In Honor of Mother’s Day
I often hear from moms with kids still at home who are working toward becoming published authors. No question, it’s a difficult season of life in which to find the time (and the focus) for a writing career.
There are the usual frustrations of trying to find balance (whatever that means) like so many of you wrote in the comments on Friday. It’s also frustrating when you’re working so hard (writing and submitting, and writing and submitting) hoping to contribute to your family income, without getting a book contract.
But I believe that if you’re a mom with no immediate financial necessity to get an outside job and you’re also a writer, then you’re in a very special and wonderful place. I encourage you to look at the next 5 to 15 years (however long until your kids are grown) as a gift. This is your time to raise your kids; and this is your time to prepare the soil for your future writing career. And if you’re a non-fiction writer, you may be preparing for a speaking career as well.
You have no immediate need to publish, so you have the luxury of time. If you’re a novelist, it’s time to keep working, working, working on your craft, becoming a better writer all the time. You can be reading books on craft, working with a critique group, and taking a weekend away from the family each year to attend a writers conference. If you’re a non-fiction writer, this is also your time to build a platform. You may be setting yourself up as the expert or go-to person for your topic, writing a killer blog and growing the traffic, writing and publishing articles, and building yourself as a speaker, starting locally and slowly going wider.
You can think long-term. Don’t fret that you’re not getting published this year. You may or may not be published while your kids are still at home. But use these child-rearing years to prepare yourself for the moment that the kids are no longer your daily, full-time occupation. Your time and availability will open up, and if you’ve prepared yourself, you’ll be ready to burst on to the scene as a full-time writer and/or speaker.
A large number of speakers and authors are in their 50s, 60s, even 70s. That’s when people have more wisdom to share, after all. So there’s no shame in being a “late bloomer.”
If you’re already having publishing success, great. If not, don’t despair. You have the gift and the luxury of time. Use it wisely!
Photo from Photobucket.
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
>This is wonderfully encouraging. Thank you so much for these words.
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>This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you so much. These years with my little ones are a gift, and too often I struggle to remember that.
>Thank you so much for posting this. It is such a timely word of wisdom and something so many of us needed to hear!
>This post spoke directly to my soul. I stay home with my little ones, and I'm using this time to grow as a writer. I so needed to read your words today. Thank you! 🙂
>Thanks! Great article!
>I love how you say to look at this time as a special gift. I agree…
When I quit my corporate job to stay home with my kids after they were born, I started writing. How great it's been to balance that in between diapers and naps, school and sports. I haven't missed a minute of my kids growing up (they are 9 and 11 now) and I've been able to pursue my dream, improve my craft, and build my platform while being home with them. It really has been a gift!
>So many young Moms wanting to write! How can they cram it all in? There are other important things to attend to besides writing. Good advice, Rachelle.
>Look at the impact you have Rachelle. Amazing how the Lord is using you! Keep up the "agathos" work ma'am!!!
I'm blessed with a supportive hubby and no kids at home, except the 4 footed kind. The task is to redeem the time wisely…
>I am just sending my baby to Kindergarten and my options for writing have opened up. I would say God's timing is perfect- except that we are adopting a 2 year old from Rwanda- so now I am just praying ALOT!
>It is a blessing to be with my kids, but it was easier when I was working a full time job outside the home compared with this. (Much more so than running my own business while home schooling.) But I still would not give up the here and now, squeezing in the tiny bits of writing I can get, because what I write on the hearts of my children is easily more important than what I will ever compose on paper.
>Thanks so much! As a mother of 5 including 3-year-old triplets I have to sneak writing in in small amounts where I can. I appreciate the encouragement to be a mom and a writer second 🙂
Happy (belated) Mother's Day to you!
>There's a wonderful Paris Review interview with Alice Munro about balancing work and family. She, too, was a late(ish) bloomer:
>As a homeschooling mom of six…I find that writing is in itself a gift. The creative process, the emotional release, the ability to run through the jungle chasing bad guys (while safely at my keyboard). I write for the love of it…anything that comes out of that is just icing on the cake.
>This is great encouragement, but in the iPhone age I unfortunately don't see many people taking it to heart. Most people would just abandon the idea of a novel than bothering to wait.
>Beautiful post, Rachelle.
>What timely words! Thank you for this message of perspective and appreciating these moments, because they are so very fleeting! Being a mom is the most important job I have and I can look forward to a time down the road when I can soar as writer (hopefully), knowing I gave my family one hundred percent.
>A lovely post, Rachelle; thank you. I'm very lucky to have two teenaged daughters who are very supportive of my writing, but it definitively takes away some of my time with them. So they try to get involved in my writing — they've read some of the material and discuss aspects of the novel with me. They've also both read and made comments on my entry for the WD Annual Writing Contest (not necessary usable comments, but it's the thought that counts!). I'm thrilled that they are showing such an interest in something that's become such a passion for me!
Happy belated Mother's Day to you…
>As a 56-year-old mom of grown kids who started attending a local writers group and writing articles for publication at about age 38, I can attest to the wisdom of Rachelle's advice. Study craft, join a group, submit articles to online or print publications (paid or unpaid), write for your church newsletter or volunteer much-needed editing services at church or school or in your home owners association. Build a portfolio of work, however small the project and however infrequently you're able to take them on.
I did all these types of writing during the time I raised my family, plus started blogging ten years ago, the very day my techie son told me that such a phenomenon existed! Blogging has given me an archive of my own life's experiences from which to draw fodder for novels and non-fiction books, as well.
Make no mistake: Real life will continue to encroach on your time and energy (your parents are needy, and you also have grandkids), and aging itself isn't always conducive to writing with the stamina you'd like. But no matter the stage of life, you keep moving toward the goals you want to achieve.
At age 38, it never occurred to me that I would succeed in finishing even one novel, and yet I have. "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven."
>I needed this post more than I can put into words right now. Thanks, Rachelle. And a belated happy Mother's Day to you!
>Such wisdom! Thanks for cranking down my urgency need today! 🙂
>My kids were the ones who inspired me to write. I wanted to teach them how to dream big dreams and go for them. What better way than to see mom do it? Sure she stumbles, yep, she gets knocked down, and sometimes she looks like a goofball, but man, if mom can do it…
>This is great. My youngest is eight and the other three are all going to be high school and beyond next year. I'm thrilled to have the time to spend with them, and yet have them old enough where my writing isn't a competing with their attention. I feel very blessed to be honing my skills for when the "write" opportunity comes along. This post really spoke to me.
>As a stay-at-home mom to a toddler, my days are full. By night, I write. I do it for me. I need the creative outlet. I quit my career to raise my daughter, and I have no regrets. But the first year, w/out an outlet, I got a little crazy. Getting back in to writing made all the difference. It does not take precedence over my parental responsibilities, but it is important that a Mom have something for HER!
>Can't we please let Rachelle speak to her intended audience today without getting any feathers ruffled? Perhaps tomorrow or the next day or next week—rest assured sometime in the next year—Rachelle will address the unique aspects of "Stay-at-home dads" and "moms who work outside the home".
As evidenced by all the women expressing their thanks to Rachelle on this particular post, I'd say she touched a chord with a great deal of "stay-at-home moms/aspiring writers" who don't have to work outside the home in this season of their lives.
>Rachelle, you've described a condition that can affect people in every season of their lives. Not always caused by the same circumstances, the stress and pressure of trying to do too much with EVERYTHING a high priority results in burnout and disappointment.
Mary DeMuth posted an insightful letter by Lisa Bergren here: So You Wanna Be Published. Her conclusion is that we should work from rest, not rest from work. I highly recommend printing a copy of Lisa's letter for future reference.
>Thank you. 🙂
>hmm… key point: IF you don't need to earn income. I doubt there are many women in that position.
>Here's to having time to prepare the soil!
When my two children were little, I worked part-time as a copy writer and fretted that I was wasting away my opportunity to become a "real" writer. When they were 9 and 7 I started my blog, and when they turned 11 and 9 I began working on my first book. Now I can clearly see that not a day was wasted during those soil preparation years, which makes me feel much more relaxed now about those "less productive" days and weeks I still encounter as a mom.
>Wow! Thank you for this post, Rachelle. As a stay-at-home mom of three, including a new baby, this has been something I've been struggling with. Thanks for the wisdom and the advice.
As much as I love to write, I also cherish those precious little ones in my care. After reading this, I feel like I can do both – work, however slowly, toward publication but not miss out on their growing up years either!
>Great post, Rachelle! As a published author with small children, God has shown me how precious their childhood is. It can be so easy to get caught up in my writing and speaking and totally miss out on something more important–my girls. When I put them first, the other stuff tends to fall into place. That's all God.
>I work full-time outside the home and try to squeeze writing in later in the evening. It's so hard, especially after a 12 hour day of running around a hospital.
Since I'm the main breadwinner, I don't have an option of going part-time or staying at home. It makes for slow writing, but it's not impossible. Luckily, my husband does all the laundry, and my older kids can run errands, do some cooking, etc.
>This is fabulous. God has brought me to this realization over the past year. I had been burning both ends trying to make something work that just … well, it wasn't necessary. This is my time to relax, to learn, to grow. This is my time to revel in the many blessings God has given me. Thanks for the affirmation.
>And you didn't even touch on the total energy zappers that come once the contract is in hand. We all need to savor the important tasks God has given us to do–and if that's kids, focus there.
You really don't want to get to the end of your life and see you've lost your children, but have a wall of books now in remainders on your shelves–even if they do have your name on them.
>Wise words, Rachelle. Thank you.
>The writer who is blessed with a supportive spouse is truly blessed. Our early writing is where we get our education. And it takes time.
I am blessed with a supportive spouse.
>Rachelle, these are wonderful, uplifting words of wisdom. However, they do leave me wistful: I'm not in that fortunate position of being able to forego the income of a day job. And with the drive to write too powerful to ignore, I've got to somehow juggle working, writing and raising my kids. It's a precarious and often harrowing balancing act, and makes it so much harder to still be among the ranks of the unpublished. My family has grown to understand that I'm almost always busy — in fact, my kids don't know me any other way! — but it makes me sad that things haven't worked out in a way that would give me the gift of more time with them. Not to mention the space and peace of mind I’d need to become a better writer. How can a working/writing mom reconcile such powerful, conflicting forces?
>this is so true…now that my sons are older, I'm able to focus so much more intensely on my writing…but I did a lot of experimenting when they were younger. I wrote picture book mss, easy-to-reads, nonfiction, middle grade novels etc etc until I settled on what I enjoyed writing the most–fiction for adults.
>Thank you, Rachelle. Your post has been one of the most encouraging things I've read in a long time!
>Thank you, thank you, thank you. I needed this.
>I needed this. I am a mom of 3 little boys 6 years old and under. My husband works long hours so along with writing, I'm a happily married single mom most of the time.
I'm in the process of trying to finish my wip in time for the SCWW conference at Myrtle Beach. If I don't sell something or pick up an agent then, I will still learn and improve my craft, form associations and get a much needed break from diaper duty.
I do hope and pray publication is around the corner. I'd like to help out financially so my husband can be home more and maybe add on to our house so my widowed mom could move in and not be so lonely and depressed. If my writing could bring extra joy to my loved ones as well as the escape it brings me as I write, it would be a multiple blessing.
What I love to write is also the hot thing right now–YA Supernatural Romance. And I have a totally original mythology about supernatural painters who painted the world into being under the direction of a supernatural sculptor. The story takes place in a high school where two of the painters are fighting over the school and a self-absorbed, self-conscious teen girl named Holly finds out, gets involved and falls in love with the painter who made her. The world gets a lot bigger the day it stops revolving around Holly.
>Great words, Rachelle. Very encouraging. Happy Mother's Day to you!
>I feel as though that somehow lets me off the hook, or at least drives home what I've been hearing from my elders at church.
I need to take the pull and stress off myself and raise my kids.
They are my first job as a mommy. Working with family in my day to day, it's easy for my 'bosses' to understand that.
But I've got to be as leniant with myself in my writing job.
I can't be upset with myself for being up a few minutes after 5am when I've had a screaming baby all night with a fever… I need MY rest so I can take care of them…even if I have to sacrifice a few hours of writing.
I'm withdrawing from my writing time, but I'm depositing into my kids' futures.
>My first book wasn't published until I had just turned 52! Do I wish I'd have been able to do more writing/publishing when I was younger…maybe, but, I kind of shudder to think what I'd have been writing then vs now – how I'd have been writing.
>Happy Mother Day (belated) Rachelle…and to all you other mothers out there!
>Each writer is in a different season of his or her life. God uses these seasons to help us grow and bloom. I believe God planted the writing seed when I was sixteen, but it wasn't until decades later that I would complete a novel for publication. Our boys are in their late teens, so now I feel God saying, "Okay, now it's your time."
>So true. So true. Not sure why we feel the need to put so much pressure on ourselves – when I highly doubt that pressure does much for our writing. Great advice.
>very nice advice…smiles.
>Sometimes it is difficult to remember the wisdom of your words when I look around at all the published authors around me–the younger ones with small children.
Sometimes I look around and wonder, "What is wrong with me that I need all this extra time? Is my soil really that depleated? Is my ability to balance really that impaired?"
The pressure to publish comes from shifting my eyes from God's perfect timing and perfect will to comparison to my peers.
Thank you for confirming what God has been telling me all along.
>what about stay-at-home dads? can they be late bloomers?
>This is wonderfully encouraging. Thank you so much for these words.
>As a stay-at-home mother and aspiring author, these words were the best Mother's Day gift. Thanks Rachelle! This is a unique and special time in my life and I do regard it as such. Very nice to be reminded, though.