Posted by: Jodi | June 10, 2010

The Writer/Mom Paradox

Back in college one of my professors talked about the four stages of a relationship.  This relationship is usually with another person but can also be with a new career or hobby.

First is the Honeymoon phase – Everything in the relationship is wonderful. The little quirks that make a person or thing unique, are endearing.  You have energy and things are good with the world.

Then, the Disillusionment phase – Everything in the relationship is going wrong.  All those endearing little quirks are now driving you insane.  You are tired and feel you can’t handle life.  You want to quit.

Then we hit the Acceptance phase – Life and the relationship is stable.  This phase isn’t nearly as exciting as the Honeymoon phase, but you are happy.  The quirks are still there but you have accepted them for what they are.  Things are ok, you can handle it.

And finally the Thriving phase - You begin to see new opportunities for growth and you feel you can take on new challenges.  The relationship finds way to grow new roots and become stronger.

I have run smack into phase two with my writing ‘career’ – disillusionment.  I still want to write but reality has gained the upper hand.  I lead a number of lives, a mom, a wife, a writer, a housekeeper, etc.  Most of these lives can exist concurrently.  I can be a good mom while doing housework, it doesn’t need thinking.  If I want extra ‘mommy points’ I can make chores a game and have the kids help.  I can’t do that with writing.  It requires a great deal of thinking and in no way benefits from the advice of my four-year old.   I can’t be a good writer and work effectively with kids screaming for my attention.

Imagine, you’re trying to create a poignant scene, something crucial to the climax of the story.  While you are fighting to find the right dialogue and imagery. . . a child climbs into your lap to ‘type with Mommy.’  The moment is gone along with your mouse, whatever great idea you might have had has evaporated.  Bob the Builder is blaring in the background and it’s snack time for the kiddos.  You wonder why you even try.

In time the kiddos will be in school and I’ll be free to write to my heart’s content.  I’m not a patient person, waiting another three years seems like a death knell.  Until then, I’ll be forced to life this bizarre half-life, sneaking away in the rare moments of the day and the quiet shadows of morning to keep the work moving forward.   The sooner I accept this as my fate, the faster I will be able to find ways to live all the fragments of my life the best way possible.

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible
is going beyond them into the impossible.”
Professor Phil Earramehe Ph.D.

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Responses

  1. Writing is a strange, time-consuming subject, with many theories. Ian McEwan, undoubtedly one of the worlds best prose writers (whatever you think of his stories), has harsh ideas about how time consuming it should be. He once claimed that anybody who writes more than 300 words in an entire day isn’t thinking long and hard enough about every sentence, it’s nuances, connotations and literary depth.
    Conversely, Alastair Reynolds, (Best-selling Welsh Sc-Fi Writer) claims to have an output of 3000 words a day! That’s 300,000 words in just over 3 months.

    • Thanks – I needed that. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to spend time in a time consuming hobby and realize that you don’t have time left to spend! Just have to keep telling myself that any progress is good progress.

  2. P.S. Your blog is awesome.

  3. You will make it, never give up, never surrender.

    • Go Galaxy quest! Not planning on quitting yet. Thanks :)

  4. Jodi
    My experience of you, which includes some small measure of understanding how your mind works, and the privledge of occasionally working with you, tells me one thing. Your obstacles are little more than speed bumps. You continue to produce, and that production is quality.
    I would venture to say that once you do get your quiet time you’ll probably turn on the radio or one of your kids’ DVDs to keep you company.

    Write on!

    • Thanks Rik – when I get that quiet time I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s great to know people have faith in me.

  5. Too good , i think this is the finest comaparision you made between writing and relationship..
    I really like your post :)

    • Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Jo ~

    Every writer has something or someone competing for attention.

    In many cases, the “attention grabbers” can be safely ignored . . . for awhile, at least.

    Not so with kids.

    You can write when you are 70 . . . but you’re only a mom to toddlers when they’re tiny.

    That said ~ do not quit.

    Your insights and the level of your output (both here and on EE) are awesome, even without considering the constraints you are dealing with.

    One thought to consider ~ work on first drafts when all is not quiet and still. Work on revising and choosing the perfect words in the “quiet shadows of morning.”

    Another ~ give the kids their own keyboard (unattached to your work) and let them bang away with you.

    Write on! But only after the kiddos have their snack. : )

    • Great ideas – I’ll have to fish out the old keyboard. Thanks for your insights!

  7. Persevere Jodi, you can and will do it. My daughter often refers to the times when I treated her with ‘polite neglect’; I was with her physically, but obviously my mind was miles off. She forgives me :)

    • I sure hope that mine will forgive me when they look back on these times. All we can do is our best. I’m a happier person if I am able to get my writing goals done and they deserve a happy mom.

  8. Ha. When I got to number two I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s where I’m stuck,” then you said it a few paragraphs later.

    I want to tell you not to give up as well, but I haven’t convinced myself not to. It’s pretty rough when you pour your heart and soul into a project and have nothing to show for it but a huge stack of rejection letters. And nothing’s worse than getting a request for the manuscript, THEN getting rejected. Ouch.

    I’m glad I found your blog, even if it’s depressing.
    ;)

    • If you’ve been asked for your manuscript, after submitting a query, you are obviously doing something right!

      Publishers don’t ask for manuscripts unless they think your writing is marketable.

      Maybe if they could have published one more book . . . it would have been yours.

      Consider yourself a runner up, or an honorable mention. And give yourself a pat on the back!

      Write on!

      • Thanks for the positive words. And sorry to Tsuchigari for blabbing about myself. You’re welcome to come to my site and talk about you.

    • I agree with Nancy – a request means that you are headed in the right direction and should be cheered no matter what the outcome. It’s hard to get your hopes up only to receive a ‘no,’ that’s the nature of the game.

  9. you inspire me. im tryin to write here and i never do. i have a 2 yr old and a 7 yr old with some issues and needs a lot of attention. i dont get to write like you but i love to read what you write every day. thank you so much for entering my life through your words. you are amazing. keep writing. oh by the way my grammar is horrible and i love your little grammar lessons or tidbits about it. it really helps me.

    • Thanks for coming by, I love the company. We all need support and a place to turn for a smile. The support I feel from my fantastic readers helps me get through the day!

  10. Dear Jodi: Oh! How I understand, as I was there myself 30 years ago! Mine are now 31, 32, and 33! I have one small tip for you in re hanging on to the elusive zephyrs of ideas that come and then vanish because of distraction. Keep by your keyboard a small digital recorder. When your child/children come/s in and start/s the distractions while you are in the middle of a breakthrough or idea, quickly say some of the highlights into the recorder, then when you have time, you can listen. Often just a few words will help remind you of where you left off, and you haven’t delayed giving your attention to your kiddos for very long! I write music, and sometimes melodic phrases and/or lyrics come along while driving in the car, sitting at stoplights, etc. I try to have my recorder in the car for moments just like that. Even if I can only hum a couple of bars, or recite a line or two, they almost always get me back to the meat of the idea. I’ve also found, however, that the things I forget are probably not worth remembering anyway! (Experience at finally recovering a lost idea has taught me.) Keep on keeping on! Nothing pays off like persistence! And…you are wonderful!

    • Fantastic idea – I have got to get one of those! Although I fear my son would discover it and decide that it’s his new fun toy. Sigh. Thanks for sharing and your support, this is why we blog, to feel part of a community.

  11. Think all writers have some kind of interruption. I happen to be on mine right now, yes, that’s it, blogging is becoming addictive, reading cool blogs like yours and writing my own and next thing I know, it’s been 5 hours and I haven’t done any “proper” writing, but you know, I think reading others work and even writing comments, it’s something that at least gets your mind working.
    Oh and I’m definitely past the honeymoon period, actually, Writing and I almost got a divorce, but we’re ok now :-)

    • I agree, Agatha.

      Just view the internet and its distractions as part of the journey . . .

      http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/pursue-distractions/

    • The good thing about blogging is the schedule. If you’re committed to posting every day or every other day, you can’t make excuses.

      I’m blogging for fun, too, so I don’t feel any pressure to “succeed.”

    • If only my two distractions worked on a more predictable schedule… We’ll have to work on that. Just keep telling myself that this is only a temporary set back, not a life altering event. With time they will be able to give me more ‘me’ time while they work on projects of their own.

  12. Any possibility of allowing your children to attend pre-school a few hours a week. My neighbor has done this and both she and her three year old have blossomed.

    • My 4 yr old is in a preschool, but the 2 yr old is still too young to go for another year – and she’s the naughty one when it comes to letting me write. I’m ok with early morning writing, but I do like my sleep. I can use all the rest I can get!

  13. [...] The Writer/Mom Paradox:  How being writer and a mom doesn’t mix. [...]

  14. Wow. This post really resonated with people, including disillusioned me. You’ve got some great readers with good advice.


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