? I could tell you, but I’m not sure how much profanity I’m allowed to use. I could mourn the loss of the golden hours in my days of yore. That would be the easiest thing to do. I could claim (rightly so) that being a working mother is more than enough job for anybody, and let my motivation fade away. But I can’t let myself do that. My writing means too much to me. I want to be published. I want to have readers—and entertain them. If I quit, my dream of being an author becomes another half sewn skirt piled up in my spare room—and if there was anything entertaining about that, I’d go in there to clean more often.
Do I know how I’ll do it? Not really. I’ll force myself to find snatches of time, wherever I can get them. There’s always the car and the shower for plotting, and I’ve always been a “diligent note taker” in staff meetings (wink, wink). I don’t have any easy answers—I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. But I bet there are lots of people like me out there who have lost their momentum, and are trying to get it back. I’m right there with you, and I’d love to hear your experiences.