Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Secret Life of a Writing Mama

by Kristine Coblitz

Five months ago, I took on the most difficult and rewarding job of my entire life. In this job, I was given no training. No hands-on workshops or seminars to prepare me for my duties. In this job, success is measured by whether or not I can make it to the following day without having an emotional breakdown. In this job, my boss is someone with even less experience than I have, who expects me to get the job done without excuses. She expects long hours, even on the weekends, and doesn’t tolerate sick days. On the day I started, I had to agree to a lifelong contract.

I became a mom.

In addition to being a mom, however, I am also a writer. I like to refer to myself as a “Writing Mama” because for me, the two jobs are not mutually exclusive. In my life, one goes with the other.

But not everyone will agree.

I read a blog recently that discussed the movie industry’s portrayal of mothers who are writers as being narcissistic and emotionally distant. It’s even written that Daphne du Maurier, the acclaimed author of Rebecca, “could be aloof and distant to her children” when immersed in her writing. The media has painted a generalized picture of writing moms as troubled women who are so wrapped up in the non-reality of their writing that they are unable to raise their children in a normal, functional way.

Hmph! Being normal is overrated, if you ask me.

When I was pregnant, I had more than one person tell me that with the birth of my child would come the death of my writing career. “It can’t be done,” they would tell me. “It’s either one or the other. You can’t have both.”

Once again…Hmpf!

Granted, my life transformed dramatically after my daughter was born, and I wasn’t exactly prepared for the changes. The first few months, my life was consumed with learning how to care for the little person who had invaded my life and my household. I didn’t write a word. I was too busy and too sleep deprived to even remember my name. I didn’t want to accept that the naysayers were right, but I started to doubt my ability to balance my parenting duties with my part-time technical editing job (which I need to pay for all those diapers and cans of formula), my marriage, and also my writing.

But then something happened. After about two months, I found myself getting irritable and moody, and it wasn’t just the surge of post-pregnancy hormones. Something was missing.

I had to write. But how?

I realized that I could squeeze in some writing time after my daughter and hubby went to bed. I was suddenly spending an hour every night at my computer when the house was quiet, and suddenly something amazing happened. My mood lifted. I felt like myself again.

Being a writer has helped me become a better mom, and being a mom has helped me become a better writer.

Five months into my new job as a writing mama, and I’m still going strong, averaging about three to five manuscript pages a night, even on those nights when I just want to climb into bed and pull the covers over my head. I’ve learned how to unplug the Internet and close my eyes to the dirty dishes in the sink, the last pile of laundry, and the dusty furniture, and just write. Even if the writing stinks (which it usually does).

For that one hour, I’m not just a mom. I’m a Writing Mama.

Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the Writing Mamas out there.


Annette said...

Welcome back, Kristine!

JennieB said...

Thank you, Kristine! From another writing mama, happy belated mother's day right back to you. Your first! Congratulations!

Joyce said...

Those naysayers can just go take a hike. They're the same people who say you can't have a job and write. They're the ones who probably sit there and wait for the muse to come. What do they do when she doesn't show up?

I say you fit the writing in when you can, even if it's ten minutes at a time. Successful writers can't afford to wait for the muse, they have to go after her and tie her to the chair.

Glad I didn't have to twist your arm too much to get you to blog today!

kristine said...

Thanks, Annette and Jennie.

Joyce, I agree. I think there will always be naysayers out there who will try and stop us from writing, regardless of the situation.
(You didn't have to twist my arm too much.)

ramona said...

Kristine, congratulations on discovering that being a mom and being a writer are not mutually exclusive. As a mother of twins, I can tell you that it became important to me to hang onto something that was just mine. That was writing. Like you, I got really crank when I didn't have a creative outlet.

If you find you want to write about your "writing mama" experience, I have a link to share. A woman in my critique group is an editor at the online magazine Literary Mama. It's a good resource for mothers who write.

Kristine said...

Thank you, Ramona!

I'm going to check out the Literary Mama link. I'd love to hook up with some other writing moms out there.

Judy Schneider said...

Beautiful post, Kristine! Like you, I found time to write when my children were young. The entire family room floor would be coated with toys, but somehow, between cleaning up the diaper bombs and the bathroom break-ins (during which baby powder and Corn Flakes soup was created), the writing continued. Now, rather than write with kids on my lap, I write with their well-being on my mind.

Unlike Daphne du Maurier, I can become aloof and distant to my writing when I am immersed in my children. It goes too fast, Kristine. Enjoy the little things! Welcome back!

kristine said...

Hi Judy! Thanks for stopping by. I've been meaning to pop over to your blog, which I understand is back up and running.

I've found that making devoted time for my writing at night allows me to focus solely on my daughter when I'm on mommy duty during the day. That balance is key to my sanity and well being, and allows me to be a better mom.

Tory said...

Kristine: Great to see you on the blog again! Congrats on finding the balance.

Kathy Sweeney said...

Hi Kristine!

We've been missing you at the Bookstore events - glad to hear you are enjoying both the writing and the mothering!


kristine said...

Thank you, Kathy. I miss you guys, too!

Hope to see you soon.