There are countless people who have the passion to write, but never begin. The idea of juggling all of their existing responsibilities and adding another one on top of it is just too intimidating. And rightfully so. Writing seriously is no small task. It can be very time consuming, especially if you’re a parent or have a full time job to juggle—or both. But it’s not impossible. I’m living proof. Though I’m lucky enough to be a full time homemaker, being a mom of three young kids and a full-time writer can certainly get overwhelming. But writing is something I do because I love it—unlike folding laundry or scrubbing bathroom floors. Shocking, isn’t it?
So, how do I manage being a mom, wife, and writer? Some days I don’t. There are times I have to play “this or that.” Either I get another load of laundry done, or I write a chapter that’s been bouncing around in my head for the last few days. It’s times like that my house is by no means spotless. But here’s the thing—I don’t care. Yup. You heard me.
I. Don’t. Care.
You have to give yourself allowances. Nobody accomplished something great and also continued on with their other duties seamlessly, especially when starting something new. There will unavoidably be times dishes are piled in the sink, laundry sits unwashed, and the kitchen floor goes without mopping. Of course the house never gets filthy, but messy? Oh yeah. And I made an agreement with myself early on that I’d be fine with it. Plus, with a few cups of coffee and an hour, you’d be shocked how many household chores I can tackle. I knew writing would also mean dividing my time. Taking from here and giving to there. Compromising. Sacrificing.
What do I sacrifice? Well, let me tell you what I don’t sacrifice. If my children have a special event, Hell or high water, I’m there. That includes on release day. The Stone Guardian came out December fourteenth, and that same morning, my five-year-old performed in a winter show at her school. Sure, it wasn’t the most convenient timing but there was no way I’d miss watching her sing winter songs while dressed in a costume with a beaming smile on her face as she waved at me from the stage. There’s nothing more important than my family, and that will never change.
Special occasions. If someone I love is having a celebration like a wedding, baby shower or birthday, I’m there. My friends—my real friends—understand that my writing is a priority in my life, and they’re willing to share me with my computer and still love me enough to invite me places. That means I need to love them back and go, even if I have to step away from an important project to attend.
To be honest, that’s pretty much it. Past those things, there’s not much I won’t put aside for my writing. There have been sunny days I wanted to spend outside but was under deadline and needed to edit instead. I’ve sacrificed shopping trips, road trips, television, leisure, relaxation time and vacations, among a laundry list of other activities.
Here’s the thing. I knew if I didn’t apply myself—I mean really apply myself—for at least the first year, I wouldn’t move at the pace I wanted. I had plans for my future, and I’m the kind of person who sets my mind to something and then tackles it head on. There’s no procrastinating, no dragging my feet or setting aside writing or editing to watch my favorite TV show. No sir. When there’s work to be done, you have to buckle down and do it yourself because nobody will write your book for you.
I also get a lot of this question: “With three kids and a house to manage, when do you write?”
Either in the morning after I send my two oldest kids off to school, or at night when they’re in bed. Every once in a while they play peacefully together and I’m allowed an hour or two to push out a few chapters. That means pretty much whenever I can. And it’s not always easy. Most days I have to fight for my time to write, especially if I know I need to get it done and the kids are choosing to be particularly cranky, or a UFC fight breaks out in my living room. That’s when business mommy comes out, and I have to remind them that I spent time with them, I spent time working in the house, and now I have to spend time working on my book. They understand, but that doesn’t mean they always agree.
In this situation, you have to pick your battles. As long as I’m not under some kind of deadline, I can step away from my computer to hang out with my kids. It’s important your family knows you love them more than your book, and it also makes setting boundaries less guilt inducing. If you haven’t been neglectful, you don’t feel like a terrible parent when you sternly tell them to go play while you get some writing done.
Some people feel it’s unfitting for a parent to tell his/her kids to respect their alone time. My view on that is, since when am I not allowed time to myself? Apparently to some people being a mom (and oftentimes this goes for dads too) means giving up every second of your life to your children, and doing nothing but wiping faces, fingerprints from walls, and lets face it, lots of butts.
I strongly disagree.
Not only do I take one day a week for my husband and I to go out and rekindle the romantic side of our marriage while the kids are with their sitter, but in the midst of chores, dinner, laundry, cleaning, kids, errands, grocery shopping and a bazillion other responsibilities, I often have to stop and force myself to remember that I am Theresa McClinton, mommy, wife, writer, and most importantly, a human being.
Especially women tend to get “lost in the wash” as my mom would say, and we forget to take time for ourselves and do the things we love. It’s easy to lose your identity and go months before realizing you haven’t taken a single day for yourself. Every person deserves their space, to chase their dreams and feel fulfilled. That’s all I’m doing. Nothing more, nothing less.
And how does my husband feel about all of this? Well, at first it was an adjustment. I’m a self-taught author, so I haven’t had any formal training or a four-year degree to support my career. I got married at eighteen, started a family at twenty, and eight years later I’m still happily married to the man of my dreams. But that doesn’t mean it’s always been sugar plumbs and gumdrops.
Taking time away from my house, and sometimes away from spending time with my husband after he comes home from work was hard for him to adjust to. There were instances he felt I was prioritizing my writing over him, and after I stepped back and took a better look, I realized I was. It took some rearranging, but I eventually learned how to balance my time. It took practice. Nothing great comes easy, so even if you struggle to juggle everything in the beginning, you’ll learn to fine-tune your schedule.
And lastly, what about costs? Balancing not only your life but your bank account is a necessary task because once your book is published, you’ll want to promote it, and that often costs money. Look for sales. I try to sign up for yearlong packages where my book cover and banner will be promoted to the biggest audience. I look for guest blog spots because I enjoy talking to people and sharing what knowledge I’ve learned along the way. I seek out free services because lets face it, free is awesome. And I make book trailers for authors who want an affordable but really cool promo tool to pimp their own work. It’s a win-win. I self-sustain my marketing costs without taking out of the grocery fund—always a plus—and give an author something they love.
At the end of the day, you’re the one who will either become a writer, or won’t. Both options are fine, but if your heart is set on writing, don’t wait. Assess your schedule, pencil in the time, organize yourself, and most importantly, do what you love. Chase your dream. After all, we always tell our children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up—why can’t you?