How to hold both identities close
Maybe you decided to be a writer before or after becoming a mother. Either way, you learned that neither identity can be left at the door. In many ways, these two identities feed each other and coalesce. Both take a huge amount of time and energy. You cannot not be a mother when your child is ill and you need to write, or have a deadline. Your heart will be pulled to check up on your sick kid.
Moreover, being a writer may bleed into your thoughts as you watch your children play in the snow. It is those joyful moments that you may think, how can I write about snow and children and joy?
How it started for me. I had my son when I was 37 years old. I did not want to become pregnant until I had finished my manuscript, SELF PORTRAIT. While I was pregnant, I began my novel, Out of the Shadows. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to start a new novel once he was born. I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know how motherhood would change me.
Would I still be able to write? Would I have the energy and creativity to write? Would I want to write?
The craziest thing happened when my son was born, I felt so blessed. I was so thankful that I lived in a home and had food and healthcare for him. The book I started to write while pregnant took my protagonist to Darfur to help the genocide victims. Feeling blessed and capable and safe, I hungered to finish the novel. It was my way to help mothers and fathers and children in Sudan. If I could educate, if I could persuade one person to care, my writing did well.
The same thing happened when my daughter was born almost three years later. I wanted to show her a world where women can express their passions and live out their dreams, so I continued to write.
How has motherhood changed your writing? And how has being a writer changed you as a mother?
The road will not be easy. Being a mother and a writer has never been easy. Writing isn’t easy. Motherhood isn’t easy. There are similarities in writing a novel and raising children. Both take intuition, love, and passion.
You may go to writers’ conferences, take classes, pay for editors, read books about writing. You may also read books about how to be a better mother. You may seek wise mothers and therapists when you are having an issue with your child.
Both my writing and my children have made my life rich, but I have too cried many tears. My list of rejections from agents and editors is long, in the hundreds. I cry when one of my children get hurt, when one is teased at school, when I fear that they are struggling. I cry over my divorce and worry about how the repercussions will affect them. I cry over finances.
Devotion is the word that comes to mind when thinking about being a mom and a writer. How are you devoted when the road gets bumpy? Who can you call on for support? Can you be a financially successful writer and a single mother ?
You may have asked this question yourself. Being a writer isn’t like getting a job at a school, or bookstore where time spent equals a paycheck. Earning money through writing is often an arduous journey.
I review my finances weekly. I am learning to have faith in my work. Believing that hard work pays and my writing will help to support my children.
I am reminded about what my mother has said of growing up in the hills of Tennessee with no electricity or running water. Her mother would have to borrow food to make it through the winter. Her mother had to travel to Nashville to work in another family’s home. Mom says, “I have always been poor. Recessions don’t affect me.” In a way, I love this. She knows how not to spend. She knows how to use all her food before buying new. She has taught me these things, but I don’t want to be a tragic writer, a starving artist, conservative sometimes, and sometimes not.
I do want to write and not worry about buying my children new basketball shoes, or yearbooks, or even a summer vacation.
Give yourself time to earn money. Chances are it won’t happen overnight. Consider keeping your “day job” until writing opportunities line up.
Living a rich life. Motherhood and writing have taught me to pay attention, to live in the moment. This is where the real riches come.
As a writer, you may spend time watching birds and streams. You pay attention to what you are feeling. You may pay close attention to people’s stories, and question whether they would fit into a story’s plot.
Writing is a form of mediation, of prayer, of living well, of reflecting on beauty. Jane Lazzerre writes in the New York Times about this subject.
As a mother and a writer, I don’t accept this psychic split. [motherhood being sentimental and writing being a serious endeavor.] …For me, the experience of motherhood has been passionate, uprooting, harsh, full of sacrifice, a sense of humility and the opportunity to experience the most powerful love I have ever known. Being a mother is one road to a deep regard for all human life. That devotion, to me, is the essence of art.
Motherhood is my crowning glory that has brought me to my knees when I feel I cannot control the lives they will live. Like writing, my children teach me to be present, to love, to allow my feelings to flow.
If I do well with my words, if I do well this morning with my children, I believe the beauty is and will be deep, the profits abundant. The love will forever embrace, and like a classic novel, always present.
I believe this for you as well. Both these identities will feed each other and you will be able to grow into an amazing writer and mother.