Lately, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts. Most are writing and publishing-related. A few weeks back, while listening to one of them, I found myself annoyed with the podcaster. During this particular episode, the basic gist of the podcast was about how much an indie writer needs to write to 1) be a serious author and 2) make a living. This podcaster referenced someone who has a large family, and is still a successful author (i.e. earning a living.) The podcaster used this person as example to say that having children is no excuse for not writing. I couldn’t figure out if the podcaster was simply trying to say, “If this woman with a gaggle of kids can do it, then you should be able to, too!” in an uplifting way, or like this:
That was what did it. Right there.
I agree that children aren’t an excuse for not writing, but here’s the thing — sometimes they are. And they should be.
Sometimes, like during this past summer, I chose to watch my son’s baseball games instead of write. On one such occasion, my son was playing third base. A kid from the opposing team smacked the ball straight toward him. Without thinking, he raised his left hand into the air and snatched the ball out of it. The expression on his face said it all; he didn’t know he had it in him. He’s a good hitter, but he’s had to work on catching. The crowd erupted! This was the second out against a team that outnumbered them by 6 players. They won their game that night. His elation isn’t something I would have wanted to miss. We still talk about that game against his former team. A team who believed that they couldn’t be beaten by a 6-person team, who most of the time only had 5 players show up consistently for games.
Sometimes, my children get sick and I’m up all night with them making sure that they have what they need. The next day, I’m still tending to their needs. Maybe I can squeeze a few words in, or complete a little editing, but you know what? That’s not my priority. My sick child is.
Other times, they just want to play. And so do I.
So, you see, it’s not about making excuses. It’s about making choices. It’s about prioritizing other people’s needs above my own when necessary. And with children, it’s necessary a lot of the time.
Like many of you, I’m the primary caregiver in our family. I handle all the cooking, morning and afternoon routines, appointments, etc. My work day begins after they go to school, and ends when I pick them up. I have an aggressive production schedule: Two novels in 2015 plus shorter works; Three novels in 2016 plus about 12 shorter works. I don’t get up at the crack of dawn to write. I don’t write late into the evening. I do write in the morning and I can crank out anywhere from 1500-3000 words/day. I could probably increase that if I wanted to. I also host a live, weekly podcast, am launching a new one in Jan. 2016, and just started blabbing on Blab.im. I’ve also owned a tea business for 12 years, and am a partner in my husband’s business that’s nearly seven years old. And I practice martial arts.
When my children both began attending elementary school, I was able to focus more on my writing and publishing. But during summer months, it gets pushed back.
I don’t write this to make anyone else feel any particular way. My point is this:
Life is to be lived, not simply observed from a distance. To write, you must live.
This writing thing isn’t a competition with anyone else, but myself. Each day is an opportunity for me to become a stronger, better writer than I was the day before. But without my life experiences, my writing would fall flat and my characters would be hollow.
When you have children, you’re not using them as excuses not to write. You’re making a choice — a decision — to prioritize differently. And that’s okay.