My personal rules for being a writer mama
Get up before your kids do.
Learn to multi- (Sweetie, crayons are for coloring, not for eating!) -task.
Utilize story-time. Sometimes I simplify my stories to tell to Lucy, my almost-three-year-old, and trying to keep scenes to her attention span makes me realize their weak points. It also helps me realize where the heart of the scene or story really is. And never underestimate the value of good picture books and story books. Pay attention to the language and flow, listen to it as you read. The more good writing you read, the better your own writing will become.*
Menial daily tasks exist to allow time to think. Agatha Christie said the best time to plot a book was while washing dishes...though I think vacuuming may be a close second.
Take advantage of baby-wearing. Seriously, keeping my little one in a sling or a wrap keeps her near me, happy and content. I can write in peace knowing her big sister isn't feeding her crayons or anything, and she enjoys the clacking of the keyboard, my talking aloud, and my intermittent humming of the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack.**
Life is research. If you're writing for kids, you'd better pay attention to what kids are like. I live in a constant state of study. Listening well to your kids will make you a better mother and a better writer.
Don't make excuses. There's a difference between reasons and excuses. “I didn't write anything today because I spent every moment of my time pacing with a teething baby” is a reason. “I didn't even sit down to write today because I'm tired from pacing my teething baby yesterday” is an excuse. You won't accomplish anything if you don't sit down and try.
It helps to have a husband who is also a writer and therefore very sensitive to the need to “just finish this one paragraph” and doesn't bat an eyelash when that takes twenty-five minutes. I don't know how I'd manage without him.
It also helps to live near family...My mom babysits Lucy every Tuesday morning so I can attend a critique group, and my mother-in-law (also a writer) lets me sit by her fire and write while the two of us take turns entertaining, feeding, holding, etc. (Thank you both!)
Prioritize. Gale Sayers (the Chicago Bear immortalized by the movie Brain's Song***) titled his memoir: I am Third, listing his own priorities as “God, my family, then myself.” As a writer mother, I'd have to change it up a little: God, my family, writing...then those trivial matters like certain housework. The fish can live in green water for a few days, and socks don't have to match if you're wearing them under boots, right?
I firmly believe that part of serving God is using and developing the talents he gives you. I think being creative is an essential part of being human, and to stifle creativity is to throw God's gift back in his face.
Yes, it's really hard sometimes. If it was too easy, I'd be suspicious. I've learned that the things of greatest value in life always require the most work.
*Today, I came across this sentence in Grimm's Sleeping Beauty: “When he came to the castle, all was just as it had been at the moment Briar Rose fell asleep, as still and silent as a held breath.” I mean, wow.
**I think if Mozart can make your baby smarter, so can Dario Marianelli.
***Remember: “I love Brian Piccolo”...sigh. Best sports movie ever.