What I Learned From Taking a Break

For a while after I had my baby, I was okay with not writing.

After a few months, I felt I should be able to get in a few hundred words a day, but I couldn’t. I felt lazy. Writers write every day. That’s what makes them writers. This maxim mocked me, making me feel even worse and lazier. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. Who was I if I wasn’t a writer?

I started to think: maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer. Maybe I was just meant to be a crocheter, reader, and Facebook-scroller. So I applied myself whole-heartedly to those tasks.

Weeks went by. I crocheted feverishly (during naps). My projects earned me admiration from friends and strangers. It feels nice to be praised. To say, “Yes, I did,” when someone asks, “Did someone make that for your baby?”

But it’s just not quite satisfying enough for me.

I kept thinking about my story. About the characters, their struggles, thoughts, fears, friendships. Now and then I did some more research on birds and gliding. And two weeks ago I got back to work, not because I needed to “be a writer,” but because I love my stories. I’ve never been one to write “every day” (except during NaNoWriMo-induced frenzies and one crazy summer), but you know what? I think that’s ok. For me. For now.

How many times do I have to learn that it’s all about balance?

‘Till it sticks, I guess

Happy Yarning.

Writing and Motherhood: Are We There Yet?

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I recently re-read Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1988 essay on mother writers, titled “The Fisherwoman’s Daughter.” It’s been a few years since I read it in a college literary criticism class, but I never forgot it.

Le Guin writes about how society has long preached that women writers are unnatural, and mother writers even more so. Society’s reasoning being that either the children or the books would suffer if a woman attempted to fulfill both callings. Le Guin argues that it can be done, without anyone putting anyone’s head in the oven (a la Sylvia Plath). Exhibit A: Le Guin herself has written books and raised children, quite successfully. The essay a very encouraging read.

As a woman who hopes to both have kids and get published, I started wondering: are we there yet?

As a society, have we stopped marginalizing mother writers?

I think of J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, and Shannon Hale right off the top of my head. I think of all the women I know personally who are mothers (or plan to be mothers) and who are writing books. I haven’t heard anyone tell them they can’t do it, or they’re not suited for it. I haven’t been told any such thing myself. The only bar I can see today to being both a mother and a writer is the one that has always existed: that pesky limit of only 24 hours in a day.

If anything, society now says it is unnatural to be a mother without some other profession, or for women to hamper (pun intended) their potential by being mothers at all.

I think we can safely say the pendulum has swung. Thanks to Le Guin and others, mothers and other women writers have stepped out of the margins and onto the page where they were always meant to be.

The only downside is that the pendulum may have gone a bit far. Now the fight is for motherhood itself to be an acceptable occupation for women.

Moms, women, writers–your thoughts?

Writing Groups and Why They Rock My Socks

If you’re serious about writing, find yourself a writing group.

My favorite creative writing professor, Carol Lynch Williams, assigned the class to work in writing groups, and I am hooked.

As a part-time housewife/part-time writer, I’ve been able to meet the demands of two separate groups at once. Both groups are based several states away, and I participate via skype, thanks to modern technology and my friends’ willingness to deal with me as a talking head. ( 😀 Thanks, guys!) From any given 1000 words of my manuscript, the two groups often come up with different pointers. I have had so much fun, and I’ve gained a crazy amount of help from my wonderful groups.

From my experience, here are five good reasons to be in at least one writing group:

1) A group will keep you accountable. There will be someone you have to say “sorry” to when you don’t submit anything. If, like me, you don’t have deadlines from editors or publishers (yet), making a commitment to a group of friends can help keep you writing and revising.

2) A group can be a great regular ego boost. My sister taught me that you can’t be an artist unless you think you’re better than everyone else and you deserve attention. Strong confidence is important for being a writer as well. Having a group who can tell you what they like about your manuscript and what points of craft you’re good at is a blessing. (That pile of a heck-of-a-lot-of other points of craft I’m not a star at yet can be pretty intimidating.)

3) You get to critique more manuscripts. When you come across a hole in a friend’s work and help her come up with ways to fix it, you hone problem-solving skills that you can then apply to your own plot holes.

4) Inside jokes. (Collar bones O.o) Enough said.

5) You get regular feedback. No matter how awesome your story is in your head or how amazing you believe your manuscript is, your work is not done until every scene is clearly communicated in the text. While ego and confidence are important, it’s way better for your ego to take a blow than for your manuscript to sit unpolished and unread.

So find a writing group. Or start one. You already know writers among your friends and family. Pick two or three that are close to your level of talent and motivation (doesn’t matter what genres they write), and start swapping segments of your manuscripts. Once a week, once a month, however often you can.

I’m probably preaching to the choir here anyway.

Happy Yarning!