So many things seem in conflict with having children.
Working. Marriages. Sleeping. Eating while sitting down. Going anywhere fast. Leaving the house. Getting in a car. Grocery shopping without a scene.
And, apparently, creative work. Like writing.
I’ve read numerous articles recently about creative work and motherhood and all the challenges that presents. And it does present challenges! For instance, I’m writing this, right now, while my two-year-old rolls a plastic dump truck (that makes noise) around the room, ramming it into the walls and up my desk chair and across my back.
Yep. That’s distracting.
There have been so many times I’ve wanted throw my hands up in defeat and scream. This is all unfair! When is it my turn?! I’ll never be able to write and be a mother! I can’t think! I need peace and quiet to think so I can write!
I felt this way for a long time, and it was reinforced with things I read. Mothers trying to have it all and failing! Mothers as the default parent and also failing! Mothers in charge of all things domestic and failing some more! Failing! Failing! Failing!
Well. That’s not very inspiring. Or helpful.
I can only write about myself and my experience. I don’t live in other people’s homes or know anything about other people’s lives. So I cannot speak for anyone but me.
So, for me, I’m changing that narrative.
Sure, I can do creative work and be a mother. No, it won’t always be in the manner I’d prefer. There’s no cabin in the woods for me. But I can make it work. And maybe I don’t need that cabin.
For starters, I created my own colleagues. Colleagues that can meet me where I am with my weird hours and chat via all sorts of ways (Voxer, text message, email, Skype) so we can get our points across.
Second, I let go of needing conditions to be perfect. I write in all those little pockets of time. It might only be five minutes. In the past, I’d view five minutes as not enough time. Now five minutes is all I need to just get started. Just get something out.
I keep lots of notes. I carry around a notebook filled with thoughts and ideas and lists. Any and everything that comes into my head, I write it down. Sometimes I don’t remember why a particular note interested me and sometimes I do. Sometimes I come back to something weeks later, and it all makes sense. Sometimes not.
I use the voice memo on my phone, quickly word vomiting ideas.
It all counts. And I have faith I’ll get it all together. I’ll get there. Word by word. It’s not going to be fast. But it counts.
I’m working on a book. I’ve written 45,000 words. That’s a lot of words. And I didn’t have hours of child care when I wrote it. I also didn’t burn the midnight oil. I just kept those ideas firing and wrote them down every chance I got. It was slow going and frustrating at the start. Frustrating being an understatement. But once those juices started rolling the words flew faster and faster and faster.
I write this in the spirit of encouragement. If writing is in your heart but you have small people hanging on your legs or throwing Legos at your head while you try to write deeply personal prose, fear not my friend.
True, I doubt Thoreau wrote while small children asked for snacks or a baby puked down his back. But, you know what? Instead of looking at these moments as getting in the way, look at these moments as being the way.
I used to view my life as getting in the way of my art. Now I see I had that all backwards. My life gives life to my art. I can see the things my children do and say as 1) frustrating or 2) very interesting and unique way of looking at things. I can view the time I spend doing household chores as 1) irritating or 2) use those mindless task times to ruminate on blog post ideas. I can see the work Dan and I put into our marriage and our family as 1) too hard and taking up too much time or 2) the important shaping of our family narrative.
All of this contributes to my life creatively, if I let it. When I would get frustrated and angry as a kid, my Dad used to say, “it’s all part of the experience.” And I would get so mad! No! That’s not the experience! I want an idyllic experience! With not conflict! And no failure! And only success!
Well, then. What would there be to write about?