More Than a Writer: 5 Practical Tips for Creative Writing Moms
We all wear many hats. I’ve never met anyone who is just one thing: we are friends, siblings, spouses, children, parents, employees and entrepreneurs. We are multifaceted and all of our lives are complicated.
But I’m writing this article with mothers in mind. Mothers who are also creative writers.
I often find myself asking how on Earth do we succeed at creative writing when we’re perpetually pulled in so many different directions?
All the advice out there about writing sounds great, but it don’t actually fit into my reality. And I can’t change my reality to fit their recommendations. As a working mom, my window for getting anything done that isn’t family-related is small.
But I was a writer before I was a mom, and now I’m both. The question is: how do I juggle it all?
Before having children, the plan was: have baby, care for baby, and write during one of its many naps. Think of all the creative writing I could get done before I had to return to work! But what I did not count on was the exhaustion I’d feel, the million-and-one other things that needed to be done or the emotional changes I’d be going through that would take me out of the headspace to write creatively.
One of the hardest things for me to accept during that time was that I wouldn’t be able to write.
Now, there are moms who write after the birth of their children. And that is great, and we all should applaud them because it is a feat. But if you’re not one of them, accept it. Let go of the guilt, the feelings of inadequacies and accept that right now, for whatever reason (kids, new job, difficult marriage, break-up, death in the family), isn’t the time.
Check back with yourself in a week, a month, six months. Writers write. And you will too, but don’t forget that writing isn’t the totality of who you are.
During this time, read. Take notes. Research your next idea. This time isn’t wasted. Realize that you’re gaining experiences that will only enrich you’re writing when you come back to it.
2. Make writing a daily habit
This is solid advice. I’ve been writing seriously since 2004, and I must admit that it’s important to make it a habit. Unless you want writing to be a hobby (and there’s nothing wrong with that), setting some time aside to write is a great way to finish that novel, memoir, short story, personal essay… you see where I’m going.
But here’s the catch: chances are you won’t be able to write everyday. Sick kid, project at work, traveling spouse, something will arise and it’ll be hard to keep to your daily habit.
Writing for me has evolved from a daily activity to a daily activity in spurts and fits. There are some months when I can write daily. But when one of my kids falls sick and I’m up throughout the night, I know for that period of time, I will struggle to stick to my daily goal.
The only thing I’ve been able to do to get through these times was to accept the days when I can’t write and write on the days I can.
3. Read. A lot
You can’t be a creative writer (actually, any kind of writer) if you don’t read.
I read a bit of everything. It kinda depends where I’m at in my life. Right now I’m reading a lot of Brené Brown for my personal growth, but I also read for pleasure and to learn how different storytellers share their tales.
I love Brené’s honesty, her bravery in sharing her vulnerabilities, which reminds me I’m not alone. Everyone is struggling with something and if we can just show a bit of compassion towards one another, we can help one another through it.
She also reminds me of the importance of giving my characters meaningful flaws that make them human.
I’m truly enjoying the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. Kevin’s ability to take his time with his story and create a world that’s entertaining and engaging is admirable. The way he builds his world without unnecessary action sequences that can often hide a poorly planned plot gives me the patience to sit with one of my own scenes until I feel it shines.
4. Be patient; stay focused
Nowadays, I’m told if you want to attract the attention of an agent, you must not only come bearing a pristine manuscript but also, and perhaps equally important, a following.
But how do you build said followership? Social media. (Sigh. You knew social media had to factor into this somehow. It is literally everywhere.) And while it is tempting to tweet daily, blog weekly, and post everything, all of this takes time.
My advice here is to stay focused.
Set some realistic goals for yourself around when and if you’re going to blog, post, tweet. I’m from the pre-internet and social media era, so I don’t post often (trust me, my life is not that exciting!). Instead, I try to set targets that fit into my lifestyle because I don’t want social media to consume my valuable creative writing time.
5. Believe in yourself
Writing is a calling. It’s more than just something you do to earn a paycheck. As a mother, you’ve added a lot of invisible skills to your arsenal like resilience, persistence, and time management. You can pay your bills, take a shower, cook dinner, break up a fight, and balance a checkbook in 25 mins flat. Apply those same principles to writing. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy it and the discipline to do it.
You got this.
If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear from you! What tips do you have to share? How do you juggle it all?