I had the exciting opportunity to be interviewed about my book and about my experience of writing it a few nights ago. Pete Bauer, an amazingly talented writer, an award-winning Catholic film maker, and a devoted husband and father, asked me to be a guest on his podcast. It was not the first time I have shared my writing journey with others but it was the first time I did so with a microphone in front of me. (The interview will be available for your listening pleasure on July 23rd at petebauerblog.wordpress.com)
At first I was a bit nervous but once we got started, it was actually a lot of fun and I was able to relax and enjoy the conversation despite my initial nerves. As soon as I got home though, I started replaying all of my answers over in my mind. I thought about how I could have answered some things better and how I could have explained myself in different words. But the more I thought about it and reviewed the evening, the more I discovered some amazing insights that came out of the conversation.
In the interview, I talked about how I approach novel writing and how I develop my story lines and about the challenge of juggling motherhood and writing simultaneously. And I realized, as I thought about it all, that being a mother has really made me a better writer and being a writer has really made me a better mother.
Motherhood, and especially stay-at-home motherhood, allows me quite a bit of mental downtime. That may seem silly considering I am often busy multitasking to meet everyone’s needs and to keep up with all the demands of my home and family. But there is inherent in housework a lot of time to contemplate. As I wash a sink full of dishes, or mop my kitchen floor, or fold a basket of laundry, or clean the bathroom mirrors, my mind tends to wander to things other than the task at hand.
It was as I went through the mindless motions of house cleaning that my first novel was born in my mind. It started, of course, with an initial idea- what if a stay at home mother, like myself, was asked to take on more than she thought she could handle by helping out a pregnant teenager on top of raising her brood of toddlers? The idea grew and came to life while I was busy tending to my own little brood of children. My characters took over my thoughts while I scrubbed sticky pots and pans. My plot unfolded in my mind while my hands folded piles of jeans and t-shirts. Dialogue poured forth in my thoughts as I took my children for walks around the block or changed my little one’s diapers.
When finally I was able to sit down and start writing, I already knew what the story would be: from beginning through middle to final end. It had come to me over months and months mulling it over as I mothered my children. In fact, without the blessing of stay-at-home motherhood I don’t think I could have written my story. I would not have had the opportunity to develop the story details and plot twist had I not had the inspiration from my own family or the time to ponder it all while caring for them.
So, it is pretty easy to see how being a mother helped me to be a writer (especially considering my first book was about a young stay-at-home mother) but how can being a writer possibly make me a better mother?
All that mental downtime can get to me at times. I’m not one who particularly enjoys menial household tasks like changing diapers or vacuuming the bedrooms. I never looked forward to midnight feedings with my babies.
Writing has made those difficult tasks of mothering more bearable. In fact, it was a story I have yet to pen that made the sleepless nights with my youngest child not only do-able but enjoyable. My little one was not a good sleeper and would awaken me time after time each night all the way through her first year. Instead of dreading another late night feeding each time I heard her cries though, I would think about my characters and write, write, write in my head as I waited for my daughter to fall back to sleep. That (as yet unwritten) book saved me from becoming completely overrun with exhaustion because the story would invigorate me and keep me awake as the baby nursed.
|A rare moment of rest with my little one (back in 2009)|
Even today, with no nursing babies and few middle of the night wake up calls, I sometimes get bored playing matchbox cars or play-doh with my children. I wish it weren’t so but sometimes, I crave more than long days filled with pre-school games and juvenile conversations. My children are absolutely among my greatest blessings and motherhood is undoubtedly one of my greatest gifts, but sometimes, I need something more to fill my mind than what to cook for dinner or what load of laundry should take precedence- whites or colors?
My family will always come before any writing projects I might take on, but thankfully, the (pre-)writing can happen in the midst of putting my family first. Writing offers me the creative outlet I need without taking me away from my children. Oh, sometimes I am a little too wrapped up in my current story idea and I may not be fully mindful of the flow of matchbox traffic on the car rug or the right cookie cutter shape my daughter wants for her purple play-doh, but for the most part, I can enjoy being with my children and still ponder my book in the back of my mind. We can all get what we need and be together and content.
Of course, I could be a good mother without being a writer. And if God had not blessed me with children, I’m sure I would still write in some capacity. But, I am quite sure, I would be neither as good a mother nor as good a writer, if I were not blessed with both gifts from God.