I have always been a writer.
In my elementary years, I would invest in vivid daydreams that usually centered around existing characters from my favorite movies. Basically, I was dreaming up fanfiction super-crossovers; I never thought of it that way at the time.
When it was time to complete those spelling assignments in middle school—the ones where you had to put each word in a sentence—I would challenge myself to connect the sentences to make a story. Sometimes, I would manage to connect multiple word lists across several weeks into one continuous (though usually unfulfilled) plot.
I was also, of course, an avid reader. Very, very early, I developed a passionate desire to create one of those amazing things called ‘a novel’. I had a thousand ideas; I still have the index card I started jotting them down on. At 15, I finally made myself buckle down and pick one, knowing if I kept jumping back and forth between my drafts I would never finish anything. That was the moment I started truly writing.
Fast-forward another 15 years.
I’m a wife and mom now, writing no less than an hour a day (well, usually). I’ve taken years at a time away from writing to deal with major life changes: getting married, surviving the first baby, moving halfway across the country two separate times. Worse, I came at my first project as a full-on pantser, with endless redrafts before ever reaching an endpoint.
As time went on, my would-be novel came to mean more to me than I could explain. It was (is) the promise of a true life’s dream, the fruit of an entire life’s work. Everything I am has gone into that story; writing itself became a part of my identity.
Here’s the conundrum as a mom who writes: priorities. There is ALWAYS something more important that needs our attention. There is a constant inner battle with the drive to put words on paper against the anxiety that our children and husbands and friends will think these abstract thoughts in our heads are loved more.
It feels like the two halves of me are constantly trying to rip chunks out of the other—chunks of time, chunks of attention, chunks of affection. I try to put each in their assigned place, but the mom has to plan dinner while the writer can’t stop thinking about choreographing the next fight. The writer demands one hour—just one hour—during nap time, but the phone won’t stop ringing and needs attending. Meanwhile, the kids want hugs or answers or to show me a rock, and I don’t want them to think I don’t care but all of it breaks my train of thought.
It’s impossible. There is no winning this inner war. There is, however, a chance for truce.
After all of that, here’s a little thing I’ve learned about me: I’m not just a mom who writes. I’m a writer who moms.
The thing is, I can’t give up either half of what I am. I have tried, but I can’t stop writing. When I don’t write, I become depressed and lethargic, consumed with chores and everyone’s desires but mine. Then I feel so guilty and selfish for even thinking that way. I become more and more distracted at the scenes and storylines that won’t leave me alone, under pressure, like a tank in my brain that’s about to explode and take out the whole factory.
Meanwhile, it feels like every day is the same; I am stagnant. I am not moving forward towards anything.
And you know what? When I try to give up writing, I do worse at being a mom. I can’t concentrate on my kids, I have no energy for chores, and I’m just no fun.
I’m very blessed to have a husband and family that has come to realize how important writing is to me. I know not everyone has that advantage. For those who don’t, I’m going to tell you how I convinced my writer-self to live with my mom-self. They had a little conversation that went something like this:
The writer said to the mom: “Look, I know there’s not enough time for you to do everything and write, but there’s not enough time for you to do everything even if you don’t write. Face it: you will never get it all done. But you can get this one thing done if you dedicate a little portion of each day. Even if its slow-going. Feed me, and I’ll energize you.”
The mom said: “Children, I love you so much and I wouldn’t trade time with you for all the publishing deals in the world. However, part of my job is teaching you to think outside of yourselves and consider the needs of others, including mine. I will still make time to play, answer your questions, and look at the pretty rock. But please ask for those things when Mommy is not at the computer.”
Sometimes, the two sides still fight. Sometimes, I do need to take some time off one (usually writing) to deal with the other. But I have also become fully committed to carving sacred time for my stories.
Because it’s not just about doing a thing that I love. It’s about being the thing that I am.
About the Writer: Kathryn Tamburri (@KathrynTamburriAuthor) writes clean YA epic fantasy novels which seethe with slow-burn romance. You can find more of her writing tips on #ThePantsersGuide and follow her new #AdventureLog on the blog at KathrynTamburri.com, and be the first to know when her novels publish via her fun author newsletter.