I have been a mother for three and a half years, and I have been a closet writer for much longer than that. However, it was only after Scarlett had been born that I felt the urge to send my material to publishing houses, to write actively, and most of all, to ask for help. Coincidence? I honestly don’t know.
I can’t help but think motherhood has empowered me to go after my dream. Perhaps because life became so chaotic that I needed an outlet more than ever. Perhaps it was due to happen anyway. Either way, motherhood has taught me these things about writing:
· Asking for help – I have always tried to fix what was wrong myself—or maybe fix what I had broken before anyone noticed. Whatever. Having a preemie baby (my daughter was born at 31 weeks and stayed at the NICU for 41 days—yep, I use that card whenever I can) really opened my eyes to my limitations. I could only do so much on my own. I had to start listening to doctors, nurses, friends, and even my mom—which I tried to avoid, having been a lifelong victim of Catholic Guilt and all. But moving on … whether I agreed with them or not, I had to stop and listen, ponder, and decide, which is not much different from writing. If we write for ourselves and never plan to share with the world, we can be the dictators of our keyboard. But if we want to have a chance at getting published, we need to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to critique partners, writing companions, editors, writers groups, on-line classes, workshops, and conferences. We need to show our work, regardless of the outcome.
· Sometimes, it is what it is – You can only do so much. A part of me always tries harder, and that’s a part I want to encourage (sadly, that doesn’t include dieting harder. Or dieting at all. Boo.). But when it comes to writing, to get that “thanks, but no thanks” letter or email just really sucks. While it may be a good eye opener to question your proposal or ideas, at the same time, it may also be that you didn’t have the right project for the right publisher at the right time.
· Prioritizing skills – Any mother knows this. Should I take a shower or enjoy fifteen extra minutes in bed? Should I go to sleep early or have sex? On which project should I focus? What should I do today—edit, write, read, critique, pull my hair out, or all of the above? I struggle with prioritizing a lot, especially when I have more than one project at hand.
· Time is not just money, but words … and naps – I believe that the #1 advice I got throughout my pregnancy was sleep when she is sleeping. Yeah, right. Most of the time, I was doing laundry, making food, checking emails, making sure my three dogs were fed and going outside (and remembering to bring them inside), breast pumping, and trying to make long calls to the insurance people (who from time to time send us a Mickey Mouse bill for 60,000 dollars) when she was sleeping, especially during the day. I gotta say, though, I got a lot done in those two or three hours. Most of it was boring and chore-like but, hey, it had to be done. It taught me to make the most of my time. Nowadays, I don’t wait for that perfect time to write. I take notepads everywhere, in case ideas strike when I’m least prepared. I squeeze in 200 words while cooking spaghetti, which explains a lot about my cooking skills. I even feel a degree of relief when my doctor says she’s running late and I have twenty extra minutes with my IPad in the exam room.
Learning never stops, be it about motherhood or writing. I feel like I’ve learned a lot, yet at the same time, I’m at the very beginning and there are so many delightful and exhilarating emotions that I still haven’t savored. They say that every phase is different and that it gets easier with time. Well, let’s see about that. J