It makes me feel slightly uneasy, that in 2016 I can still find myself pondering the issue of balancing writing with motherhood - perhaps I should discuss writing and parenthood, as I'm sure there are many father's out there doing a similar juggling act. However, that is not my reality, so I'm going to address the issues I have encountered during the writing and publication of my first novel, Russian Redemption.
When I first read Virginia Woolf's famous essay A Room Of One's Own, I was studying Literature at University. I not only had a room to call my own, but indeed an entire house, my only distraction and responsibility was my adored German Shepherd, Molly, an endless stream of pub invitations and random part time jobs.
Virginia Woolf would have relished my abundant opportunities for creativity. Reading her essay's I was struck by how far we had come as a society, how many opportunities women now have to forge the careers we desire, adhering to only our own expectations. I had all the time in the world to write a novel, I answered to no one (except the dog when she wanted a walk)...fast forward some eight or nine years, I am a wife, a business owner and the mother of two beautiful girls.
I answer to just about everything and everyone else...
A Room Of One's Own means something more to me now. I had studied it with enthusiasm as a young woman but as a mother, and a writer, I understand now on a totally different level. I wonder if Virginia Woolf would have imagined we might have come further - I am fortunate to live in a bigger, physical, home these days, yet my room has vanished.
As so many mother's will tell you, it is the mental room, to think and create that flounders when our children are young. We give it willingly because we love our children but if you once desired a life of creativity, it will never leave you completely.
I am not an award winning, financially secure Author. I am fortunate enough to have been published but my writing has not replaced my day job (yet!), it exists on the fringes of my life, considered a hobby by my family. I persevere in creating a room in my life and family to accommodate my writing - but I never apologise for wanting it.
So, how do you balance writing with motherhood?
- I find it easy to plan and list ideas while running around with the children. Snippets of ideas or scenes but I avoid any lengthy writing. I know some writers like to steal pockets of time in and around their family but I find it never goes well - the writing or the family time!
- Set aside the time to write with intent. Be it your commute, lunchtime, nap time, half an hour before bed or dedicated weekend hours. It is better to write interrupted for a shorter period and do it well than feel as though you are going in circles. My youngest is now in nursery 3 short days per week. I work on our business for the majority but I also carve out a set period for writing - a solo trip to Starbucks is my favourite!
- Write in the most effective way for you. Despite knowing it is an utterly ineffective method I like to write by hand in notebooks before typing everything up. I find writing by hand produces my most authentic work. I do use Evernote to take notes or occasionally write scenes if I'm out and about with just my phone, but I would struggle to write much of value straight onto a document. Whatever works for you and makes the most of your time.
- Hire a good Editor. We live in a wonderful time for opportunities to publish either traditionally or independently. However, the stop/start nature of writing around a families needs/wants/demands means the danger for disjointed transitional points is higher. A good Editor will help your book become the best version of itself - whether you self publish or approach traditional publishing houses.
- Understand your plot. I attempted to write many novels before finally completing Russian Redemption. The simple change I made in my approach which contributed to my success was to alter my planning process. I first drafted the entire story, in simple sentences from start to finish, I then broke this up into scenes, expanding each one in detail (including some dialogue) before tackling each one in turn. This meant that I always knew my next step, because it was already half written. This one simple change kept my momentum in check.
- Explore all avenues. I was fortunate to place my novel with a publishing house. However, with the advent of services such as Kindle Direct Publishing, now valid and exciting opportunities exist for all Authors.
How do you balance writing with motherhood?
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