Last week I shared with you the first three questions I asked Jennie Nash, Abby, and Melanie regarding their writing experiences while raising young kids. This post will explore a bit more of the inner dialogue (or perhaps monologue at times) that often occurs as you dig more deeply into your craft. We’ll also discuss the importance of community and avoiding the isolation writers and other creative professionals often experience.
I’ll include links to the podcast episodes that sparked this interview in the final segment that will be posted next week.
4. While fighting that isolation and the “void,” as you mentioned, Jennie, how do you temper the committee in your head that is pushing against you? Writing is a very dogged discipline indeed, especially writing a book. Explain how you can get outside of your head so that those negative doubts and very intense dark thoughts do not prevail while you are in the midst of your writing project.
I am biased, because I think the best way to combat those voices is to have a professional editor or coach — someone to be with you in the creative process, teaching you and cheering you, but of course not everyone can afford that luxury. In the absence of that, I think the best way to combat those dark voices of doubt is not to push them away — to hear them, to listen to them, to acknowledge them. But then to make sure they’re not in control or in charge. Or as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic:
‘FEAR: I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will NEVER be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a VOTE. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. DUDE, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my DEAR and old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to DRIVE.’
5. How do you discipline yourself to become engaged in your writing by creating a sacred space, so to speak, for your craft? How do we decide what to “give up” around the house in order to create more time to write?
If you say yes to something you have to say no to something else. That’s a law of the universe! I think the best way to decide what to give up is to be really intentional about it and then share that intention with your partner and your kids and your family and your friends. When my kids were little, I would often let them watch another episode of Barney so I could write. I would make spaghetti with sauce from a jar for dinner. Those were compromises I intentionally made so I could write. Other moms had rules about no TV, and homemade organic, healthy dinners, but you can’t do everything. You have to choose.
6. It sounds as if telling our kids we need that specific time to write isn’t so much selfish, but it’s something we need to defend and fight for. How do we do this with really small kids who don’t really “get” that concept yet?
Really small kids have no clue that you’re a real person with your own needs and desires, and many older and teenager kids, too! So you first have to defend the time you take to YOURSELF. A lot of moms naturally do this in ways that are not writing. They might, for example, have a date night with their husband, or they might set time aside to go on a run on Saturday mornings. But writing, for many people, feels too much like an indulgence, like a thing you don’t actually really NEED to do, like something you can push to the bottom of the priority pile. And look, there are years when that is true. If you have three little kids and a job and a dog, you may not be able to swing it. Or you may only be able to swing it fifteen minutes a day.
But fifteen minutes is sometimes enough. It’s SOMETHING. And the danger with NOT giving your writing ANY time of attention is that suddenly your kids are off to college, and writing is a thing that you used to dream about back in the day, but now you have years of the habit of NOT making it a priority. It’s very difficult to come back to it.
But that bring us back to that call to write — that unshakeable desire. It doesn’t go away. I work with a surprising number of older women — over 65, over 70 — who literally tell me, “I don’t want to die without doing this.”
So if you can’t make time for writing right now, so be it. Be intentional about that. But maybe put it on your “to do” list for next year, and see if there’s a way you can give yourself the gift of even an hour a week.
7. I’m listening to an audio book by Angela Duckworth called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. She mentions that it’s not so much natural, innate talent that makes someone great in their craft. It’s grit. It’s the ability to persevere through the inevitable setbacks and learning to develop stamina over time to practice our work. How do you think grit plays a role in a mom writer’s world? How can developing grit make us more successful and productive as writers?
I haven’t read the book yet, but I have read a lot about it, and here’s the thing: grit is everything in writing. I mean, you have to write and write and write and then you have to suffer rejection and failure and setbacks, and then do it again and again and again. It’s a very weird mix of soul-work and the show-it-to-the-world work. And in my experience, talent hardly matters. A great idea hardly matters. It’s grit, or perseverance, or determination, or a stubborn refusal to quit –whatever you want to call it — and what’s interesting is that I can tell if someone has it almost from the first email I get from them. Certainly from the first phone call! Those women above whom I mentioned don’t want to die without writing their book? That’s grit.
Text (c) 2017 Jeannie Ewing and Jennie Nash, all rights reserved. Image (c) Jennie Nash, used with permission.