A while back I read a book called Chapter After Chapter, by Heather Sellers. So much about that book inspired me to keep pushing through the chaos and actually write the book that was in my head and my heart. Much about that book also frustrated me to no end.
In one chapter, the author, a writing teacher, urged the reader/wannabe writer to give up everything
that wasn't about the writing. No more book club, no more volunteering
at the church soup kitchen, no more going out with friends after work or
at lunch. Basically, she said, the writing has to be your everything
and if you're not willing to give up everything else, then maybe you're
not really meant to be a writer.
I hated that
premise back then and I still hate it today. When I read that chapter I
decided to just ignore that tidbit and get on with my writer's life as
it was - living my life to the fullest and writing when I could.
I still live like that.
True, I don't get a ton of writing done (see: piss-poor posting schedule on this here blog).
True, it's taken me many, many years to get to the point where I can
say my book is being published in January. True, my next book might well
take just as long to make it to the public eye.
it. I have a book club I love. Friends who lift me up and fill my heart
with joy. Well adjusted children who are happy at school. And a
thriving relationship with my husband. (The house is still a mess. I do have some priorities.)
every so often, I hear a little voice in the back of my head that
whispers "You should be writing now instead of doing this. You don't
really need to take on another project..." Then the guilt comes.
another mom at school, successfully published author of many books,
asked me how my new book was coming along. I cringed and had to answer
truthfully that, since our last chat two weeks ago, I'd been caught up
in a maelstrom of volunteer committee prep for the school year.
she said with a little shrug. "That's funny. I chose to put my writing
before all the volunteering stuff. I guess I'll be in the classroom when
I'm done with my book."
There wasn't an ounce of
judgement in her voice. It was pure observation. But I walked away
feeling awed by her dedication to her craft. She was putting the writing
first and everything else second. And, if ever there was a case of the
proof being in the pudding, she's working on her eighth book, while I've
barely finished the first third of the first draft of my second book.
walked my kids to the car listening to them chatter about their day and
pondering how the exchange had made me feel. I'd spent the whole
morning and a good chunk of the afternoon working on volunteer stuff and
if I was honest ab out it I was feeling pretty darn good about myself.
The program I had worked on is one I truly believe in and one I'm proud
to be spearheading at school.
Turns out, I didn't feel any guilt about not having written anything yet that day.
drove home and I made the kids and their play date friends some snacks
and then I sat down at my computer... to do a little more volunteer
work. I hesitated for a minute and thought about the writing again. And
then I thought about the kids.
This year I'm going to be
the "party mom" in both of their classrooms and I'm going to be a lead
on the Project Cornerstone team (a YMCA lead anti bullying and self
esteem building program). I'm pretty sure I'll get involved with the
book fair in some capacity or another. And, while I'm at it, I agreed to
run local mother's group again.
Yes, it's a lot of
volunteer work, no doubt about it. Add to that the hours that I have to
spend on work for clients and it leaves precious little time to work out
let alone write.
But I think I'm OK with that.
kids are going to be "little" for a really, relatively speaking, short
amount of time. In our district parents are only invited into the
classroom to volunteer through 6th grade. After that, there's very
little cause to even be on campus much. Soon enough everyone will be in
middle school and I'll find that my volunteer opportunities are few and
Sure, I could spend the next 6 years holed
up in my office, keyboard under my fingers, computer screen in front of
my face, cranking out novel after novel. I bet I could have a nice
little collection of books on my shelf before Little L starts 7th grade
if I did that.
But I don't think that's how I want to live my life.
are mom writers who write every moment they can, who spend their days
living and breathing their stories. In many ways I envy their focus and
their drive. But I don't believe that that's the only way to be a
When I was a kid I dreamed of the day
I'd be a mom. I didn't decide I also wanted to be a writer until after I
had C. I know I'll be writing for the rest of my life. There's going to
be plenty of time to eventually devote hours on end to my craft. And
while I know I'll also be a mom for the rest of my life, my role as
leading player in my children's lives isn't a forever thing. I'm very
conscious of this.
Last year I shared with you how
Disney urged us all to remember that we only get 18 summers. I'm trying
to remember that I only get 6 years. In the grand scheme of things, that's really nothing.
for now, I'll volunteer as much as I can, be as engaged as possible,
and write when I can. I'll journal, blog, write and store up all the
stories I gather as I live my life to the fullest rather than just
observing everyone else live theirs. It's not how every writer works and
it's definitely not the quick path to success, but it's the right path
for me and my family and I'm more than happy to live with that.