So many Moms Who Write have occupations outside of writing. Some may continue to write for work, creating content or blogs for business purposes. Most, however, tend to work entirely outside of the field. Their job requirements range; full-time, part-time, remote, in-person, freelance, per diem, on-call. Yet, regardless of what these jobs look like, they all have the power to draw our attention and energy away from our creative work.
For moms who desire above all else to become published authors, we know how much time and energy goes into every book. Most of us don’t want to wait decades to see our first novel in print, and so the daily dilemma is this: do we work or write?
Taking a leap!
When quarantine started, I made the decision to cut back on paid work. I cut back even further after deciding to homeschool. I stopped almost entirely when I opted to prioritize my creative writing work. I figured I was home with no daycare costs or other expenses related to life pre-COVID. This was the time to spend on my own writing goals.
Recently, I felt I was on a roll. I have been a creating, editing, perfecting, preparing to query, and planning maniac. Far more often, I’ve been reaching out to fellow writers and connecting on a deeper level. My Instagram account actually looks like a real person is posting more than once a month; huge considering my detest of most social media trends.
This week, I was feeling so damn confident in myself, I decided to go shopping. I thought I was finally figuring it all out, making my way in the world– that is until I went to Target.
Writing…to go broke.
You know those Target trips where you shop because you want to? Those times you get what you need but you’re also not afraid to throw in a few extra things for yourself? I had one of those trips; it was too successful. I ended up ditching half of my cart at checkout when the total soared past my bank account balance mid-scan.
Where was all my money? Haven’t I been working? I have, but pro bono–for myself.
I momentarily forgot that I wasn’t making any money off my own writing. That all this prep work has yet to result in a published book with royalties. Though I’ve been putting the same amount of time and effort into my personal writing as I used to spend on freelance work, I’ve only been getting paid in personal pride. In case you were wondering, pride does not pay for the super cute bathroom caddy cart I tearfully had to roll back to the Target associate.
Back to reality…work over writing.
Looking at my receipt on my post-shopping walk of shame, I knew I had to jump back into work. The entire drive home was spent sulking, mourning the future loss of writing time and stories soon to be neglected. I could already feel my brain being sucked into the vortex of work I had to do, away from the work that I desired.
Some of my complaints are shallow, I’m luckier than most. I work freelance for an amazing company, with more support than I have had in any other job. I love my boss and my coworkers, and I still get to write; just for someone else. But I knew what was going to happen. The extra stress would come, the increased obligations accompanied by personal excuses for why I couldn’t (wasn’t) working on my own creative pieces:
- I’m too tired.
- This article really kicked my butt today.
- I can’t look at the computer screen anymore.
- I can’t be creative this early.
- I can’t be creative this late.
- I can’t be creative in the middle of the day.
- I can’t write when the kids are here.
- I hate writing today.
- This paid piece is more important than my book.
- I need to be realistic.
- My family needs this.
The defeating phrases we mutter to ourselves while balancing work and writing are tiresome. Time and time again, I throw myself into work. Usually, the effort is for another company, for someone else’s dream. This time around, the effort had been entirely for me. I had worked just as hard and long and ruthlessly. Target didn’t care– they wanted to see the dollar bills.
You are not alone…keep writing!
The stress and obligation Moms Who Write carry from the jobs we are financially dependent on takes a toll. A challenging day of work can drain us of inspiration, rob us of time we’d rather spend creating other worlds outside our own. You could stay up all night to write, or write early in the morning before work begins, but we are also moms. Moms who have a billion other tasks that need to be done in those times too.
And we are humans…who require sleep. Sleep that we need so we don’t lose our jobs making silly mistakes. Staying up all night to write is always less appealing at the risk of landing smack dab in the middle of the unemployment pool.
There’s no perfect answer to this conundrum. At the end of the day, do you work or write? But if you are in this stage of life with me right now, I can assure you– you’re not alone.
I will say, after seeing what I can achieve on my own, it’s going to be impossible to go back. Sure, I’ll start taking on more paid work. I’ll probably avoid shopping sprees for a while, but I can’t stop this creative flood gate I’ve released. I may have to make some sacrifices, for now. I know they will be well worth it in the end.
About the Writer: Shell Sherwood is a poet, fiction writer, freelancer, and creator of silly children’s stories who could live on coffee, pastries, and romantic tragedies. She lives in Hudson Valley, NY with her fiancé and three boys, and aspires to own a small writing getaway in every climate. Learn more about Shell and follow her writing journey via her author blog and Instagram.