Readers, this is the first part of a series of guest posts I am hosting in regards to “Being a Mom AND a writer.” As moms and writers, we all struggle with time for dinners, homework, sports, diapers, and fitting writing in. How do you do it? Do you have thoughts? I hope you find this series funny, insightful, and supportive. If you, or someone you know, would be great for a guest post pertaining to the subject of being a writer and a mother of young children, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, Erin
My first guest post is by Cory Oakes, author of newly published THE VEIL a young adult fantasy novel, and mother of a busy eighteen-month-old daughter.
Cory Oakes: On Being a Mom and Publishing a First Novel
I am a stay-at-home mom to an eighteen-month old tornado of energy with the power to tear apart a room in five seconds flat and then giggle uncontrollably about it until I start laughing too. I am also a writer with a book coming out this November 1 and a planned sequel looming large over my head.
This situation comes with its share of challenges. Like most Writer-Moms (and, I suspect, most Moms in general) there are many nights when I go to sleep wishing there was more of me to go around so that everything and everyone in my life who matters – my daughter, my husband, my writing, my friends, my pets (and heck, even my hair!) – could get all of the love, attention, and time that they deserve from me.
But that’s the tough stuff. I’d rather talk about the surprising ways that being a mom has actually improved my writing.
Perspective – Publishing can be a tough world. In my twenties, rejections from agents or an unkind word about something I had written often knocked me flat for days at a time. Even today, bad news is always hard but ever since my daughter came along, the “Need To Be Successful In The Publishing World” has slipped down a few notches on my ladder of importance, well below “My Daughter is Happy and Healthy” and “My Husband Still Loves Me”. Not to mention that toddlers do not come with Pause buttons – when an email or a phone call sends me reeling, having a good, long mope about it doesn’t always fit into my busy schedule of diapers, meals, playtime, playgroup, and snacks. Kids force you to get a grip, and quickly, so you can be there for them.
Focus – Gone are the long, lazy days when I had time to nourish my inner writer with “mood music” or when I could put off writing a certain scene until I was “really feeling it.” These days, my writing time is either bought (with a baby-sitter), stolen (“sure, take all of the tissues out of the box one by one while I just finish this last part . . .”) or bargained-for (“I’ll watch your kid if you watch mine next week”) and I’m hyper-aware that I have to make every minute count. This means no frills. When I get forty-five minutes or an hour to write, I have to dive right in – whether I am “feeling it” or not! This was the hardest adjustment for me (and one I am still working on) but it has really done wonders for my writing.
To be honest, I am not always able to kick it into gear with no notice, limited time, and with a baby monitor blinking beside my computer screen. But when it works, I am able to crank out stuff that would have taken me hours before. And it’s not because I am “super writer” all of a sudden – it’s simply because I no longer have the option of agonizing over every single detail. And I suppose time will tell if that turns out to be a good thing or not, but so far it seems to be helping me “cut to the chase” with my writing a lot faster.
A large part of writing, at least for me, is making decisions. Will this character be tall or short? Good-hearted or selfish? Will she fall in love with this character or this other one? What direction do I want the story to go? Each decision shapes the novel by opening up new paths while simultaneously closing off other ones. Sometimes it’s about making the right decision – after all, if J.K. Rowling had decided that Harry Potter was going to take a pass on attending Hogwarts, we probably wouldn’t still be talking about her today. Some decisions deserve to be agonized over. But sometimes, moving forward in a story means just coming to a decision – any decision – and making it work. I am much better at doing that these days, if only because I constantly have one eye on the clock.
Life Experience – There is nothing like creating and giving birth to a human being to give you a mini “insta-dose” of wisdom! Ok fine, so I’m not wise. But all of the emotion and experience that comes with the day-to-day of being a mom is wonderful fodder for writing. There are a lot of things about being a parent that you just can’t know until you are one and as a consequence, I have found that my parental-type characters are much more well-rounded and truthful these days.
Motivation – This is the big one for me. I had always pretty much assumed that having a child would be the death of my writing career, and I was shocked to discover that it was the exact opposite.
I took about a year off after I had my daughter, but around the time she turned one, some invisible timer went off inside of me and told me, forcefully, that it was time to finally do something about this “getting published” thing. That led to a decision to self publish which, ironically, led to me signing with a publisher, which set this whole, crazy thing in motion. I give my daughter credit for this (well, most of it – Octane Press, my publisher, should get some credit too!). As cheesy as it sounds, I did it because I wanted her to be proud of me. I wanted to be able to tell her that I had a lifelong dream to do something and that I went after it with everything I had (and that she should do the same). Obviously it would be great if the book really takes off, but even if this is the last book I ever publish, a large part of me will be okay with that, because I now have something concrete that I can hand to my daughter one day as evidence that dreams do come true.
And that is something that I never would have been able to say before I became a mom.
Cory’s debut young adult novel, THE VEIL, is out this November 1, 2011 and is now available for preorder on Amazon (http://amzn.to/TheVeil) and Barnes&Noble.com (http://bit.ly/nkEDRN). Watch for a review on THE VEIL and an exclusive interview with Cory coming soon to this blog.
Cory now lives in Austin, Texas with Mark and their beautiful daughter, Sophia. In addition to writing, Cory enjoys reading, cooking, running, and hanging out with her family and pets.
For more on Cory or THE VEIL, please visit her website at http://www.corypoakes.com.