How Being a Mom Gives You an Advantage as a Writer
A couple weeks ago I went to a book signing by Susan Dennard (author of the Witchlands series) and Kristen Simmons (author of The Deceivers). Both writers were gracious, friendly, and very honest about what writing life is (and isn’t) like on the other side of a publishing deal.
Here’s me being a total nerd and getting my photo taken with each of them. (Note: I was unreasonably excited to have my picture taken with #baeduan):
But my biggest takeaway (besides the fact that I too need to get a small crocheted doll to come with me everywhere and make all my pictures fun) was actually this nugget that I got from Kristen Simmons:
Maybe being a mom actually makes us better writers.
I know, being a mom is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. And yes, caring for another life seriously cuts into our creativity time. But what if it actually doesn’t?
Here are a couple of points Simmons made that got me rethinking how being a mom actually impacts my writing life.
#1: Writing requires a lot of thinking time.
Being a mom requires you to be plugged in and engaged with your kids...except for when it doesn’t. Like when your kiddo wants to to go to the park and ends up making a new best friend and running around for hours. Or when you are waiting in the carpool line to pick up the kids from school. Or when you are folding laundry and doing dishes for the umpteenth time that day.
As much as being a mom demands presence and constant attention, being a mom also gives you a lot of weird moments where you must be physically present, but your brain can completely check out.
And this is where we get an advantage. Writing requires WAY more thinking time than most people realize. There are innumerable plot holes to fill, worlds to be imagined, characters to create, back stories to hash out, and ideas to dream up. And none of that needs to happen while you stare at a blank notepad or at a blinking cursor. In fact, it’s better if it happens while you are otherwise engaged (this is why all my good story epiphanies happen in the shower).
As moms, we have ample time for this thinking. In fact, we often get frustrated by how much thinking time we have because we mistakenly think that as soon as we have an idea for our story we must go write it down and engage with it via words. We don’t count the thinking time as writing time. And we want to rush past the thinking part and skip straight to the writing part.
But thinking time IS writing time. It’s such an important and overlooked part of the writing process. So much so that Simmons said that she actually gets almost the same amount of writing done now that her son is in school full time as she did when he was home full time (let that sink in for a moment). Her reasoning for this was that she now has to sit around and think before she can write, instead of sitting down to a page full of ideas and ready to just dump it out onto the page.
#2: We have to use our writing time wisely.
We all know how fast time gets frittered away on seemingly important tasks that don’t accomplish much. And now that most writing is done on computers where the internet is ever only a click away--and with it all sorts of rabbit holes as varied as our mood--it’s hard to make the most of writing time.
As moms though, we are hyper-aware of how much time we have to write and how important it is to guard it and use it well. We know that it’s hard to write with our littles around and so any second where they are fed, happy, and busy has to be used to its fullest.
Moms are much less likely to squander their writing time because they don’t have the luxury of just writing later. It’s now or never. Have you heard the saying that the amount of time it takes to complete a task will expand based on the amount of time we have to spend on it?
It’s the same with writing: the amount of time it takes us to write something (anything!) expands based on how much time we have for it. As moms, we don’t have much time. We have to get it done now. So we do.
As I’ve mulled over these points, I’ve come to realize how unhelpful it is for me to always look at my role of mother as blocking and interfering with my other dreams. And how freeing it is to look at it from a different perspective--as having unique advantages that make my writing life more fulfilling instead of less.
There is a deep peace that comes from knowing that all the pieces of your life are actually compatible and supportive of each other, instead of working against each other. So while this change of perspective hasn’t changed how often I write or the frustration that sometimes happens when I want to write (or sleep, or eat, or pee by myself) and I can’t. But it has completely shifted how I FEEL about it.
I feel proud instead of discouraged because I make it happen in the margins. I feel hopeful instead of dismayed because I know that the pressure is making my writing practice into a diamond. I feel content instead of envious because I know that what I’ve got is a really great opportunity. And I feel confident because I know that I’m always writing. Even when I’m peeing with a small human on my lap.
And that makes all the difference.