It’s the life of every working mother, to become the taxi driver. Let’s face it, my son is currently 14, a freshman in high school, and fills his free time with swimming training, archery and scouts, and of course computer games, but I’m not going to talk about those. My 10-year-old daughter, just starting junior high, does ballet, contemporary, scouts, art, kapahaka, and until recently guitar and swimming. And this says nothing of my own activities: writers’ groups, committee meetings, scout leader… (Wait… I’m not a scout leader anymore. I have my Thursday nights back, but I’m sure I’m missing something.) There are days when I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
My husband learnt years ago that if he wants to spend time with his family, he has to slot into our timetable, not the other way around. However, even he’s busy: working long hours, flying around the country, all the things that a normal manager of an industrial plant needs to face. It’s no surprise that he plays guitar every night before he goes to bed.
But this chaos is all normal for the average working mother. Throw in the demands of being a writer and freelance editor and you have a recipe for sleepless nights, lots of caffeine, and headaches.
For many writers, writing full-time is not an option. We still need to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. So many of us juggle a full-time job doing something else entirely, the family, and the writing. Well for me, freelance editing is my full-time job, so at least that’s a step in the right direction toward being a full-time writer. But like many writers, there are times when the thoughts and stories in my head become a jumbled mess.
Any writer looking to be published never works on just the one project. While one manuscript is being edited, another is being drafted. Even when I was penning my first novel, I was actually penning multiple manuscripts at the same time. I have short stories on the go, novellas and larger stories that are still in note form. The stories are zooming around in my head and just need to come out. Then I have to go and complicate things by adding the stories and jumbled thoughts of my editing working into the mix too. I’m amazed that I haven’t been committed for psychiatric evaluation yet.
So how do I juggle all my duties: the writing, the editing, family life, and mum’s taxi? Well, it’s called priorities. Something just has to give or I really will go mad. I barely manage to stay on top of the laundry, often the dishes go unwashed, dinner is never on-time and romance… What’s that? (The truth of the matter on that one is that it’s near impossible to have any sort of romantic life when you have two teenagers constantly at each others’ throats and you spend a large amount of time playing referee.)
Finding those quiet moments to sit down and collect your own thoughts are the key to everything. Five minutes alone in the toilet so you can breathe and focus is often all that is needed. However, this in itself is a mission, for multiple reasons.
1) Teenagers leaving you alone so you can take a crap in peace? You have got to be kidding me.
2) It’s the toilet. Taking a deep breath while sitting in the toilet after my husband has used it is taking my life in my own hands. Does the term “fresh air” mean anything to you?
But seriously… As a writer, I find that sometimes the only way to get through the jumbled mess that is my brain is to just let it out the way it wants to come out. Sometimes a story just tells itself, which is how I came to be working on so many manuscripts at once in the first place. Find the silence and peaceful moments where you can focus. (The car can sometimes be a quiet refuge.) And be incredibly organised with your files on your computers. I’m almost OCD about the files on my computer. Heaven help anyone who messes with my file system.
Take risks. You see a plot idea, don’t let that regimented plan hold you back. Write it anyway. And accept the fact that not everything you write will be worth reading. Some of the things I have written in the past were purely for my benefit, to get the thoughts out of my head so I can actually focus on what I need to.
And the best advice I can give to any aspiring writer: learn to juggle. Start with only one ball and build it up with time. So the balls hit the ground occasionally — change that, a lot — but you just have to pick up that those pesky little things that keep flying in directions that you didn’t want to go and try again. They say that the one who learns to juggle will have an agile mind and quick reflexes. And if nothing else, you can throw those juggling balls across the room at the two teenagers that are fighting. Hell, get two sets of juggling balls for that very reason. Trust me, it’s entertainment on its own.
Duck. Duck. Thunk.
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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2016