Members of my writing group, the Write on Mamas, are located in the San Francisco Bay Area, with lovely sprinkles of moms in other parts of the country. We love to meet in person, but in-between we sometimes have terrific online conversations that make my soul swell (or maybe my fingers ache for a pencil).
Janine Kovac emailed a link recently to the group from the online site The Millions.
The article, by writer and father Dave Housley, details how he wrote his book in 15 and 30 minute increments, grabbing time whenever and wherever he could – at his kids sports practices, at the gym, a half hour at the end of the day.
Read the article at the link above, and then I hope you enjoy some of the Write On Mamas online discussion as much as I did.
Janine Kovac’s initial comments that started the discussion:
In a way it’s like, “Yay! I’m not the only writing parent goes through this!” But it’s also like, “Shit. Really? This is how it goes down? I was really hoping to write by the lake with that bottle of bourbon.”
And from Julia Park Tracey:
I must admit that I hate reading about others’ success and finding they wrote their bestseller in 10-minute chunks. Because I should be able to do that, too, but I don’t. I have envy issues. Hmm. But also — I love the essay. It makes me think.
Sheri Hoffman’s thoughts:
Okay, this article has me thinking. I struggle with the times I squeeze writing in during car rides, swim lessons, life moments when I should be looking up and paying attention. These moments at first appear to be perfect places for me to grab a few hundred words and then I realize those moments weren’t empty at all; I really should’ve been looking up and being present with my child or husband.
Sometimes when my daughter catches me looking down at my laptop, I wonder if it must rile her as much as it riles me to see her on her device, detached from the life happening around her. Looking on my laptop and typing…it must look exactly the same as looking down at our phones cruising shitty Facebook and twitter.
I struggle with where to draw the line during the moments that look vacant and empty perfect-parking-places-for-writing, but then find I missed the moment when my kid looked up from her swim lesson in pride, and my head was buried in my laptop.
Any thoughts? Do any of you struggle too?
From Jilanne Hoffmann:
It’s so lovely to have you all at my breakfast table this morning.
I feel bad and I don’t feel bad. I cannot sit through class after class of martial arts, watching every strike, kick and block. I save my attention for when my son is testing for a belt. Then I watch and root for him. I don’t think I need to observe my child’s every success. He shouldn’t be looking to me to affirm that he’s succeeding. When he does get that kick or block, it should feel good to him in the moment. I don’t think it’s good for a kid to always have the watchful eye of the parent zeroed in on them. I don’t think they always need to be the center of our attention. And I think it’s good for them to understand that we have other things in our lives that are important, too. And yes, in that moment when a child achieves a goal, it is his or her goal, not ours. We have other goals. Perhaps I’m selfish, but I have to be. What I’m doing on my laptop or in my head at that moment might be more important to me than whether I’ve seen that perfect flying sidekick. I may have had a breakthrough in character or plot. Now, I do feel differently about sports where competition is involved. When they make that goal or block someone else’s shot or whatever, it’s good to be watching and cheering and involved. That said, baseball was enough to try my patience. But I watched. That said, I do think it’s important for our kids to see that we do what it takes to achieve our goals. That’s a very important lesson, and one that will help them achieve their own goals. They need to know that life doesn’t usually just hand you what you want without putting in the time. And sometimes putting in the time takes away from doing or watching other things.
These are my thoughts at the moment. Ask me again tomorrow.
More from Janine Kovac:
I think those stolen moments don’t have to be so black and white–either taking time from the ones we love or the projects that we love. Those moments can be stolen from the time I might browse and comparison-shop for airline tickets. Or the time I might spend taking out the trash which my kids should be taking out. Or the time I might spend reading an article online about Civil War soldiers and their coffee habits.
I prefer to write in big chunks but if I wait for those, I will not get anything done. So I do write and revise in the cracks. But I’m trying to make those cracks the low-hanging fruit. Which means insisting kids do more chores, not reading every promotional email, etc.
I’m also very aware of being on my device in public. (Maybe it has something to do with having my laptop stolen while I was working on it? Ha, ha). So now if I’m going to work on my writing at a dress rehearsal I bring paper and pen.
And to Jilanne’s point, I don’t need to be with my family ALL THE TIME. Today the husband is home from work, the kids are playing with LEGOs and unpacking from our Texas road trip. And I’m going to Laurel’s Nest in Corte Madera to write! Booked myself a drop-in to take advantage of this time.
A brief comment from Christina Julian that I thought was perfect:
This one hits home so hard it hurts.
Part of Julia’s response to Jilanne:
I don’t think it’s selfish. You want to see selfish, look at the kids whose parents coo over every single breath. The kid who always wins doesn’t know how to lose. Next thing you know, he’s ruining a country.
(How do you like that slippery slope?)
Ilani Matisse jumped in:
Love this whole conversation! I have no kids – and do have self-employed work (takes a bunch of time to create it as well as do it); a geriatric dog (that I just accidentally typed as god which sometimes is true) – three cats, goats up to recently; a spouse, and just plain living – seeing friends, seeing movies, hearing music, hiking, dinner, food shopping, laundry, cat boxes.
And then Deborah Buckmaster:
Definitely making us think and has instigated great conversation and seeing the different sides. My kids are grown and out the house mostly but I still struggle with disciplined time to write. Thanks for all this great input. Spurred on to write …
Sheri Hoffmann elaborates on her reactions:
Great points. I should clarify that if I show up at a bench during child’s practice, I want to be open to engaging with other adults and also take in the things my kid is doing. If I plan to write, I prefer to completely take myself to the car; a physical separation. My daughter does better when I am away, rather than looking up to see me NOT looking. I suppose I’m saying that if I am physically there, I want to be mentally there.
If I want to write, I need to be physically somewhere else, communicating a healthy boundary. On some days I’m so obsessed with dictating essays into my phone that I am writing during 10 minute increments all day long an it looks like I can’t wait for my family to leave the room so that I can squeeze in more writing, like they are somehow boulders in my river of progress, lol. I try to carve out maybe a one hour chunk during the day with a full announcement of “mom is going to write; be back in an hour,” rather than a thirsty search of 15 minute sessions all through the day like an addict searching for spare cigarettes in the couch.
A classic busy mom response from Sweta Chawla that at first made me laugh:
I didn’t read the article yet but I love your response Sheri.
And then continued with words that touched all of us:
I think we spend a lot of time judging ourselves of whether we got it right or wrong. The most freeing thing for me has been acceptance and learning to trust and prioritize. I name my seasons and sometimes family is at the top and sometimes my creativity is at the top. I had a lot of projects and expression in the first half of the year—I felt very satiated. It helped me to be super present and look forward to taking a solo trip with Sahan (we just got back from LA) and also having real connection time with my husband. I’ve been tracking my energy and patterns for the last few years. It’s helped me with my expectations of myself. I no longer fight between being a good wife/mom and my own needs.