This month, I did not keep to my regular #WritingwithRae schedule. I’m late. It’s okay though. I gave myself permission to not only be late, but to skip it altogether. This blog post is about why and how.
As #NaNoWriMo19 is winding down my Twitter and Instagram feeds have been inundated with writers struggling with time management, illness, imposter syndrome, and #momlife (or #dadlife). So to all the writers dealing with a busy lifestyle, to all the writers dealing with chronic pain, to all the writers navigating parenthood, I hear you. I’m with you.
I have come across some wonderful people in the writing community, both online and in person. Since our introduction, many have gone on to get agents and book deals. Indie authors have started, completed, and published multiple manuscripts. Several writers seeking traditional publication have drafted nearly half a dozen books in the last year or two.
Wanna know how many drafts I have completed? One. One manuscript. One draft. One quick and dirty revision. One.
I have not joined in during NaNoWriMo. I have not participated in a Twitter pitch contest. I have not started the query process. I haven’t begun beta reads. Despite hoping to have done any or all of these this fall.
What I have accomplished is keeping two little humans alive, healthy, stable, and educated. I have guided them in not only mathematics studies, but how to have respect for themselves and others. I have taught them how to diagram a sentence, as well as how life isn’t about them but what they can do for others. I have introduced them to Shakespeare and given them permission to dream big and be brave. If I succeed in nothing else, I take comfort in knowing I loved my children more than myself, that they know they are loved, and that they have learned to love others. Parenthood is by far the most difficult job on the planet at times. Perfection in this job is unattainable. I inevitably do it wrong on a regular basis. But it is the only job I have ever had where boredom did not become a factor. It’s the only job I have had where my skills have not plateaued. It’s the only job where money is not a factor. It’s the only job where I have pushed myself to be better every day. It’s the only job I have had with rewards to be cherished for what’s left of my life.
I have also cared for the least of these. I never imagined I would ever be involved in the foster system. I never imagined I had the strength for it. Foster parents are the only parents asked to love someone else’s child as their own, only to be asked to say goodbye through no fault of their own. It’s impossible for anyone who has not been a foster parent to truly understand what it’s like. I thought I knew, before I become one.
Our home has welcomed four foster children in the past three years—four children in crisis. We have provided a safe, stable, and loving environment to the children of strangers. These children have experienced grief, neglect, abuse, and drug exposure. They have lived through too much at such a young age, sometimes even before birth. The foster care system is broken and while reunification is ideal, in some cases, losing a foster child is devastating. We grieve. The grieving doesn’t end. But there are also celebrations: a toddler, so neglected he did not know what it was to brush his teeth or wash his hair, learning to trust parental figures; an eight-month old, who could not hold her head up when she arrived, learning to crawl while in your care; an infant coming off of drug exposure, who screamed throughout the night, settling into a routine and sleeping soundly; a newborn’s brain gaining the necessary cognitive and emotional connections gained through interaction and need fulfillment that she otherwise would not have acquired. If I never have a New York Times bestseller, I can take pride in these efforts. These accomplishments are as life changing, long lasting, and worthy as a publication with one of the Big Five.
Parenthood is difficult no matter what job you have, but sometimes I see writers feel guilty or frustrated for not having the time for writing because of children. Writers, please write, but know that in parenthood, it’s never enough. There are never enough hugs, or talks, or games. There is no quota or word count to hit before we can look at our child and say “that’s enough for today.” Give yourself permission to be a parent first and a writer second. The words can wait. Their childhood cannot.
Another hindrance for many writers is illness and pain. I have been dealing with a multitude of ailments for many years now. Some of these ailments include arthritis in my lower back, chronic migraine, and fibromyalgia. None of these things will ever go away. Ever. I will never know what it is like to “feel” normal again. Every single day of my life I feel pain. That has been a very difficult thing to come to terms with. More often than I should, I carry on as if nothing is wrong, but something is always wrong. I take measures to make things manageable, but more often than not, I barely scratch the surface. Just this morning, despite being on a monthly medication to combat it, I suffered a severe migraine that lasted twelve hours. Sometimes my body just will not go. And because outwardly there appears to be nothing wrong, it’s difficult for loved ones to understand and gauge how I am. This affects my ability to write on a regular basis. Brain fog prevents me from finding the words. Pain keeps me from sitting at my desk. Fatigue grabs hold even when conditions are ideal. I may lose battles with my body, but I can’t be concerned with battles when my strategy is about the war.
Writers, please write, but know your body needs your attention. I know your frustration. I know the guilt you feel. I know at times you may even sense depression lurking around the corner. Don’t let the timeline of other writers dictate yours. This is not a race. Do the best work you can when you can. Set reasonable goals, but forgive yourself if you don’t meet it. No one is disappointed in you. Take pride in what you accomplish, despite the setbacks. Your words are hard earned. Each sentence is a reason to take pride in yourself. Each page is a “wow” moment when your greatest hindrance is your own body.
Finding time to write when you have more obligations on your plate than you can handle can be the tallest hurdle to jump over as a writer. Most of us have full time jobs, families, numerous activities and appointments, cooking and cleaning, and social commitments. Unless you’re a full time writer, time management is easy BECAUSE THERE IS NO TIME TO MANAGE. Ultimately writers must be intentional about carving out time to write, whether it’s early in the morning before the world wakes and makes its demands on you, or at night once the kids go to bed. Often it’s not about finding the time, but finding the amount of time we want. I would love to have eight hours a day to write, but in reality I’m thrilled to get two solid hours and ecstatic with anything beyond that.
Writers, please write, but don’t let writing be one more thing you have to get done that day. Let writing be a pleasure. Know that writing can take many forms other than getting words on a page. It’s reading a book. It’s thinking through your plot points. It’s having a conversation with a critique partner or friend. It’s attending a local writing group or conference. It’s research. It’s watching a movie for inspiration. You may not have time every day to bang out that word count on the laptop, but there are multiple ways to get “writing” done for the day. Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t feel like an imposter when you can’t make it happen. We all have different paths. We all come into this “job” by different means. We all bring different skills, strengths, and strategies to storytelling. Don’t strive to be like other writers who seem to have the time to write all day. Your struggle is your own and in the end you will be rewarded by your perseverance and endeavors. Work with the time you have. Don’t forget to live while you’re at it. Some of the best stories come from real life.
So, no, I did not make #WritingwithRae happen the third weekend of this month. I had pain to cope with, children to school, appointments to attend, phone calls to make, and a baby to comfort. These things are priorities to me. But I also managed to finish three chapters of my new #WIP when my only goal for the month was to complete the outline. I critiqued six pieces from fellow writers and read three novels. I did a ton of research. I wrote this blog. Despite not having time. Despite living the #momlife. Despite being in pain. I do not dwell on what I haven’t achieved as a writer, but on my accomplishments. Each obstacle I overcome gives me strength to not give up. Each barrier I break through brings me encouragement to keep writing. I have stories to tell, and so do you.
Writers, please write.